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But I just still to this day, don't really know what we did. I guess we had to. I thought we had to prepare things to use books and like have dossiers with us. I got a question for you. You can find out the answer in the break that comes in this podcast. But this is one that you can try and look up using your Vodafone Unlimited data. I'd Professor Bartlett on the podcast the other day, and he's identified 27 female monarchs in medieval Europe, 27 queen pregnant women actually ruled in their own right in medieval Europe, but none of them were from Ireland.
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Hi everyone. Welcome to Dance News History. You've all heard of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Welcome to much more interesting podcast for you. Now I've got the Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay, that glorious stretch of water, nearly an inland sea that stretches up, tentacles reaching as far as the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.. Chesapeake Bay was such a vital area of economic importance in the colonial period in the early republic, a place of exchange of trade goods such as sugar, tobacco, enslaved African people arriving to and leaving from the middle colonies.
As a result, it attracted the attention of pirates. I'm really happy to have Jamie on the podcast. She is. She's such a great speaker and she taught me through the pirates. The Chesapeake Bay are the weekly Live Zoome podcast records. If you're a subscriber to history hit TV, you get to join for free. If you want to become a subscriber to History TV, join the Supreme Court or just watch the Netflix for history. Hundreds of history documentaries.
Best in the world, please. Just go to history. Hit TV used code pod one, pod one, and then you'll get a month of free and you'll get a month for just one pound euro or dollar. Please go and check it out. In the meantime, everyone, here's Jamie Goodo.
Jamie, thanks very much, come on the podcast. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited. Well, I'm excited because you are this is such a I mean, we've got pirates, we've got Chesapeake Bay. We don't talk about Chesapeake Bay very much in the U.K. because that was the site of Britain's catastrophic naval defeat at the hands of the French, which is tough, had led directly to American dependence. So that was a bad day in the office for the U.K. But something I should say about that, let's start with what's the definition of a pirate in your work?
So for me, and I guess for most everyone, piracy is a matter of perspective. So depending on who you were and which side of the conflict you found yourself on, pirates were called many different things. They might be corsairs or buccaneers or privateers. So I understand pirates to be those whose primary purpose was to disrupt commerce specifically via waterways like oceans, seas and rivers. But I also think pirates operated on land, maybe to a lesser degree. But I always think of Sir Henry Morgan and his sac of Portabello, for example.
And so there's a fine line between piracy and privateering. But that's that's sort of how I understand pirates.
And this, you know, Sir Francis Drake wasn't shy of going ashore a little bit as well and wrecking shop. So. And what kind of period are we talking about? The private courses, pirates in the Chesapeake.
So primarily we're looking at from about 16, 30 to, I would say the seventeen nineties for pirates specifically. But in terms of the ways in which privateers operated, of course they would have been considered pirates by their adversaries. They were very active during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, all the way through to the oyster wars and the oyster wars don't end until nineteen fifty nine.
Is the Chesapeake geography very important? Does that does not lend itself to party or is it is it important in terms of just the the major cities, the major ports that it serves?
I think both. So the Chesapeake Bay region specifically encompasses Maryland and Virginia and it extends about 200 miles from Harvard to Grace, Maryland, in the north, all the way to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in the south. And it's a prime location for the economy of early America, especially. You have Baltimore in Fells Point, you have Richmond and Williamsburg in Virginia. So those are pretty prominent areas of economic activity, which makes them prime targets for piracy.
And also, if you look at it on the map, that's an astonishing landscape. I mean, is there a sense in which there are places to hide as well that have local tides? Is it a good place to or is it a good place to intercept if you know those waters? Oh, absolutely.
There's tons of inlets and inlets throughout the Chesapeake Bay, tributaries leading into rivers. So it was a really great place for pirates who understood the geography quite well. They can navigate into some of those areas and escape the larger ships that were coming after them.
The piracy just grew up alongside those ports and those settlements you mentioned or was there a real starting point?
So the major starting point was actually a land dispute between individuals in Maryland and Virginia about where the border between the two states was. So we have William Claiborne and he set up shop in Maryland. But Virginia claims that the property was actually Virginia. And so there's some piracy going back and forth where they're attacking the ships coming in and out of Claiborne's property because he was very involved in trade, particularly with the indigenous populations of the region. And so that's sort of the first recorded incident of piracy in the Chesapeake Bay.
What's the cash crop? I mean, are we talking tobacco here? Are we talking trade? And what is the what is the what is the thing that going for?
