The Real Pirates of the Caribbean: What the Movies Got Wrong

David Cordingly/Photo by Shirley Cordingly
David Cordingly/Photo by Shirley Cordingly

David Cordingly was for twelve years on the staff of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, where he was curator of paintings and then head of exhibitions. He is a graduate of Oxford, and the renowned author of the definitive book on pirates, Under the Black Flag, as well as Seafaring Women and Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander. His latest book, Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean, is on sale May 17, 2011. Here, Cordingly stops by Signature as we near the premiere of the latest Rob Marshall-directed, Johnny Depp-starring film in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga to set the story of sea rovers straight.

In the years between 1715 and 1725, there was an explosion of piracy in the Caribbean that was comparable in some ways with the recent outbreak of piracy in the seas off Somalia. So many ships were attacked that the authorities were forced to take drastic measures: Warships were dispatched to capture the pirates and the ringleaders were tried and hanged and their bodies prominently displayed on gallows at the entrance to seaports.

The majority of the eighteenth-century pirates were working-class sailors: naval deserters, redundant merchant seamen, and former privateers. They were not the heroic, romantic characters portrayed in the movies by Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks Sr., nor were they the affable rogues of the type depicted by Robert Newton in "Treasure Island"; nor did they have the zany charm of Johnny Depp's Captain Sparrow. They were hard men notorious for their foul language, heavy drinking, and casual violence.

Pirate ships in the movies also bear little resemblance to the vessels actually used by the real pirates. Hollywood pirate ships are usually large three-masted galleons, presumably because these provide plenty of deck space for cameras, crews, and lively action sequences. The real pirates operating in the Caribbean preferred fast, single-masted vessels of the type then known as sloops. Their speed and their shallow draft enabled them to evade naval ships by outpacing them and hiding out in shallow creeks.

Ever since Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1883, most pirate stories, whether novels or films, have centered around a treasure map and buried treasure. Although Captain Kidd is known to have buried some of his treasure on Gardiners Island off New York, this was unusual because the usual practice of pirates was to head for the nearest port and spend their loot on women, gambling, and drink. Walking the plank is another myth associated with pirates. This probably owes its origin to Peter Pan but it became an essential sequence in every pirate film from the 1930s onward. The real pirates either let their victims go once they had ransacked their ships, or they marooned them on the nearest island.

Not everything traditionally associated with pirates proves to be untrue. The black flag with the skull and crossbones (or variations involving crossed cutlasses or a whole skeleton) came into common use among the pirates of the Caribbean around 1700. The flag's message was "surrender or die" and, when accompanied by a cannon shot, grenades, and a deck swarming with pirates waving cutlasses, it invariably achieved its purpose.

And what about wooden legs and parrots? There is plenty of evidence to show that some pirates had wooden legs to replace limbs lost in battle or shipboard accidents. Parrots were frequently collected by sailors and by pirates. They made colourful souvenirs to take home from tropical regions and if they failed to impress wives and girlfriends they could always be sold for a good price in the bird markets.

  • Nighthhaaawk


    • Lee Ann

      I am happy to read about the way the pirates operated in the days of old, movies always make things more romantic and appealing, and Johhny Depp is a sight for sore eyes, rum or not, and as long as they keep making the Pirates movies I will keep watching, but ALSO INTERESTED IN THE ACTUAL pirate lore. Thank you for sharing your ideas on the actual Pirates of days past....

    • Auttty

      I did my senior capstone on the Golden Age of Piracy, and pirates were extremely mean people. However, many pirates were privateers (hired by the government) like Barbossa in the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Many privateers, just turned pirates because they saw how easy it was to ramsack ships and gain profit. Henry Morgan was a privateer turned pirate and became governor of Port Royal, Jamaica, because it was a British Ground (Just like in POTC 123) Port Royal and Tortuga were both ship docks during the Golden Age of Piracy, just like in the movies. Of course these movies are not going to be all fact, but i think many of their references, and scenery are portrayed well. Plus I am the biggest Jack Sparrow fan ever! 🙂

  • So who cares, I doubt most sane people believed anything about Depp's movies was real, it's fantasy and I love it!

    • Pegleg

      aye, me buckos

    • Dia Cullen

      Aye, taking any movie for fact that is not a documentary is a given. And as Disney change many fairy tales, they did a great job doing the same with Pyrates....I dont look for facts when Captain Jack is on that screen. I look for entertainment and the BEST PIRATE EVER! I will go to every film he makes. And I know the Captain will return!
      Drink up me 'arty's YO HO!!


