>Inadvertently Progressive Pirates


Though I don’t much like the term “Progressive” given their actual history.

Economist Peter Leeson has a study entitled The Invisible Hook: The Economics of Pirate Tolerance. He documents the relatively more racially inclusive environment of pirates vis-a-vis the “respectable” and official seafarers of the 17th and 18th centuries. This was not due to a conscious, egalitarian ethos, but rather to (vulgar) self interest.

The data portray highly racially-mixed piratical firms. The percentage of black crewmembers in the sample ranges from 13 to 98 percent. None of these pirate companies were all white. In seven of the 23 crews, or nearly a third, half or more of the pirate crew was of African descent. If this sample is representative, 25-30 percent of the average pirate crew operating in the height of piracy’s golden age between 1715 and 1726 was black.

The phrase used here is “equal pay for equal prey”, while simultaneously throughout the British Empire slavery for blacks – i.e. “no pay, you’re the prey” – was the order of the day, everyday.


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