Yo Ho, me hearties! Today be “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” and here be some educational materials about different types of scurvy sea dogs! *cough, cough* Okay, that’s enough of that. Today we will be looking at the difference between pirates and their variants.
Generally speaking, a “Pirate” is a sailor who takes things that don’t belong to them. The tradition of piracy dates back thousands of years to the raiders of the Nile Delta in Ancient Egypt. The stereotypical pirates we think of are from a time referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy, spanning the middle of the 1600’s to the early 1700’s. During this time, sailors who were no longer able to find employment with the British Royal Navy or other navies of Europe took their ships to the Caribbean Sea or the Indian Ocean and made a living by plundering the shipping of the seven seas.
So what then, is the difference between our various types of scallywags? Honestly, the biggest distinction was the region they operated from, with methodology providing a small secondary point of clarification. While Privateers, Buccaneers, and Corsairs would all be considered pirates, not all pirates are any of these particulars. Privateers, for example, were ships sailing with (mostly) legal charter, or Letter of Marque from a nation or monarch to size ships of an opposing nation during times of war. The British had many famous privateers who during the Golden Age operated both legally and illegally.
Buccaneer was a term used to describe pirates and privateers who frequented the Caribbean Sea, raiding the Spanish gold convoys from South America. This term originated from local tradesmen who lived on the islands, selling meats and local foods to sailors, but the term became synonymous with the sailors themselves. These Buccaneers were also referred to as Freebooters and Filibusters.
A Corsair typically referred to a pirate of either French or North African descent. The Barbary Coast of North Africa was famous for Corsairs employed by the Ottoman Empire to raid shipping to Europe. These Corsairs began operation much earlier than their skull and crossbones flying kinsmen, starting back in the early 700’s AD. They raided shipping in the area for hundreds of years, fought in many battles, including the famous Battle of Lepanto, and were still harassing shipping during the American Revolution. As a matter of fact, one of the first foreign conflicts the United States had to deal with was the Barbary Wars of the early 1800’s. These raids did not stop until their main bases were taken by the French when Algiers was conquered in the 1830’s.
I hope this has helped to differentiate the types of salty sea dogs who raid the many seas of both our world and many, many fantasy ones. And don’t you forget to be talking like a Pirate today! Yeeharg!