  • Jeffy

    Mildly interesting info but I'm a bit offended by the title. I'm pretty sure the movies didn't "get it wrong." They are obviously incorporating a bit of something called the imagination.

    • Swallow

      Agreed. Hollywood created a masterpiece that is Pirates of the Caribbean. They never intended it to have any connections to the REAL PIRATES this article emphasize. PotC is good in its own terms and doesn't need REALITY to be as awesome as it already is.

    • Emochickwithatwist

      We all need to realize that movies are just that movies, if they are a documentary or anything of the sort they usually have a message at the beginning or near the end saying "Based on a True Story" Disney has been well known for talking historical stories, fairy tales, and romanticizing them up even more to match a type of Romeo and Juliette story. They've done it countless times. Think of the Little Mermaid. In the real story she dies, she doesn't get the prince.

      I also saw one other comment with someone saying that this info is good because kids get more information from the media than their teachers, its because teachers teach the same old american history of the revolutionary war then skimp over the rest of it. Believe me I have it pounded into my head since kindergarten...and i still don't remember who did what when. There was never anything to do with pirates in my grade school history, woulda been cool if there was.

      I really don't think that once a person is an adult they will say "I wanna be a pirate like Jack Sparrow" most people are like, I want to be a mechanic, a teacher, a welder, maybe even a musician. Their biggest dreams are too be a rockstar, maybe an actress or a wrestler.

  • Piratefan

    What a spoilsport - go back to the archives and let everyone else enjoy the pirates

  • Lady Dallas

    I don't know about anyone esle, but I did not watch Pirates of the !!carribean for a history lesson. They are just movies and Johnny Depp makes an awesome pirate. If I want to know the real true, I will watch a documentary. It's a movie, let us enjoy it for what it is!!

    • SPAZZ04

      ok... the thing is, the movies have distorted the way people rly see pirates. there are so many misconceptions that have messed up how people think of them. it could really effect the way pirates are seen in the future, therefore distorting history. kids believe the media more than their teachers these days just becuz they dont like school. do u get it now?

  • tracy main

    i am sure most people know the truth about pirates. the movies just glamour the life of a pirate just like movies glamour the life of a gangster and we still know how bad they are too. these movies are all fiction make believe. not reality. why pick them apart. if you want to tell the truth about pirates then make a documentary and live disney alone.

  • jenn bjortomt

    the title didn't say they got it all wrong. it said "what" they got wrong.

  • Hand o'er ye wenches, or ye be tastin' me blade!

  • Connie Sweet Sky

    Clarity! Well written! Thank you for an enjoyable interlude.

  • poisonivy714

    Actually the movies did get some things right and we do not know if they meant to imagine and romanticize so take it for what it is a good story,with a little accuracy to go by and look things up on your own. Offensive title for the article...Yes! Does Hollywood embellish yes! we like it that way movies give us a chance to escape even if only for a couple hours.

  • SPAZZ04

    alright... a few things u didnt touch on... how correctly said were the myths from the movies? at the beginning of the first movie, they werent in the carribean were they? but they were in england?

  • Bubblez

    Um hello it's a movie! Not the history channel! And duh it's not real, did real pirates have the power to live forever? fall off the edge of the earth? meet mermaids? I don't think so

  • Duurrr, that's why i love Johnny^-^:
    for his creative character and zany charm 😛

  • Aric

    I'll echo the same thoughts as many previous - this is a fantasy film. Davy Jones is a fictional character as are all the others so to even look at this film for "errors" is a foolish undertaking. What did they get "wrong?" Everything if that's what you're looking for. But anyone who fact-checks a fantasy film is a fool.

  • Blondie

    Who cares! It's just a movie! And it was awesome!

  • JD Knight

    There is plenty of work on the subject of pirates and how the stereotypes are partly wrong or not.

    Your just using the Disney movie, that is a piece of fictional entertainment based on an amusement park ride (not a documentary), to further interest in your book. Great marketing scheme! Takes away credibility as an academic work as well!

  • Joe

    Well , JohnnyDepp to me is Too Much a Guy Type and Not More manly.. Romanching a Priates Life For Me is a Falacy .. Giving kids the wrong impression of How Miserable ,Horrible and Useless their Lives realy were..

