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329: Black Sails with Colin Woodard

The Starz TV series Black Sails is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel “Treasure Island.” It’s a story filled with squashbuckling pirates who dare to wage war against self-described civilized nations. Are you ready to travel back to the Golden Age of Piracy? We’ll be joined today by Colin Woodard, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Republic of Pirates.

Colin's Historical Grade: A-

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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Dan LeFebvre  04:30

Black Sails is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel from 1883 called Treasure island. That means we have multiple layers of fiction to unravel from both the novel it based on as well as the mere fact that it’s a dramatized TV series with its own fictional elements. But of course, pirates really did exist. And I know you mentioned this series was better than you expected it to be before watching it. So before we get into some of the details, just to get an overall sense of how well it captured the essence of the Golden Age of Piracy, if you were to give Black Sails a letter grade for its historical accuracy, what would it get?


Colin Woodard  05:16

If I’m not framing it around the fact that it’s a work of fiction and drama. I’d say, you know, like a B plus, and maybe an A minus, if you’re taking into account that it’s a work of fiction and asked to have the drama and all the rest of it down. Yet, the broad, you know, they have four seasons of action and the broad narrative in in big strokes is fairly accurate. You know, the beginning of a Pirate Republic, it’s, you know, the Spanish gold in the in a REX treasure fleet and its role in the, the increase of the prestige of the Republic and the states and the infuriating the Spanish. And eventually the efforts of the empire and forces of order to try to receive the place and the tensions between all of those things. They are mixing in real people who were there at the time, and the characters in their younger form from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The math and timing works out pretty well for that. So sure that that, okay. And of course, because it’s dramatized a lot of events are conflated characters shifted around a number of characters who are important to the historic pirate Republican NetSol were eliminated to make space for some of the Robert Louis Stevenson characters. So in the details of the plot, are kinda all over the place, but the broad story is the same. And what really intrigued me was, and gives me a gift has been giving them relatively high grade is, whenever they had a situation where they needed a specific detail, it was surprising how often they went out of their way to make it accurate. The ships being named right, the you know, minor characters you never meet, we’re always off screen, being given the proper names, you know, the, at one point, Jack Rackham is, you know, sitting on, you know, taking the crap, and he’s reading a newspaper, and he is in fact, reading the Jamaica weekly current. And it’s the I’ve read those on microfilm, there’s not that many that have survived, but it’s the actual, you know, fled from the Jamaica weekly current the masthead is all the same, you know, they, they could have, you know, cut corners and all of that, but didn’t. So I was surprised at the degree to which they went down into the details to be as accurate as possible in the in some of the fine tuning and livery over the over the script,


Dan LeFebvre  07:55

you don’t get that a lot of details, they just kind of make that up. And nobody’s going to notice that kind of thing. Anyway. So a lot, a lot of shows overlook that. So I’m glad that they they stuck to that.


Colin Woodard  08:05

I was impressed with that. So yeah, so basically, you know, really big shapes are accurate, really small things are very accurate. The middle range is where they, you know, played with and adapted the actual historical storyline and created their own wallets. But that, you know, they they inserted all of their plots in a in a broad story that thematically was fairly accurate to history.


Dan LeFebvre  08:28

Sure show you mentioned some of the characters, I want to ask about that kind of, again, looking overall, because there are four seasons. And so there’s a lot of characters, and a lot of TV shows do make up fictional characters. And then of course, we have the characters from Treasure Island. So I kind of broke them down into three different categories. There’s the real pirates, there’s the characters from Treasure Island, and then I’m assuming anybody that doesn’t fit into those is just kind of made up for Black Sails. So just to give a brief overview of those I would say I think the real pirates are Edward Teach Charles Vane, Jack Rackham and Barney Benjamin Hornet gold would Rogers and Israel Hans characters from Treasure Island, James Flint, also known as James McGraw, Billy Bones Long John Silver, and then I’m assuming the rest are kind of made up for Black Sails at Guthrie family, most notably in this series Eleanor and Richard Max, Mr. Scott, Lord Thomas Hamilton, Miranda, Hamilton those characters is that pretty good summary of the categories for the characters in the series?


Colin Woodard  09:32

Yeah, correct. That’s exactly right. And I’d add a fourth category of major figures from the actual history who were removed you know, you’re missing Stede Bonnet. Black Sam Bellamy, although he’s mentioned and Henry Jennings is barely in there at all even though he played a critical role in the end the actual events but yeah, that’s that’s pretty much it.


