We owe the humble pirate a depth of gratitude.
Sure, they terrorized the seas for hundreds of years—pillaging, plundering, raping, torturing, and murdering—but violent legacy aside, they gave us the foundation for democracy!
In this episode, Bronwen uses historical record to contextualize pirate code, breaking down the complicated economic situations of the 17th and 18th century to find newfound empathy for these “ruthless barbarians.”
Despite their lengthy criminal rap sheets, pirates were victims, too. With crews largely formed of refugee sailors fleeing abusive autocratic rule, these men sought to build egalitarian societies with institutional mechanisms to protect individual freedom and prevent leader predation—over a hundred years before America’s Declaration of Independence.