It's generally agreed that the 'Golden Age of Piracy' was between 1650 and 1730. Why did 80 years and two generations of successful Piracy suddenly end ? After all the World was in a state of confusion and turmoil which was a great mix for further Pirate activities Where did the Pirates go? and why at that moment? To answer these questions it's important to understand in depth who were these Pirates and what was happening in the world at that time. Starting with the Pirates themselves let's crash the numbers. In that 80 year period there were about 120 active Pirate ships.

Each ship had an average crew of 30 plus 6 replacements. (Fictional crew numbers are much higher but such numbers make the economical rewards unviable. The lesser the crew the bigger the share.) So 120 ships x 36 crew gives us a number of 4,320 Pirates. Of these 720 died either in action, by accident or sickness. A further 600 (approx) were captured, jailed or executed. This leaves some 3000 successful Pirates who managed to retire into obscurity together with their riches/profits spread over the 80 years of the Golden age. During the first 50 years of this period 50% of Pirate profits were taken by the financiers and 50% was divided amongst the crew as per the Pirate code.

The financiers got rich and retiring Pirates got enough to buy a farm/small holding and set themselves up for life. After around 1700 this changed. The financiers who for the most part were country Lords and Politicians were in disarray. At the same time Pirates had become a highly educated group so much so as to become very entrepreneurial and had no further use for backers as they backed themselves and effectively the Politicians and Lords were cut out.

Pirate money was no longer entering the British economy in the way it had been for over 50 years. There are many estimates as to the financial cost of the golden Age and all of them in the millions of Pounds, when one considers that a million Pounds in 1700 is equal to 240 million today it's easy to understand the considerable loss to the Establishment both Lords and Politicians and indeed the whole country. It took the Establishment a dozen or so years to fight back and start the 'Pirate Wars' but by 1717 when the operation got underway it was already too late and only a handful of Pirates remained active. In the years from about 1700 until 1715 a truly profitable period for Pirates with an estimated turnover of over £4M which entered into the British economy in a new way.

To put that into perspective in today's value is a £1Billion. Put simply it's equal to each Pirate returning with average earnings of £1,330 or in today's terms, £320K. Such individual sums were spent/invested in vastly diverse ways and no longer passing through the Establishment but privately, this caused an important change in the British economy. Returning Pirates fall into several categories: 1: About 40% bought farms/smallholdings away from Society and simply disappeared 2: About 30% used their entrepreneurship and new knowledge and formed small groups and partnerships in business ventures some of which laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. 3: A further 25% got together and formed small shipping companies thereby changing from Piracy to legal sea trading. With the 'Bursting' of the South Sea Bubble financial crash cash was king and these small ex Pirate shipping ventures bought up bankrupt shipping companies and quickly became important shipping companies which led to the golden years of British shipping.

So much so that by 1747 they had some political weight, this is demonstrated when the Act of Parliament for the setting up of a fund for disabled seamen was passed, this Act was effectively an important part of the Pirate code. That the Lords and Politicians were now adopting parts of the Pirate code is significant and shows the power and influence these ex Pirates had in lobbying Parliament. 4: The remaining 5% of disappearing Pirates were made up of those who took native wives and ended up happily living out their lives on some lost island and those few who remained glued to their original Peiran/Pirate ideals by sailing off to explore and being part of the Sea. In each case, the ex Pirates completely disappeared from view melting successfully into society in whichever category they were in and by doing so they changed British society, entrepreneurship, agriculture and politics laying the basis of social equality again a main part of the Pirate code. They created an incredibly silent and invisible revolution through their diversity. Ships Cooks and galley staff would be drawn to investing in the hospitality sector.

The Carpenters drawn to the wood industry. The Doctors to the Pharma industry Effectively each returning Pirate had exactly what he became a Pirate for. He had cash enough to full fill his dreams and ideas. Almost all of them could now read and write to a high level. They were educated and knew the World but above all they were free. There were of course a small minority of Pirates who chose not to return but to continue Pirating. These infamous few and their exploits gave rise to the negative impressions that persist even today in a cloud of invention Let's end with the figures I quoted at the beginning. If you lived in a dead end period of no hope of bettering ones life and there was a 67% chance of getting back after a few years with £320K who wouldn't become a Pirate.

Tonz 2022.