Dan LeFebvre  09:51

Yeah, I’m glad you added those that were removed because I didn’t see those industries


Colin Woodard  09:55

weren’t really need and bodies partner in crime is also Have entirely eliminated from this. This universe


Dan LeFebvre  10:03

is in this series. She’s kind of with Jack Rackham. It was that not necessarily the case then she was with somebody else. She


Colin Woodard  10:11

was with Jack Rackham. But she was she, Jack Rackham. And Mary Reed all went off into piracy together. So in the sort of great, you know, myths of piracy have Mary Reed and Bonnie along with Calico Jack going off and doing their piracy. He just removed Mary read from it altogether, which is fine, but given what a large profile, perhaps wrongly the very read and Barney story as with the general public, I was surprised that they didn’t sort of at least mentioned why she was off stage or, or, or wasn’t there.


Dan LeFebvre  10:44

Okay, okay. Yeah, they actually do at the very end of the last episode, we’ll get to that day. They do bring her in at the very end. But we’ll get to that. Now that we’ve kind of established some of the people I want to start digging into some of the details of Black Sails, showing how it sets up the time and place in history. And this is according to the very first episode first season and it talks about the year 1715, Pirates of New Providence Island threatened maritime trade in the region of Bahamas, the laws of civilized nations declare them enemies, and so in return, the pirates adhere to their own war against the world. And then later in the second season, we find out a little bit through flashbacks that it all started when a man named Henry Avery sailed into the port of Nassau and New Providence Island. Once he was there, he bribed the colonial governor to overlook his breaking of the law and allow his men to camp on the beach. And that’s basically how the show sets up that the pirates got their foothold in the region. Is that a pretty accurate summary of how piracy actually started in the Bahamas? Oh, pretty


Colin Woodard  11:37

close. So Henry Avery was real. He had made an incredible capture in the Indian Ocean with great brutality of a treasure of Galleon belonging to the grand mogul of India. And there was a global manhunt for him because his piracy had complicated relations for the British East India Company were in their trade monopoly in India that grand mogul was arresting their agents and furious Englishmen everywhere for this outrage. And so there was an All Points Bulletin for this Henry Avery guy like the world’s first global manhunt, everyone was trying to find him. And he skedaddled sort of around the world to where he thought you’d be least expected, which was to this, you know, backwater colony, the Bahamas, in 1696. And indeed, he went to the governor it was very obvious that he was a pirate but he claimed as to found the ship he was on hold treasure and ivory tusks. So at a time when everyone including the governors of the you know, the English governors everywhere were tasked with fighting this man at all costs. The governor of the Bahamas was looking the other way, taking all this gold and ivory and was given the grand mogul ship as his personal prize. In exchange, some small vessels and Henry Avery sort of he didn’t stay there and start a Pirate Republic. Instead, he basically fenced a bunch of his goods to the governor. And then he and his men slowly trickled down into small vessels and made their way up the eastern seaboard. And most of them back through the back door back to Ireland and England. And Henry Avery was last seen before he disappeared into the mists of history at a crossroads on his way towards the west country where he was born, known to be in the company of a man, a woman he was not married to and was married to another, and another man’s wife and and a large amount of treasure. So he didn’t found the Republic. But when Henry Avery disappeared into the night, it started this legend and lore. When these pirates were over the the the show is accurate in saying that, the Pirate Republic kind of got underway in 1715 or so. But this is by the next generation of sailors who became pirates who were inspired by Henry Avery as they had been growing growing up. There had been plays and novels and sonnets, and you know, all of the multimedia entertainment apparatus of the day, was taking the Avery story and embellishing it, and the myth was that this guy had gotten away with it. In some versions of the story, he’d gone to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and started a you know, a magical Pirate Republic where pirates can be kings in the streets are paved with gold and you know, you know, living living the good life, right? What’s that? You know, in the hobos in the Great Depression, they had that something Candy Mountain, you know, the sort of utopia that the hobos imagined in their songs. This is kind of like a phobia for sailors and, and seamen, and so he was, yeah, the sort of at a multi media phenomenon of this story of the pirate who’d gotten away and become a pirate king, and Henry Avery had gotten into piracy. He had been a upstanding sailor, but he and his fellow sailors were basically cheated and screwed over by the owners of their ship, and they ended up you know, with their lives in danger and having been completely cheated by some of the most powerful men in England, they rose up in a mutiny and captured the ship and went off onto their own account. And that is that story was the sort of inspiration and template for the pirates who came a generation later and started accumulating in the failed English colony of the Bahamas and taking over and starting their own Pirate Republic. So Avery, in a sense, started the Republic but not literally He provided the the myth and and, and storyline and narrative that inspired a future generation was started up.