    Just like the Scmb-bags off the coast of Africa are doing now..

    The Errol Flyn Movies showed The Priates DID in fact steal for England and were allies for England...Only because Spainish Ships couldn't Catch them..and England Offered them A pardon...

    Modern Day Priates are Mercenairies... and why none of them could find Bin Ladin and some of the others still out there is a Mystery..

    If you travel by Boat in International Waters? You better be well Armed and Defense is A Priority.. Many Carry Side arms and Long Range Hunting Rifles ( can shoot over 1-3 miles) not to mention flare guns to Sink the approaching Boats, by starting them on fire and just let them drown or let them be Shark Bait/Food.

    Many Pirates Died of Sexual Diseases, mostly from The Women ( Prostitutoots) they visited...
    Ave Life span? Till age 31

    Walk the Plank? Try they just Shot them and cut off their heads and hung them from the Mast... oThers were tied up and thrown overboard with Rocks to take them down to "Davy Jones Locker"...

    Thousands of their Bones Litter the bottom of the Oceans in the Carribean to this day..

    Many were left on Austrailia.. The Prisoner Island and Devils Island..which 50% of that land is Still UnInhabitable..

  • Enjoy all Pirate fliks. Wish to one day be featured in one, or just to do 'background'. Being a Desert Rat, more accustomed to working in Westerns (Appaloosa, Commanche Moon) the prospect is dim. 'Wild Hogs' also filmed in NM. The concept of the racing designed sloops is noteworthy. Speed and maneuverability is key in any nefarious deed. Love the sea and it's Freedom. The Western states remote areas have Freedom, due to theirs and other's past as the floor of a shallow sea. Easy to visualize Pirates sailing many fathoms overhead as the clouds glide from horizon to horizon. Long live the Pirate fliks. Long live Johnny Depp..Capn' Jack Sparrow.

  • Lady Dream

    While I much prefer fantasy pirates, it's fun to see facts I didn't know. I'm a bit disappointed walking the plank wasn't real, on the other hand I thought they were a much more blood thirsty lot.

    You can hardly expect historical detail from a company that made Pocohontas into a love story with John Smith (she thought he was disgusting, a view shared by most) and Hunchback into a comedy for children. Let me further get your panties in a wad by telling you Hugo's novel does NOT have a happy ending. I thought the title made it pretty clear what this blurb was about, so why read it if it offends you?

    • Capt Charles

      Hehe.... Ah, the Magic of Hollywood!

  • Jubilee

    The fact that Pirates of the Carribean is movie, practically already says that the story was tweaked and played with, so no one really believes wat is shown...

  • Dee

    Ahoy, ye landlubbers! Love the Pirates of the Caribbean saga! It's entertainment, me maties! Hoist the colors high, ye scurvy dogs!

  • SoulCatcher

    A good read is The Barbary Pirates. Good history few are aware of.



  • Oh whatever! You kinda forgot, IT'S A MOVIE! As in: IT'S NOT REAL!!!! Everybody knows that stuff like that ACTUALLY happened! People watch movies like that and read Treasure Island and books like that for fun! Seriously!

  • what??

    Are you serious?
    It's a bloody movie for God's sake. There IS no right or wrong.

  • Acting Out

    Really? really? This whole series was based off of a ride....A Ride!!! Relax would you. These films are brilliant to be based solely off of a ride. I do like to learn about these things, but don't go blaming things for being "wrong" when their intentions are to entertain and not educate.

  • AudreyGolightly

    Yes, we understand that it's not particularly accurate in many ways. Pirates have become almost as glamorized as vampires and werewolves in this day and age; pirates, however, actually have a much deeper basis in fact than either of the two legendary horror-film monsters. Pirates of the Caribbean is meant to be historically-based fiction, nothing more. Disney never claimed that the stories were real, or even necessarily historically accurate. They changed things in many places to make things easier for them to film, or to be more appealing to audiences. And let's not forget, this entire series was based originally on an animatronic amusement park ride. Yes, the ride at Walt Disney World came BEFORE the movies. One should hardly expect precise time-period accuracy from that kind of background. Also, Disney's primary demographic is children; if the children in this generation are too under-educated to determine that everything that they see in films or on television may not necessarily be real, that says something tragic about our success as parents and teachers.

