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Question of Marcus (01.07.2023): Which pirates have made the most catches?
Pirates on board A: It was between 1716 and 1726 that pirates captured the most ships, and did much more damage to trade than the naval campaigns of the empires and privateers during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). This is an extraordinary statement made by Captain Johnson - who is actually Daniel Defoe, or Nathaniel Mist according to some, the reality remains to be proven, but that's another story.

The prize for the greatest number of catches made by pirates*

  • The trophy goes unquestionably to the pirate Bartholomew Roberts who captured and pillaged more than 400 ships between 1719 and 1722.
  • In second place was the pirate Edward Low, who captured nearly 140 ships.
  • The terrifying Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, captured almost as many between the end of 1716 and the end of 1718.
  • Captain Sam Bellamy and his fellow pirates captured more than 50.
  • Next came Edward England and Charles Vane with 50 each.
  • Then Charles Harris with 45.
  • Francis Spriggs: 40.
  • James Philips: 34.
  • George Lowther: 33.
  • Richard Holland: 25.

If we estimate that the 70 other pirate captains listed seized an average of 20 ships each, we obtain a total of more than 2,400 ships captured and pillaged**.
Declaration made by Sieur Jean Rousseau, surgeon on the Bon-Pasteur, of Honfleur, Captain Grout, concerning the capture of this ship by the forbidding off Guadeloupe However, the count may be underestimated, because according to the declaration of a surgeon captured by Captain Montigny of Dunkirk, more than 200 ships were pillaged. He is therefore second in the list***.
<== See the statement opposite, at the bottom of the 1st page.

It is important to note that many pirate captains were sometimes magnanimous and would return the catch to the victims, provided they did not make too much of a fuss and were from a nation that the pirates did not hate.
Pirates had little means of reselling large goods such as sugar, tobacco, or spices, and preferred to take only a little booty, food, drink, and medicine.

During this golden age of piracy, there was a real crisis in maritime trade, so much so that rival empires were forced to cooperate. In 1721, the British and French governments in the Caribbean concluded an agreement for joint protection.

The biggest catch ever made

The biggest catch ever made was undoubtedly that made by the French pirate Olivier Levasseur, known as La Buse, and Taylor who captured La Vierge du Cap (the Virgin of the Cape / Nossa Senhora do Cabo), a flagship of the Portuguese Navy of 800 tons and 72 cannons. The ship was carrying the Viceroy of the Portuguese East Indies and the Archbishop of Goa. The immense treasure contained rivers of diamonds, jewels, pearls, gold and silver bars, furniture, cloth, sacred vessels and other precious objects of worship, a treasure that historians estimate at 5 billion euros. This capture is undoubtedly the largest in the history of piracy.

Sources :
* : Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 - Markus Rediker
** : History of Pyrates - History Shipping Industry
*** : Declaration made by the surgeon Jean Rousseau, scan francearchives.fr - Pirates day by day - Jean-Pierre Moreau




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