Dan LeFebvre  15:42

It’s almost like fiction created the fact that that myth and then people just wanting to buy into that and with this must be a great life.


Colin Woodard  15:53

with humans. It’s all about narrative, right? We’re storytelling species in a good story can transform the world.


Dan LeFebvre  15:59

Yeah, yeah. Well, you’re talking about the ship that he found, found with the treasure and and one of the key plot points in Black Sails, revolves around the ship called the Orca dilemma. And according to the series, she’s the largest Spanish treasure Galleon in the Americas with a total cargo in excess of $5 million. And the storyline for the Orca carries throughout pretty much the entire series. But near the end of season one Captain Flynn’s crew hunts down the Orca. And that leads into Season Two when other pilots start to catch wind of the earth and gold, and it becomes this bargaining chip for most of the things that we see all the way up to the end. Not to get too far ahead of our story. We’ve already talked about how it’s a prequel to Treasure Island. So you have to have treasure on that island. And the treasure is the one that’s taken from the aurka. Is there any historical truth to the aurka, dilema story that we see in Black Sails? Yeah, I


Colin Woodard  16:47

probably should have checked this before. I’m pretty sure that that is the the actual name of one of the Spanish treasure galleons that went down when the 1715 treasure fleet had a calamity on the coast of Florida. So Spain was by far and away the most powerful and wealthy of the transatlantic or global maritime empire is based in Europe, in that time period, and is being controlled, you know, everything you know, from Mexico on South and the entire hemisphere, pretty much. And they had possessions in the Philippines and Guam, and in an Asia and all of the unlike the English, you know, showing up in New England and Virginia and the French showing up in Quebec, the Spanish when they’d come had discovered literally mountains of silver and the Aztecs with their gold and just incredible, you know, comic book kind of riches, which they extract with terrible brutality, and you know, slaving people and slaughtering people, but all of that treasure, and all the stuff that they were trading for in Asia, all had to somehow get back to Spain. And the way it worked with, you know, back in those days, square rig, large ocean going vessels couldn’t sail into the wind very well the other sails kind of flap and you had to turn off the wind until the sails would catch. And in those days, you could be sailing 70 degrees off the wind and you add some wind against your hole and you had some waves and you’re not going anywhere. So my point is that ocean going ships were pretty much compelled to follow established sea routes guided by the prevailing winds. And this compelled Spain to move all of their treasures from Asia across the Pacific to the Americas, in a annual massive, you know, Deathstar. Like treasure Galleon, the Manila Galleon that started in the Philippines, stocked up all the treasure and sailed across the Pacific. We get to Acapulco and unload and then under guard, these mule trains are taken over Mexico to better cruise and loaded into galleons and come to book to Havana their, their central base of their maritime part of their empire in the Americas. And then separately, all of that inconsolable and Aztec gold and all the other stuff that they were, you know, extracting bleeding and stealing was all loaded onto vessels that also converged in Havana. And then once every year or two, it was all put onto the incredibly well guarded treasure fleet, often known as the plate flee plate was the word for silver backbone. And it would the prevailing winds from Havana to get back to Spain required that you sail you kind of be carried by the Gulf Stream up between Florida and the Bahama Islands before you can catch the prevailing winds to Iberia to Spain. And so everybody knew this and but the the treasurer fleet was incredibly well guarded. And I can’t remember seven or nine vessels of which I’m 99% Certain Erica De Lima was the name of the flagship, but in any case, they were sailing through the Straits of Florida in 1715. They’ve been delayed trying to load by late arriving shipments and stuff. And it was bumper size treasure load because there’d been a war going on the war of Spanish the session had ended the year but For so all the groups like several years worth of treasure accumulating on this one bumper treasure fleet. And then our hurricane struck as they were sailing up the Straits of Florida, and blew them and destroyed the fleet up against the then on colonized Florida coast, in a whole stretch of sand now known as the Treasure Coast. And when all those ships were wrecked there with a gazillion pounds worth of treasure and valuables, word got out rapidly dull or quarters right of the Americas. And everybody was converging on to see if they couldn’t get some right by diving by salvaging including the Spanish who send an entire you know, they’re survivors of their crew had set up a camp on the beach, and then they were sort of backed up by more soldiers and sailors and salvage operations. But yeah, the pirates would start laying siege to it and all the rest. So yeah, in the end, a pirate named Henry Jennings had charged in and attack the Spanish camp, and Romans just in time of peace to but he did it anyway and got a massive cache of treasure, which is essentially the treasure that in Black Sails, they’re talking about the Erica gold, the gold, the Orca, silver is the stand in for the treasure from the Spanish treasure fleet of which Henry Jennings got a large quantity. And then being sort of a a person on the run, he sailed to the sort of beginnings of this pirate Republican Nasaan arrived with all this treasure, which sort of transformed the status of the island of the pirate community there overnight. So yes, that part is true. And there was indeed a giant parcel of Spanish treasure that was injected into the early Pirate Republic and, you know, brought it a new level of fame and an attraction to anyone who was looking to, you know, maybe go onto the account.