Yeah, so the economy, the Chesapeake based primarily on the region's accessibility and tobacco in particular access to fresh water and fertile soil, made the region agriculturally quite productive, specifically with tobacco. Production of tobacco, of course, boomed after John Ralph brought back a particularly sweeter strain of seeds from his voyage to Tobago back to Virginia in sixteen twelve. So throughout the six years to the early seventeen, hundreds large scale tobacco plantations really started to pop up along the rivers and shorelines of Virginia and Maryland.
To give you an example, on the lower western shore of Maryland, a small group of gentry held plantations ranging from about one hundred acres all the way up to five thousand four hundred acres. And on average, individual plantations were about a thousand acres in size.
And in the colonial period were the jurisdictions or perhaps on. But with the sort of divide the jurisdictions of Maryland, Virginia, with those significant I mean, could you if you had a little boat and scouted out the Chesapeake and stole some stuff and then went back to Maryland because the people of Virginia can not really get hold of you have that work.
It was difficult to to prosecute across those sort of colonial lines just because the ways in which the different courts handled everything. And so and it also, you know, if you stole something from Virginia, for example, and made your way back into Maryland, it might be very difficult to find you.
What about the French? What about Spanish? I mean, in terms of the overlay with the the local conditions, local piracy, and then also with the French and Spanish and other other nations licensed by their governments, I guess, to attack British and colonial shipping? Yes.
So one of my favorite pirates, I can't think of his name off the top of my head right now, but he was a French pirate who operated in the Chesapeake Bay region, and he was very keen on tobacco ships in particular. And so the Chesapeake Bay area did deal quite a bit with French incursions specifically, less so, at least in my research with Spanish incursions. I think that happened more. Yes. Lewis guitar.
Thank you to Marc from So Lewis guitar operated in the Chesapeake Bay and he was a Frenchman. But I think a lot of the Spanish piracy or at least the conflicts with the Spanish are happening more towards Florida.
So you mentioned there's guitar in the book and he appears to be one of your favorites. That's not an appropriate way of putting it. Tell me more. Tell me more about his career.
So he he didn't have a very long career, but he had a pretty violent career and it was very prolific in it, even though it was very short. In a single week, he attacked at least three to four ships, which is quite rare to be able to attack that many ships at a time. And as far as we're aware, he made away with his loot without much incident.
Did he return to Chesapeake or did he eventually get caught?
He eventually got caught loose guitar and his men tried to get the king's pardon, but the king was feeling less than generous. So unfortunately for guitar, in many of his men, they found themselves on the wrong end of the noose.
What is your sense of how much disruption these pirates caused? I mean, was it a nuisance or was it actually stifling economic and development in the Chesapeake area?
I think more than anything, it was probably a nuisance, primarily because the pirates actually helped the colonial economy in several ways because, of course, the colonists are dealing with. Embargo's at various points during certain conflicts, they're dealing with monopolies on certain products and goods, and so pirates were enabling them to get some of the goods that they might not otherwise have been able to obtain. And they also provided a bit of security against foreign incursions, particularly when the Royal Navy was otherwise preoccupied during conflict.
So I would say that it didn't really stifle economic activity in the Chesapeake Bay, but it was probably quite a nuisance to certain merchants, particularly those who were not in support of pirates the way other merchants were.
Any aspects of the the classic Long John Silver Pirate myth actually have any basis in the historical record? You've been able to find.
So by and large, most of those are, of course, the the fiction of Treasure Island and Robert Louis Stevenson. But one of the most popular myths, of course, is that pirates bury their treasure. And for the most part, we find that they're not burying their treasure. There are, of course, spending their money as quickly as they can. And for the most part, pirates aren't actually stealing money. They're stealing goods and commodities that they can then sell to turn into money.
So burying it makes no sense. But we do have evidence that Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure. So there's a little inkling of truth to that one.
I've been reading recently about votes of women, pirates, some women, pirates, partly because they're now deeply in fashion with like a young person. Let my daughter read reading endless books about real historical women. But are there any that you've come across in the Chesapeake?
Unfortunately, I did not really come across many women in the Chesapeake region because, of course, Anne Bonny and Mary Read or the most famous, but they're really operating out of the Caribbean in the wider Atlantic.
But there was one story during the oyster wars of the women of the dancing Molly, which was a ship, and these women, their husbands were out pirating oysters and they were left behind on the ship to sort of keep watch in case the governor came along to apprehend them. And in fact, the governor does come to apprehend the men, but because they're on the opposite shoreline, he has to go after the ship instead, not realizing that it's being manned by several women and they're able to make their escape across to the other shoreline and basically out of the reach of the governor.
