Pirates of the Atlantic World

Required and Recommended Texts, Manuals, and Supplies: See course bibliography.

Grading Standards:

  • Participation & Professionalism: 5%
  • Reading Discussion Grade: 30%
  • Film Review: 10%
  • Literature Review: 15% 
  • Primary Source Activity (x 2): 20% (10% each)
  • Final Project: 20%

Course Requirements:

Participation & Professionalism: Things that may reduce your Participation and Professionalism grade include—but are NOT limited to—being tardy to class, failure to actively participate during lecture and engage with colleagues during small group activities, working on assignments not related to the course, and misuse of electronic devices during class. Things that may improve your Participation and Professionalism grade include answering questions when asked, contributing to discussion and group assignments, taking notes, asking questions, completing in-class assignments, etc.

Reading Discussion Grade: The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the history of piracy in a variety of ways, ranging from undergraduate publications to MA theses, popular history to academic writing and everything in-between. The readings are also designed to engage you with critical discussion in class. For each set of readings, I will have a series of discussion questions, but students will also be expected to come to class with questions of their own. This will help to collaboratively foster discussion as opposed to having a one-way dialogue. If you are supremely uncomfortable with talking in class to the degree that it causes you crippling anxiety, I have an alternative option for you: You can answer/ask questions and provide a critical overview of each day’s readings in a short write-up that you submit to me via email prior to the start of class. I can then incorporate your written work into the day’s discussion.

Film Review: You will choose a film based on historical piracy to write a critical review of. You may choose one of the films we watch clips of in class or choose one on your own. There is a pre-approved list at the end of the syllabus, but you are not confined to this list. You will take notes about the movie on a Film Study worksheet and use these notes—as well as the reading material, both primary and secondary, we’ve used in class—to compose a two to three page critical reflection paper. Each question on the worksheet can help you compose paragraphs, but you do not necessarily have to use them all. Using knowledge you’ve gained in the classroom as well as your notes from the movie, critique this film for things like historical accuracy, entertainment value, and impact. Some questions to consider would be: What would you change to improve the film/program? How much do these films/programs affect our ability to educate the public on history? How do we determine fact from fiction? You might also choose to do a comparison/contrast of multiple films across a particular theme or geography.

For film reviews check out this website: https://twp.duke.edu/sites/twp.duke.edu/files/file-attachments/film-review-1.original.pdf.

Literature Review: A literature review is an analysis of existing secondary source work used in relation to a narrow topic. In our case that topic is piracy in the Atlantic. In order to write a convincing literature review, however, you will want to narrow your topic a bit further than that. Your narrow topic will be your final project topic and this literature review will serve as the foundation for your final project research. It will also help you identify useful primary sources you may use for the final. The main purpose of the literature review is to compare and contrast the major elements of pertinent written works (including monographs and articles) to highlight their relationships through summary and classification. The idea is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions. Once you have compiled your sources, the structure is like other academic papers with an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. For this literature review, you will use two to three of the written works used in class and supplement those with two to three sources not used in class, for a total of four to six reviewed sources. Think of it as an expanded annotated bibliography.

Primary Source Analysis (x 2): At two separate points in the term, you will engage with one of the critical activities of a historian: analysis of primary sources. A brief review of primary sources is below. You will be given one primary source document and one primary source image/cartoon to analyze using questions from the National Archives Primary Source Worksheets to help guide you. In the In-Class portion of the assignment, you will work with an assigned partner to complete the worksheet. Once the worksheet is completed, you will individually write up a written version of your own analysis in short essay form, conducting a sort of comparison/contrast between the two sources. You will submit both the worksheet and the write-up and will be assessed on both parts. These will serve as practice for the final project, which requires you to examine seven primary sources.

Final Project:

Option A (popularly known as an Unessay): To get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources and introduce you to the field of public history, you will create a public history product on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. Options may vary widely, but suggestions include: creating a website, designing a museum exhibit, filming a video (think Drunk History or CrashCourse), making a physical artifact, writing a pamphlet (such as those used for historical tours), creating an interactive and explanatory historical timeline (such as Tiki-Toki, http://tiki-toki.com), designing a public history blog, or even creating a “live-tweet” series of an event on Twitter! I’ve had students perform magic tricks, design their own choreography, and give historical tours! The options are nearly endless. A short explanatory/analytical write-up will accompany your “visual” product. 

