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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > May 2017 > The Republic of Pirates

The Republic of Pirates

In the early 18th century, one small, salty, sun-splashed corner of the Bahamas was the epicentre of an organised crime wave that washed across the islands of the Caribbean and along America’s Atlantic coast. Pat Kinsella tells its tale
A PIRATE’S LIFE Nassau’s plentiful taverns and brothels offered a welcome respite for the Caribbean’s plunderous pirate population


There a several theories surrounding the origins of the name ‚Jolly Roger’. Some believe it stems from ‚Old Roger’ - a nickname for the devil. Others believe that pirates simply hijacked a contemporary term for a jovial, carefree man.

Pirates pursue a merchant ship laden with treasure
Henry Avery’s ship the Fancy attacks a Mughal trading ship, the Ganj-i-Sawai

Late in the evening on 26 July 1718, the inky black Bahamian night was ripped asunder by a fireball, as the pirate captain Charles Vane set his flagship aflame and sent it towards the Royal Navy frigates that had escorted the newly appointed Governor of the Bahamas into Nassau harbour earlier in the day.

The governor was Woodes Rogers, a name that struck fear into even the darkest pirate heart. A former privateer, Rogers was on a mission to rid the Bahamas of the villainous seafaring gangs that were decimating trade routes through the region, and to shut down the den of iniquity that was the Republic of Pirates.

Rogers’ reputation preceded him, and the circumstances that had led the British government to turn a blind eye to the crime wave emanating from their far-flung colonial outposts had changed. A cold wind was blowing across the renegade republic, unsettling the pirate flag that brazenly flew from the hill fort above the harbour.

The city of Nassau on the island of New Providence remains the capital of the Bahamas
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About History Revealed

When news broke a couple of years back that the body of Richard III had been discovered under a car park in Leicester, hope sprang afresh that the truth about this most divisive of kings would finally be put to rest. But while the find offered many clues, we have much fact yet to separate from fiction. Who was the real Richard? Was he a murderous usurper, or has his reputation been tarnished in a classic case of the victors writing history? We get to the heart of the matter from page 30.