And so that's one of my favorite stories from the book, is The Women of the Dancing Molly Outmanoeuvring the Governor Cameron of Virginia.
I should have asked when we're talking about cash crops and things, I'm presumably for trade and enslaved people, particularly that part of the world with its slave plantations. You know, I'm for slaves to work on them. Presumably the trade in human flesh must be as important as tobacco and sugar and things.
Absolutely. And pirates played an integral role in the slave trade, particularly throughout the Chesapeake Bay. They were more than happy to provide enslaved peoples as a commodity. You know, you had some pirates. I know that some have argued that pirates were very egalitarian, very equitable, and that they would free enslaved peoples and allow them to sort of do what they wished to the crew that had enslaved them. But there were plenty of instances of pirates who captured enslaved peoples and turned around and sold them to willing buyer.
It's twenty five years since Father Ted was on the telly. That's a long time. I mean, it's nearly twenty six years. So the it cost are releasing a set of four commemorative lamps. You can get them at your post office or up on post.com. Father Ted, send them to people. Get all my regicide. Laughs Oh right. They're actually stamps. Yeah.
A great bunch of stops and laughs and fun from long on post for your world, isn't it curious that every member of your family has a different voice, that a baby can recognize their mother's voice from inside the womb, that identical twins have the exact same vocal chords but usually don't sound similar, and teenagers can sense the tone of their dad's voice when he says, I'll think about it even over WhatsApp, I'll think about it.
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So the question I posed at the start of this podcast was why in the whole of Europe are there Quin's regnant during the medieval period but not in Ireland? And the answer Professor Bartlett gave me is because it was customary for Irish kings take many wives. So there was never a shortage of sons. Whereas over in England, over in France and elsewhere, those those kings, they just had one wife. I mean, the old mistress, like Henry, the first and a lot of illegitimate children, but they were excluded from the line of succession is in Ireland.
Plenty of wives, plenty of sons, no shortage. Amalia's fascinating. You know what? Use your Vodafone unlimited data. Have a little Google. Prove me wrong. Send me a tweet. I'd love to know if there are any queens. Let your whole family follow their curiosity when you bring everyone's plans together on our multi mobile read family plan. Such Vodafone read family for more. And I guess that's another point. I mean, if these parks, some of these parks are operating locally, it's a matter of that would have been places and customers for these stolen goods around the Chesapeake.
So you're rushing out, you're stealing, and then you're selling to people kind of on the black market. There's a whole local economy going on.
Yeah, absolutely. And I consider these from my doctoral work on the piracy of the Atlantic world as a whole. I call these instances economies of opportunity. So where these little micro economies that develop in which pirates, because it's sort of it's not really a black market the way we think of the black market today, but it is sort of an underground economic market that's being set up where pirates have willing buyers, willing fencers to to sell their loot.
So, yeah, and we are speaking of enslaved people. What about Freed? We you know, we're breeding more and more now about liberated people of African descent serving on well, on the British side, particularly perhaps in the war of in the Revolutionary War. Were they were I was there also with our pirates of of African descent approaching the Chesapeake.
There were primarily those of African descent are operating as privateers more than they are pirates. Although we do have evidence. I don't have names. Unfortunately, in the records they were not named, but they there was a group of three men who had escaped slavery and were pirating along the Chesapeake Bay. But probably one of the most famous men was a man named George Roberts, who served in the War of 1812. He was even one of the few defenders of Baltimore who had his portrait taken by a photographer.
That's how important he was to the war effort. But he wasn't the only black Marylander in particular to serve. We have men like Percy Sullivan and Henry James, Charles Ball, Gabriel Ralston, Caesar Wentworth. I mean, there's there's quite a large number of free blacks who are participating in in the war effort as privateers.
I mean, it's so fascinating. Like, why do governments I always thought it would be kind of easy to clamp down on privateers, particularly in that area, because ships are kind of big and difficult to hide. I mean, you would have known what efforts did the government go through, go through with it? I mean, I guess there were kind of waves of persecution.
Yeah, it varied depending on the time and what's going on, but. Pirates really tended towards smaller vessels, more maneuverable, that could be manned by fewer people, and so it was a little bit easier to hide some of those ships than say, you know, a royal naval vessel, for example. But in terms of prosecution, at least early on in early America, American history, there's not a lot of prosecution. There's a lot of pardons being meted out.
