Most scholars on Piracy in the Caribbean agree that the
Golden Age of Piracy extends from the height of Sir Henry Morgan career
until the death of Bartholomew Roberts. This would mean the beginning
might be as early as 1668 and the end coming around March 1722 when the
crew of the Good Fortune was put on trial.
A more concise time might be from 1710-1725 which is when most of the
piracy was taking place.
If one were to paint with broader strokes the Golden Age of Piracy
would coincide with the rise and fall of the Spanish Main. The Spanish
Main was the area that comprises Central America and the Northern Coast
of South America. In other words, the Spanish colonies in the Americas.
Ground zero for the Spanish Main would probably be Darien on the Isthmus
As Spain conquered and colonized the Americas, her treasure fleets brought
the wealth of area to Spain. The plunder of the Main included silver,
gold, gems, spices, cocoa and other exotic goods. By 1520, Spain had began
a systematic method of convoys to protect the fleets from pirates (or
privateers) The last treasure fleet to leave the Main for Spain was in
For the purposes of this web site, the Golden Age of Piracy covers the
period from 1520-1790. By doing so a greater perspective can be discovered
on the brief period of intense pirate activity in the early 1700s.
Determining the beginning and the end of the Golden Age is more difficult
that finding the turning point of Caribbean piracy. No single event in
history would change the face of privateering and/or piracy in the Caribbean
more than the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Before the treaty was signed
Spain and France were at war with the Great Britain and the Dutch. The
war was known as Queen Anne's War or the War of Spanish Succession. With
the signing of the treaty, among other things, Spain recognized England's
right to colonies in the New World and Great Britain ceased attacks on
Spanish ships. Almost over night, English privateering was disbanded.
The buccaneers were out of honest work and those who continued to attack
Spanish commerce could be hanged as pirates instead of hailed as heroes.
Unfortunately for most of the privateers, there was no honest work to
turn to and so the obvious choice was to continue to do what they did
best. Only now instead of giving a share to the crown, the former privateers
kept it all and divided the booty among themselves. The once honest privateers
went to with war with all nations and the hunters became the prey. The
beginning of the end was near.
*On a side note, most movies that depict piracy in the Caribbean set
the movie historically around 1690-1720 while using ships and weapons
from a much later time (1740-1800) For instance Captain Blood is set during
the reign of King James II (1685-1689). However the weapons and even costumes
portrayed come from a later time.