    Also, I have a very distinct problem with people who feel they need to criticize EVERYTHING they read--with the exception of their own grammar. How someone can expect his or her comments to be taken seriously without putting forth the moderate amount of effort to make their point actually sound valid, is beyond me.

  • Haley Gonzales

    Ok thanks for all the information about real pirates, but the movies "Pirates of the Carribean" was made to be fun, exciting, and thrilling.They werent made to be lessons on real pirates. So before you go criticizing about what the movies got wrong think about what the movie is about and whether its to be a history lesson or to be a fictional entertaining movie made for fun.But thanks for the pirates 101 lesson.

    BTW: This is coming from an twelve year old!

  • Marie Mare

    Really interesting stuff in here. I appreciate the author's vast knowledge of pirates--and still love the POTC movies. I don't see anything wrong with being familiar with both fact and fiction. So thanks to the movies for the zany, and thanks to the author for the factual!

  • Parlay!!!!!!!

  • WHAT ??? Pirates of The Caribbean wasn't a documentary ...


      I've really had a good laugh at all these comments. Patrick's remark about him thinking (tongue in cheek) that POTC has been a documentary series is very droll.

  • belladonna

    I don't think he's saying the movies are bad - just that they're bad history. BTW, try reading his "Under the Black Flag". It's one of the most enjoyable history books out there; he makes the pirates, scallawags that they were, almost as much fun as Jack Sparrow, without letting you forget that they were a violent bunch of criminals. I'm looking forward to seeing the latest PotC movie, as well as reading Mr. Cordingly's newest book.


    Well, Johnny Depp is real. So is Peter Pan. Father Christmas is real, as is the Abominable Snowman. QED the Caribbean movies must be real. Next we'll be told that the Tooth Fairy is not real. Gah! Listen, you only get to a ripe old age by believing in the unbelievable - so, hang on to your fantasies and assume that this factual story is not real.

    BTW if you get the chance, stand on the main gun deck of HMS Victory in Portsmouth, UK, close your eyes and imagine the heat of battle - horrifying. Good luck to all you wannabe pirates.

  • William Mayhem

    Aye the mix of historical lore and fantasy lore, sometimes is what brings many a person to the point that they will find books and read and learn on their own, and then learn the real points of history that they only thought they knew. many times the real points are more interesting, they may not be as exciting but diffinently more interesting. I work for Pat Croce in the St Augustine Pirates and Treasure Museum. I find that I learn new things everyday. I not only learn from the museum itself but I learn from many people who come to the museum with their own thoughts and opinions on pirate history. Living in the Oldest City, St Augustine we have history GALORE. but I have to say this about movies, they may not always be true to form, but they do have one quality and they do bring many people to the possibility of self research and awareness. and if the movies are the bait then the learning is the catch.


    They never talk about all the things Star Wars got wrong. Does anyone else smell a conspiracy?

  • Alannita

    I love knowing these kind of things really because I'm a BIG history geek. But I'm a sucker for the romance in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies as well as the actors such as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, & the recent one with the actor who plays Phillip the missionary. But I like reading about real pirates like Shi Xianggu. 🙂

  • Nunuv Yerbiznezz

    Next thing you know, some stuffy historian is going to come along and try to tell us that Vikings (pirates of another era) didn't wear horns on their helmets. Oh, wait - they didnt...

  • Margaret Evingston

    I found this very interesting. It's always nice to know the actual history behind some things. And as I was reading some of the previous comments, I was quite annoyed with some of the offended people. No need to be offended, the man never dissed Pirates of the Caribbean, he just wanted us to know the very interesting reality behind it. I love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Johnny Depp is pretty gorgeous (:

  • Jen B

    Did anyone else notice the wrong flag used on the British fleet? The flag used in the film is the modern day union jack, incorporating the crosses of St George, St Patrick & St Andrew. This flag was not created until 1801, when The British Monarch ruled Ireland. The flag prior to this incorporates only St George and St Andrew and does not have the diagonal red stripe.

  • I am an expert on piracy - but its obvious that the Pirates of the Caribbean was off track. It's supposed to be like that on purpose. It's like the Flying Dutchman. It wasn't real, or maybe what it did wasn't real. It's not like it's a educational movie.