And for the most part, the colonies are able to at least initially, prosecute within their own courts. And so a lot of times, because they're local men being judged by locals, they're often let go. So after a while, the British government, of course, starts to put into effect laws that say if you're captured for piracy, you have to be tried in England so that they could so that they couldn't get away with activities like that.
I mean, many people transported to England and tried that. That's a huge deal. Yeah, there were quite a few. And the king that you could seek the king's pardon, but typically, if you were brought to England for prosecution, you were going to be found guilty and most likely hanged.
Yeah, but we've got a question here from a history hit, a history subscriber. There's a Blackbeard's point in Virginia. Is it that black Blackbutt is the pirate Blackbeard? I believe so.
I don't have exact confirmation on that, but I imagine because he was pretty. Well known in those parts that I think that it's named after Blackbeard. OK, so I've got a question, but you are right, you're the the best person in the world to ask this question of. I actually don't really know who Blackbeard was. Did he is he like an actual she's an actual personality. I've always assumed as a kind of crazy story.
No, he was an actual person and he wasn't as violent and as gruesome as people claimed he was. But he he put on a persona of being very violent and his his entire look was quite menacing. So he was a rather large guy. He had, of course, his big, thick, black beard, hence the name, and he would braid and twist lit fuses into the beard so that smoke would come out and he would look more terrifying.
But one of my favorite stories about Blackbeard is that off the coast of South Carolina, his men were sick and dying. He was in really bad straits. And instead of stealing a merchant vessel, he saw a ship carrying some of the most prominent men from Charleston. So he seizes that ship, holding those men hostage and basically tells the governor, either send me medicine or I'm going to kill some of your most prominent citizens. And so the governor, of course, is like, yes, here, here's some medicine.
Just please let them go. And surprisingly, Blackbeard does let them go, but he still has a reputation to maintain. So he sends the men back to shore naked.
Oh, wow. Okay, that is that's so black. That deserves your reputation for that, actually, because there are people on the line the in the asking about Charles Wilson, in particular, Mark Venters, who's a history subscriber is this you said are buried treasure.
But there seems to be some excitement around some buried treasure in what's going on. Yeah.
So Charlie Wilson, he's there's a rumor that Charles Wilson buried some treasure in the Chesapeake Bay region. Legend has it that he had to hide Woodinville in Westchester County, Maryland.
He also had to hide Assateague. But it was at Chincoteague that he reportedly buried this treasure, which would be worth perhaps four million dollars today. I'll quote from a letter he wrote to his brother, which is where the rumors about the treasure come from. He writes this sort of riddle to his brother. There are three creeks lying, one hundred paces or more north of the second inlet above Chincoteague Island, Virginia, which is at the southward end of the peninsula at the head of the third creek.
To the northward is a bluff facing the Atlantic Ocean, with three cedar trees growing on it, each about one and a third yards apart between the trees that are buried and 10 ironbound chest's bars of silver, gold, diamonds and jewels to the sum of two hundred thousand pounds sterling. Go to the woody knoll secretly and remove the treasure. But nobody's ever found Charles Wilson's treasure, despite all efforts.
OK, listen, Jamie, you can be honest. Have you been to look for that treasure?
I have not, but I am quite tempted for a million dollars.
You wouldn't know anybody. All these weirdos looking for it. You've got the proper academic. You know, you've got it. You've done all the reading. People do look for it, do they? They do. The problem is those those trees you mentioned are probably not going to be they're not going to be there any more. But I mean, I you know, when history is over, I'm going to give my life I'm just a search for pirate treasure.
So, Jamie, I'm going to ask you a quick question about Adrian Coles here. Why did pirates obtain their ships if they capture them? Well, the existing cruise forced to serve a new captain. Yeah.
So if they seized a ship in existence, then they typically either impressed the crew into their service or they would marouane them on the nearest island or location. So it was often better to go ahead and join the pirate crew just to be on the safe side. So yeah, otherwise, like I said, they had backers and a lot of cases from merchants. So they they might have somebody who secretly buys them a ship, but more often than not, it's by commandeering a ship.
Well, thank you very much indeed for coming on the podcast. What is your book called?
It's called Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars.
Thank you so much. That is that is just fascinating stuff. And I just it just reignites my chest because I was a kid and I want to go out there and sail all over. It's just the best part of the world. So thank you very much for coming on the podcast. Thanks for having me.
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