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Captain Keitt: illustration of a pirate captain on deck. 	Source: 	Public Domain

A Glimpse into the Life as a Pirate Captain (Video)

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The transition to Pirate Captain often stemmed from a background in privateering or ownership of a ship. Wealthy backers would commission vessels, appointing experienced leaders like Henry Jennings or those with military ranks like Stede Bonnet, who preferred the title of "Major" from his militia days. The title "Captain" wasn't universal; some, like Henry Morgan's former soldier Charles Swan, commanded as merchant captains turned pirates.

Democratic election was another avenue to captaincy, often following successful mutinies or vacancies. Candidates vied for support, possibly with speeches or informal ballots, though manipulation was common. The newly elected Captain would then appoint lieutenants, including a Quartermaster to balance power.

Once in command, a Pirate Captain's duties were multifaceted. They managed ship operations, mediated disputes, and represented the crew in negotiations. Despite limited documentation, historical insights suggest a blend of administrative tasks and interpersonal challenges, from maintaining morale to strategizing collective decisions.

Authority varied based on personal attributes and historical context. While some, like Richard Taylor, ruled with force, others, like Bartholomew Roberts, balanced autocracy with success and ruthlessness. Regardless, a Captain's effectiveness hinged on crew satisfaction, often cultivated through shared spoils and personal luxuries, such as private quarters and ceremonial practices.

In essence, life as a Pirate Captain was a complex interplay of leadership, risk, and diplomacy, shaped by individual character and the broader dynamics of pirate society.

Top image: Captain Keitt: illustration of a pirate captain on deck.               Source: Public Domain               

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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