  • The only depiction that rang true in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series (which I enjoyed even having studied extensively about pirates) is the mixture of cultures in the galley.
    Also, historically true, is the fact that the Boatswain (the menacing Nubian looking gentleman) was of African descent. This was VERY common during those times as all the major pirates that we hear about today, Bluebeard, Captain Kidd, Black Beard etc- all shared their spoils as well as responsibilities with African as well as Chinese pirates.
    Our modern viewpoints of pirates are greatly distorted because of English perceptions of who/what should be seaworthy. The English sea militia of the time is credited with crushing most major pirating in the Caribbean. The British being the victors, stamped this history with their own biases and sensibilities.
    British seamen (as opposed to Portugese, Spanish & French) made two strictly enforced twodistinctions which are NOT historically correct.
    1) the British rarely allowed women on their ships. (Other Europeans did not strictly enforce this)
    2) when the British encountered Africans they ALWAYS assumed that the Black skinned seafarers were slaves.

    More often than not, these Africans were NOT slaves but fellow pirates.

    The reality of these times, is that ANYONE could have been a slave during these times. For example, The longest set of slaves since Biblical times- are the Irish, enslaved by English, which is about a 1000 years).

    There were definite stretches of time in American history when there were more slaves of European descent than African. In early American law books there are more laws enforcing white slavery, known as indentured servants, than African slavery.

    Again our modern day viewpoint of slavery is colored (pun intended) by Jim Crow laws that did not come about unto mid to late 1800's.
    Hollywood has NEVER produced a depiction of real pirates. The depictions have always been glamorized and historically incorrect. Pirates movies have always been made for pure entertainment.

    Lastly, the reason why we know of pirates such as Captain Kidd etc., is because they got caught. The reason why pirates of African descent are largely unknown is because, though they existed, they NEVER got caught. This is why we do not know their true story!

    Still I remain a Captian Sparrow fan regardless of historical flubs...

  • patrick

    wow really, those movies are based off of a Walt Disney ride, it is for kids. that's like saying harry potter magic isn't real seriously. come on !

  • mr.dr.riley

    i love my pirate movies but its nice to know the truth!

  • Ty

    The Depp movies are more about Hollywood than anything realistic. I've never watched more than 1/4 of the first movie because it's so ridiculous.

    If you want to see a cool pirate movie, check out the 1992 TNT Treasure Island w/Christian Bale, Charlon Heston, Christopher Lee and many more. It's the best.

  • Silly girl

    who cares real or not?? they are movies and we love them.

  • Kerr

    It's amazing how much Hollywood gets wrong!! I mean, look at Alice in Wonderland. The queen's head is waaay too big for her body. And frogs don't eat tarts!

    And how about all that singin' in animated films?! Who bursts into song with a bunch of bunnies as backup while walking in the forest?

    Stop the lies, Hollywood! You are misleading our youth!

  • Gomez Munoz

    LOL Well the author of the article did accomplish one thing.... it got people talking about Pirates... True the movie is romantic fiction, but hey it all started as an amusement park ride so what do you expect?

    One thing I like is that they used females as pirates in the movie... There was actually quite a few famous female Pirates: Anne Bonnie, Mary Read, Grace O'Malley, Ching Shih, and Charlotte de Berry just to name a few..

    One thing the whole thing did accomplish was getting people to talk about and research Pirates.... I can almost imagine what Tortuga was like in its heyday... Every night was Saturday night and one big party...

  • Lucid

    Captain Jack Sparrow may not be a pirate in past history; however, in today's world Johnny Depp is a pirate and his pirate name is Captain Jack Sparrow. If I have the opportunity to meet Johnny Depp, I would probably address him as Captain and/or Captain Jack Sparrow.

  • sue

    Duh, I am a 50 year old who's been alive long enough to know that a Disney movie will not be an accurate depiction of anything... it's meant for ENTERTAINMENT and to SUSPEND your beliefs of actual event. Ie it's a MOVIE. LOL If I want to learn about Pirates and reality, I'll watch documentaries (which I do).

  • I will watch Johnny Depp playing Captain Jack Sparrow for as long as he knows he can give justice to the character. Depp is amazing with his choice of characters. His very best? Being a pirate! I see every new POTC movie at least 3 times. IMO; he is Hollywood's top actor. The only one left with 'the golden age'of male actor charisma left. Big shoes to fill but he does everyday.

  • Greenman

    PIRATE FREEDOM by Gene Wolfe is the second best pirate book, behind ON STRANGER TIDES by Powers. Disney has ripped Powers off from the beginning, and I bet they bought the rights to stop a lawsuit. Also THE PYRATES by Fraser is great but comical . . .