Option B (Research Paper): This option is also designed to get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources. Rather than crafting a public history project, you will write a traditional five to eight page academic paper on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. A key element of this project is using both primary AND secondary sources to create a compelling historical argument (also known as a thesis).

Primary vs. Secondary (v. Tertiary) Sources: A Brief Review

A primary source is a document or artifact created in the past that scholars use as evidence of how people thought and lived in the period they are studying. A newspaper article, a diary, a speech, a court transcript, a map, a photograph, a building, a will, a political cartoon, a census report created at the time of your topic–all of these different types of documents could count as primary sources. Primary sources need to be viewed critically; they can have intent (to persuade the reader of a certain point of view), or be factually wrong, or be from a limited, individual perspective–all of which you need to take into consideration when using primary source evidence. Just because something is old does not automatically make it primary. For example, a newspaper article from 1823 about King Philip’s War (1675-1676) would not be primary because it was written nearly 150 years after the event.

A secondary source is a work that discusses and interprets such documents and artifacts in order to reconstruct the past (your paper will be a secondary source) and offer an argument about that reconstruction. Sometimes there is considerable debate about many issues in American history; historians are often at odds in their interpretations. If there are conflicts within the primary or secondary sources, it will be your job to evaluate the arguments, and decide which is most persuasive. The most common secondary sources you will encounter are books and academic journal articles (like you might find in a database like JSTOR).

Tertiary Sources are consolidations of primary and secondary sources. These include textbooks, encyclopedias, and websites, like Wikipedia or History.com. While they can be informative, tertiary sources are generally not acceptable for academic research, and should be used sparingly for assignments.


Book Chapters:

  1. Anderson, John L. “Piracy and World History: An Economic Perspective on Maritime Predation.” In Bandits at Sea: A Pirate’s Reader, edited by C.R. Pennell, 82-106. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2001. [ISBN: 9780814766781]
  2. Babits, Lawrence E., Joshua B. Howard, and Matthew Brenckle. “Pirate Imagery.” In X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy, edited by Russel K. Skowronek and Charles R. Erwin, 271-281. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2007. [ISBN: 9780813030791]
  3. Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group, 2006. [ISBN: 9780812977226]
  4. ———-. Spanish Gold: Captain Woodes Rogers and the Pirates of the Caribbean. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2011. [ISBN: 9780747599630]
  5. Curtis, Wayne. And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, Revised Edition. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2018. [ISBN: 978-0525575023] 
  6. Dolin, Eric J. Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2018. [ISBN: 9781631492112]
  7. Duncombe, Laura Sook. Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers who Ruled the Seven Seas. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2017. [ISBN: 9781613736043]
  8. Exnicios, Joan M. “On the Trail of Jean Lafitte.” In X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy, edited by Russel K. Skowronek and Charles R. Erwin, 31-43. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2007. [ISBN: 9780813030791]
  9. Goodall, Jamie L.H. Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2020. [ISBN: 9781439669099]
  10. ———-. Pirates & Privateers from Long Island Sound to Delaware Bay. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2022. [ISBN: 9781467148276]
  11. Hamilton, Christopher E. “The Pirate Ship Whydah.” In X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy, edited by Russel K. Skowronek and Charles R. Erwin, 13-30. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2007. [ISBN: 9780813030791]
  12. Kinkor, Kenneth J. “Black Men Under the Black Flag.” In Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader, edited by C.R. Pennell, 195-210. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2001. [ISBN: 9780814766781]
  13. Linebaugh, Peter and Marcus Rediker. The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2013. [ISBN: 9780807033173]
  14. Leeson, Peter T. “The Economic Way of Thinking About Pirates.” In The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates edited by David Head, 151-166. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2018. [ISBN: 9780820353258] 
  15. Lincoln, Margarette. “Henry Every and the Creation of the Pirate Myth in Early Modern Britain.” In The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates, edited by David Head, 167-182. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2018. [ISBN: 9780820353258]
  16. Lunsford, Virginia W. “A Model of Piracy: The Buccaneers of the 17th Century Caribbean.” In The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates, edited by David Head, 129-150. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2018. [ISBN: 9780820353258] 
  17. McDonald, Kevin P. Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. [ISBN: 9780520282902]
  18. Moss, Jeremy R. The Life and Tryals of the Gentleman Pirate, Major Stede Bonnet. Virginia Beach, VA: Keohler Books, 2020. [ISBN: 9781646631490]
  19. ———-. Colonial Virginia’s War Against Piracy: The Governor and the Buccaneer. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2022. [ISBN: 9781467152198]
  20. Murray, Dian. “The Practice of Homosexuality among the Pirates of Late Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century China.” In Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader, edited by C.R. Pennell, 244-252. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2001. [ISBN: 9780814766781]
  21. Pearce, Cathryn. Cornish Wrecking, 1700-1860: Popularity and Myth. Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2010. [ISBN: 9781843835554]
  22. Rediker, Marcus. Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2014. [ISBN: 9780807034101]
  23. Rennie, Neil. Treasure Neverland: Real and Imaginary Pirates. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013. [ISBN: 9780199679331]
  24. Salinger, Sharon V. Taverns and Drinking in Early America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. [ISBN: 9780801878992]
  25. Shomette, Donald G. Pirates on the Chesapeake: Being a True History of Pirates, Picaroons, and Raiders on the Chesapeake Bay, 1610-1807. Centrevill, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 2008. [ISBN: 9780870336072]
  26. Simon, Rebecca. Why We Love Pirates: The Hunt for Captain Kidd and How He Changed Piracy Forever. Coral Gables, FL: Mango Publishing, 2020. [ISBN: 9781642503388]
  27. ———-. Pirate Queens: The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2022. [ISBN: 9781526791306]
  28. Smith, Frederick H. Caribbean Rum: A Social and Economic History. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2008. [ISBN: 9780813033150]
  29. Skowronek, Russell K. “X Marks the Spot—Or Does it?: Anthropological Insights into the Origins and Continuity of Fiction and Fact in the Study of Piracy.” In X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy, edited by Russel K. Skowronek and Charles R. Erwin, 282-298. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2007. [ISBN: 9780813030791]
  30. Turley, Hans. Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Piracy, Sexuality, and Masculine Identity. New York, NY: New York University Press, 1999. [ISBN: 9780814782248]
  31. Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Inc., 2008. [ISBN: 9780547415758]

