Pirate History and Myths Explored in Humanities West Program
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Piracy on the high seas is age-old. Homer and Thucydides told of pirates roaming the Mediterranean. Julius Caesar himself was ransomed. Augustus Caesar's fleets vanquished them and the Byzantines kept them at bay, but the Ottoman Turks unleashed the Barbary Coast pirates, while European rivals in trade and at war preyed on one another through state-sponsored privateering. The long history of piracy has been immortalized, sometimes romanticized, in the world's artistic heritage.
Ian Morris (Classics, Stanford University): Hurrah for the Pirate King?
From The Pirates of Penzance to Pirates of the Caribbean, pirate kings and their crews have been presented as lovable outlaws, but real pirates are among history's nastiest parasites. Pirates have always been with us, but when we look at the three Golden Ages of piracy -- the 1st century BC in the Mediterranean, the 16th-17th centuries AD in the Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and South China Sea, and our own century in the Indian Ocean -- we see a pattern. Piracy takes off when maritime trade is rich but security is low. So long as it is cheaper for governments to ignore piracy than fight it, it flourishes; but as soon as a government—Rome in the 1st century BC, Britain in the 18th AD—decides fighting piracy is cheaper than ignoring it, it collapses. There are some lessons for our own times in this history.
Tyler Stovall (History, UC Berkeley) Liberty's Stepchildren: Pirates, Piracy, and the Making of the Modern Caribbean
From Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp, popular culture has closely identified piracy with the Caribbean in the era of European colonial rule over the Americas. Dean Stovall takes another look at this relationship, exploring how certain key themes in the history of piracy resonate with the shape of Caribbean society and culture during the modern era. In particular, he considers how the pirates represented a certain idea of freedom, and what that meant in a region whose history has been so fundamentally shaped by bondage and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He suggests that piracy has represented not only an alternative to Caribbean slavery, but also that its vision of freedom has important affinities with the character of political independence in the region during the modern era.
Andrew Jameson (USC, UC Berkeley and Harvard): Piracy: From History to Fiction to Terrorism.
Piracy entered a new phase in the seventeenth-century when pirates became popularized as romantic 'outlaws' of the seas. Yet contemporary sea piracy flourishes as a real threat to the world's economy, with the open seas essentially beyond the jurisdiction of maritime governments. Terror has gone to sea, with an unprecedented increase of piratical hijackings not seen since the eighteenth century, especially along the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Professor Jameson himself was a lecturer on a cruise ship attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.
Performance: Skip Henderson and Starboard Watch (Oakland)
Oakland pirate band Skip Henderson and Starboard Watch are known for their raucous performances of classic sea shanties.
Concluding Panel Discussion