    • Kenny Thompson

      If we are constantly looking for historical fact in a project that was clearly intended for entertainment purposes, we, then, diminish the value of the entertainment. Pirates of the Caribbean is no more based on actual history than Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or a talking animated lion. We know-or should know-that going in to the theater. If we were looking for fact we would stay home and watch The History Channel. The true value is in the fantasy and escapism

      • leo

        Snow White is a well acclaimed documentary...

      • scott l

        I think the History Channel is barely a step above Pirates of the Caribbean and so on.
        BTW yes pirates may not have been 'affable rogues' and what not but they were in many way legitimate rebels against the horrific brutality of the Atlantic shipping industry and navies of the time. Check out Marcus Redeker's "Enemies of all Nations"

      • Trish

        You said it perfectly, Kenny. I see this article for exactly what it is... this guy is riding the coattails of the movie to get press for his new book. Any press is good press, and controversy only makes it better. Shame on you, David, you lily-livered, scoundrel.

      • Jolly good dear friend. It seems there is an effort to shatter the desire to have fun just for the sake of having fun.

      • Peach

        Kenny Thompson: Agreed, except FYI: 90% of the stuff on the History Channel isn't history.

      • SaltyJim

        I be thinkin' that writer and scurvy dog David Cordingly be not criticizin' the movie, but rather pointin' out some interestin' faaaacts about piratin'. 'Tis no violation of the code. And ye'd better start believin' in ghost stories, Mr. Thompson -- You're in one!

      • Terry

        I agree Kenny, even movies that are susposed to be about true events usually twist or makeup facts for dramatic effect. Composite characters, chronological manipulation, and pure fiction that never occured are common in almost all movies that are about true events. This is all done for entertainment value and with little regard for historical facts.

      • Kudos to Kenny! Your comments are spot on.

  • Please don't forget that Disney wasn't trying to make a historical pirate movie, they tried to make a romantic and supernatural pirate movie.

  • Arggggh!

    Oh please! These are MOVIES, not documentaries! I assume that real space aliens don't look like or behave like "ET" either!

    • dude!

      Guys, calm down!

      This article is only to make a comparision, and highlight some interesting fact about real pirates.

      • Jon

        Exactly. I have to admit, I winced when history was assaulted by the Blackbeard inclusion in the last Disney film.

  • inloveanddeath

    like for real? what does it matter? i mean yeah maybe they didnt act that way or the ships didnt look the same, but no shizz its a movie portrayed from how the directer saw it... all that really matters is that they are fantastic movies, which johnny depp owned in. well graphics and very good story lines. half the stuff in movies based on facts, are strected twisted anyways... im just happy with how good the movies are.. and i believe thats what you should really focus on anyways :)(:

  • I don't know why am I still afraid, if you are not real I would make you up

  • How curshing to read this.

    I guess everything I learned about the Navy by watching Popeye is suspect too.

    I'm so depressed I think I'll eat me parrot.


  • Michael Lubeck

    Just went to see the latest of Depp's Pirates movies and it was great fun once again... Cruze did a nice job as well, and the fountain of Youth and everything fit the story well. Lots of people just loved the movie.

  • Carrey

    I submit that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are uh-mazing whether they hold true to actual realities or not. 🙂

  • nothing

    well wow thanks for crushing my fictional dreams



    I thought these were documentaries!

    Shivver me timbers, matey!

  • aleap

    UHHHH Hello it was a movie for entertainment, not the national geographic channel.

  • V


  • Lucian

    The only beef I have is the stereotyping of people. While pirates were proven to "generally" be of a certain attitude or disposition, his statement that there were no romantic pirates out there anything like what we've seen. Surely He's not suggesting that he has the inner workings of every single pirate that ever existed and that, even at one point, he didn't have a romantic notion in his mind? That's a grand and blanket statement that is offensive to anyone.

    I'm not holding onto an idea of the pirates I grew up watching, but rather, simply stating that you can't lump a group of people together and say that there was never one man who was anything like what we've seen. Even criminals today have shades of gray and you can't lump them all together emotionally and mentally.

    • Privateer Steel

      That is why he says "The Majority ..." It was the first two words of the paragraph. Lighten up. They were MOSTLY cut throat criminals.

      One thing he left out is that real pirates mostly did not go to Pittsburgh to play baseball.