Journal Articles:

  1. Bialuschewski, Arne. “Black People under the Black Flag: Piracy and the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa, 1718–1723.” Slavery & Abolition 29, no. 4 (2008):461-475.
  2. Goodall, Jamie L.H. “Tippling Houses, Rum Shops, and Taverns: How Alcohol Fueled Informal Commercial Networks and Knowledge Exchange in the West Indies.” Journal For Maritime Research 18, no. 2 (2016): 97-121.
  3. Hancock, David. “Commerce and Conversation in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic: The Invention of Madeira Wine.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29, no. 2 (1998): 197-219
  4. Gale, Caitlin M. “Barbary’s Slow Death: European Attempts to Eradicate North African Piracy in the Early Nineteenth Century.” Journal for Maritime Research 18, no. 2 (2016): 139-154.
  5. Jones, Sue. “’English Bess’ Abroad: Piracy, Politics, and Gender in the Plays of Thomas Heywood.” Journal for Maritime Research 18, no. 2 (2016): 81-96
  6. Ransley, Jesse. “Boats are for Boys: Queering Maritime Archaeology.” World Archaeology 37, no. 4 (2005): 621-629.
  7. Zahedieh, Nuala. “Trade, Plunder, and Economic Development in Early English Jamaica, 1655-89.” The Economic History Review 39, no. 2 (1986): 205-222.


Against All Flags (1952)
Blackbeard the Pirate (1952)
Blackbeard: Terror at Sea (2006)
The Buccaneer (1958)
Captain Blood (1935)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of the Lama Rama (2014)
The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Cutthroat Island (1995)
The Goonies (1985)
Hook (1991)
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
Neverland (2011)
Roman Polanski’s Pirates (1986)
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
The Pirate Fairy (2014)
Pirate’s Passage (2015)
Pirates of the Plain (1999)
The Pirates of Somalia (2017)
Princess Bride (1987)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Störtebeker (2006)
Swashbuckler (1976)
Treasure Island (1950)
Treasure Planet (2002)
Yellowbeard (1983)