London and the pirates
Gilbert and Sullivan's light opera The Pirates of Penzance, and the swashbuckling films of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks senior, give the impression that most pirates were romantic and carefree adventurers led by aristocrats who had fallen on hard times.
In reality, most pirates were hard and ruthless robbers and murderers who were notorious for their foul language and heavy drinking.
A study of the lists of pirates brought to trial between 1700 and 1715 (the period often called the golden age of piracy) shows that more than 90% of pirates were former seamen.
They took to piracy because:
It is not surprising that the hometown of most of these pirates was a seaport. And since London was the largest and busiest port in Britain it inevitably produced the greatest number of pirates.
Pirates and the London courts
After 1700 pirate trials could be held by Vice-Admiralty courts overseas. Large numbers of pirates were tried and hanged in Boston, Charleston, Williamsburg, Nassau and Jamaica. However, a great number of pirates continued to be tried and executed in London.
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