      • Larrydcr

        I would point out to Privateer Steel that some of the pirates that went to Pittsburgh were renown for stealing bases. And I would point out on the issue of whether all or only a majority of pirates were cutthroats, the author was not trying to be authoritative -- only issue a guideline.

  • Honu425

    What? You mean that there really aren't, or never were, any pirates that turned into skeletons in the moonlight?

    I'm crushed....sigh

    (sarcasm intended)

  • Jeb Goodcarver

    So what? True or not, this and other films of the genre were exciting and well worth the admission price. Next thing to be revealed is that all the cowboys in black hats were not bad guys!

  • buffalobeard

    I like the phrase that Jack uses with his first mate; you know, the one that later became the labor Union's slogan and mantra; "Take all ya can get! Give nothin'back!"

  • Ridso

    Hmmm. No mention that the premise of the first P of the C movie was a ship populated by the reanimated dead. I think we figured out that this was not a realistic portrayal, there, Cordingly!

    By the way, I am also pretty sure that Robin Hood's men did not wear tights, and that cowboys in the Old West did not always let the other guy start to draw first. But I enjoyed THOSE movies, anyway.

  • Renny Arnold

    He clearly said The majority of the eighteenth-century pirates ...

  • Sarah

    Relax people, he's not saying "Here's what Pirates of the Caribbean got wrong and damn them for it!" he's just saying, these are the differences. It's interesting to know. That's all.

    • Trish

      Actually honey,

      He would have titled it "Differences That Were Interesting" if you are correct. He actually accused them of being WRONG, and them thar words are fightin' words. lol
      He is getting exactly what he hoped for... discussion, attention, opinions, awareness of the public. Who was this guy before this article? And now he is in the limelight, just in time for his book release. His publicist deserves a raise!

  • ed

    wow...hollywod is our place to live these dreams with our children, not to understand the Barbry Coast Pirates, nor the politics of that time. Yes they were barbarians and miscreants, as others have pointed out. Let hollywod do what they awawy have done entertain us, with a great story, that may or may not have a shread of truth in it..


  • Joan


    You are a voice of sanity in a world gone awry. I enjoyed the article and the movies. It's not that complicated.

  • jay

    I've always had an issue with the glamorization of pirates by Disney (funny how much they hate media pirates, though). By and large they were vicious criminal thugs (not unlike the Somalia pirates) and hardly suitable for a childhood hero. Would we make children's movies about the pirates of Somalia or the Mexican drug cartels?

  • athEIst

    Most 17th century pirate communities were homosexual by choice. Maybe it was different by the Eighteenth Century

  • Cathy

    Of course real pirates are not romantic figures. Pirates steal and kill without regard for anything or anyone but the bottom line.... There have been and still are many pirates in the world. Sad reality notwithstanding, there's nothing wrong with escapist fantasy once in a while.

  • BevinTN

    Awww...Next you'll tell me there are no wizards or witches...

    And by the way, watching the History Channel is more akin to "The Propaganda Channel" than to accuracy. Please do not watch it for true facts...just for amusement.

  • JVL

    Perhaps the stories and movies aren't factual. But they are exciting to read and have influenced generations of children (including my childhood from seven decades ago) to play swashbuckling heroes or walk-the-plank villains.

    Some things are just best when left to one's imagination. Time enough later on in life to read about the reality.

  • Deskboy

    But did they ever say AARRGGGHHH!

  • Dolan

    People prove again and again that the only things they know, they heard on TV or in a movie. I mean, no offense, but I only hear about a movie if one of my friends says they want to go see it or if it's online somewhre. Geeze, articles like this are like instant controversy, just add water. No one is being incriminated for liking Pirates, but it's just that for people who really like pirates and read up on them, there's always a tiny underlying sense of "this isn't what real pirates are like' when we watch the movies. It's admittedly unglamorous, the pirate lifestyle, but I think a movie meant to portray typical, true pirates could be just as entertaining.

  • oldbones2

    Disney makes good movies and yes Pirates were Not nice people. If you want to learn about Pirates go to Key West. Commodore Porter was sent there, with his fleet, in the early 1800s to get rid of the Pirates which numbered in the 20 thousands. Captiva Island, Fl was where they held their captive women. John Audubon reported that a Pirate told him when we get a ship we kill 'em all, save the women. If fair and willing they go the island, if not they lose their heads. The Privates are still in the Caribbean, but no black flag to id them.

  • Carney

    Yes yes but what about hooks and eye patches? What about rum and "arrgh!" ??

    And did pirates really have elaborate laws and tedious legal proceedings as in the Disney movies?

  • Frank Mondana

    Not only has the beaten horse dead, it is dismembered and cooked down into a fine paste. We, the movie going public, are much more intelligent than we get credit for.
    Yes, these Disney movies use incorrect stereotypes, myths, flat out lies and urban legends. Almost all of us are quite aware of the fact that these movies are fantasy and not trying to be accurate histories.
    I am tired of being insulted with articles by writers who feel the need to remind us that the movies are false. They act like the sole beacons of truth; they must insure pirates are treated accurately because the mouth-breathing viewers could never figure it out for themselves. Guess what writers? We are all aware that these films are based on a FREAKIN' RIDE at DISNEYLAND!
    Which is why the professional critics reviewing these films stick their feet into it and sound rather arrogant when they decry all of the plot holes and inconsistencies in these movies based on a FREAKIN' RIDE at DISNEYLAND!
    Really folks. We are a bit more intelligent than you want to believe. We can separate fact from fiction. Even if we can't, does it really matter if we know who buried treasure and who didn't?
    Those who write articles intent on straightening us out historically and critics that demand every movie be a mix of "Citizen Kane", "Sophie's Choice", and "Pulp Fiction" are being far too literal.
    We drooling slobs in the corner know a duck is duck. We just want to, sometimes, call the duck a frog while mowing through over-buttered popcorn, bad nacho's and a gallon of Coke.

  • Michael

    I like reading about the discrepancies found between legend and history and find the development of fantasy tales from bits and pieces of
    eal life quite interesting. Bottom line, when we experience fiction as entertainment we always, consciously or unconsciously, compare what we are being told to what seems plausible. Great fiction causes us to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride even when we KNOW everything's contrary to reality. Tall tales are just a great deal of fun, and we need fun, and what's more, we enjoy being fooled. That's what escapism is all about.

  • boomer8

    DAVID DOWNER!!! SO WHAT!!!???? Most of us already knew this, but we don't watch these movies for any historical perspective: we watch them because they're FUN and ENTERTAINING!
    And "Pirates of the Caribbean" are masterfully done as well!!!

  • Paladin

    Aw, think you know, he'll be telling us half the characters in the Wizard of Oz were not true to form...

  • Ahab

    Twas an evil time the late 1700's. The prates were stealing from the exploiting/pillager/slave trading colonial louts. Much like today, where the Somolian "pirates" steal from the overfishin' /polluting/exploiting colonial louts. Hey kettle, don't call the pot black.

  • Bill

    The reference to Blackbeard in the latest Disney whorithon should require some historical accuracy. However, Disney has proven over and over again that they will produce whatever it takes to makes money even when it comes to distorting the truth. "It's a New Kind of Family"

  • Rockett

    While the menfolk/pirates look appropriately grizzled, unbathed, dirty and missing many visits to the barber and dentist, the lady leads appear fairly modern blow dried outfitted with expert makeup. Whoa. What would they have really looked like or acted like? Gotta be fantasy.

  • James Harrison

    What type of music do Pirates listen to?


  • Arrrr


  • Ami

    Pirates did say "ARRR!" as did English speaking ship's mates by the 16th century as an easily heard abreviation of "Hark!", when calling out commands to the crew. You can find this in Shakespear's play The Tempest", first scene (the shipwerck).

    "Arrgh!" was used only after eating the horrible ship's provisions while at sea...

  • TEXAS13

    Hello, this is a movie, not a history lesson. Why are so many people so critical.

  • Fictional depictions of "walking the plank" as a prate punishment long pre-date PETER PAN — here's an engraving from 1837:

    Possibly also indicative: throughout 17th- and 18th-century Enlish literature, the phrase "Walk, knave, walk!" is depicted as one frequently taught to -- or uttered by -- parrots: sometimes in contexts suggesting that the parrot had learned it at sea:,+knave,+walk%22&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

  • Adam

    For a man who is supposed to be a pirate expert he doesn't know allot about pirates, they did use those big three mast ships as well as sloops, Black beards flag ship Queen Anne's Revenge was one, and there were instances of walking the plank.

  • u did not say anything about african american pirates they played an crucial roll