Dan LeFebvre  21:49

Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking was you were talking about how with Henry Avery and and there was just the lower to this, this lifestyle that was set forth in a lot of the fiction of the day. What do you throw that you throw that gold in there, and that just had to be a new rush of people that were starting to feel, you know, maybe adhering to the law is not what I want to do with my life. Let’s go get some of this treasure.


Colin Woodard  22:14

Yeah, exactly. And be up people from all fields, all up and down the colonies. All showed up there and the Spanish were there to win, right there was a, you know, battles and do people diving and people getting whatever they could, but remember, this is all happening right on the Florida coast, just across the streets from the Bahamas, which were a failed English colony. during that war. I mentioned that it just ended in 1714, the war of Spanish secession The Bahamas has always been a, you know, backwater sort of colony, but it was sacked and destroyed by the French and Spanish, you know, at least twice. And, essentially, you know, the surviving English settlers were living in, you know, heights in the jungle kind of thing. And it’s the pirates who started showing up there as early as 1714 and small little gangs using these dugout oceangoing canoes, these petty aguas are starting to arrive and operate out of there. And ultimately, it’s those folks who shored up the forts and put guns in it again. And we established order they got there before the British Empire bothered to get there and took it for themselves. And it’s that pirate nests that Pirate Republic that makes possible a outbreak of piracy that was so effective that we’re still talking about it today. Wow.


Dan LeFebvre  23:32

Wow. Yeah, that’s, I can understand why they they left a lot of that out and just simplified it to here’s the kicker golden that’s the pirate treasure because that could be a whole series in and of itself. Just just telling that story. Near the end of season two and Black Sails there’s a pivotal sequence of events where we see Captain Flint being taken captive by the governor of the Carolinas Lord Peter ash. And it turns out that Peter was a longtime friend of Flint and Flint companion Miranda Hamilton back before Flint was even a pirates he went by his real name James McGraw. But Captain Flint is now a pirate Lord Ash is known in the areas according to the series, as you know, the toughest governor on pirates. So this sequence culminates in a trial for Captain Flint in Charlestown. What they don’t realize is that Charles Vane has sailed up from NASA and at the last moment he and his crew attacked Charles Town to rescue Captain Flint and kill Lord ash in the process. And this series is always referred to as Charlestown in the Carolinas visually, we can see it’s just off the coast, which plays into the sequence with veins attack on the town as the ship bombards from the coast. So I’m assuming that this is present day city of Charleston, South Carolina. Did pirates really attack Charleston like we see happening in the series there?


Colin Woodard  24:48

Yeah, so originally, it was Charles Town. It got turned to Charleston after the American Revolution because it’s named for a King Charles we were doing a lot of D royal lysing of things right. Church of England became the Episcopalian Church and so on and so forth. So yes, it was it was originally Charlestown and the Carolinas were known as Carolina in the West Indies, and they were later split into two colonies, South Carolina, Charlestown, and then a much poorer backwater, sort of new and troubled colony North Carolina further north, between Charleston and Virginia, which the Virginia is looked down upon to the Charlestonians looked down upon, but Charlestown was founded by English planters from the island of Barbados, so slave lords, who had run out of land back in Barbados, and Barbados was, he was the original like slave plantation colony in the English empire. And it was a brutal Manichaean struggle between the people who first arrived there in the early 1600s. And by the time we get to the 1670s, when Charlestown was founded, and the Carolina colony was starting to be colonized. A few families had one that Manichaean struggle, and had perfected sort of, you know, brutal, you know, lives for sugar slave system and become so rich in the process that when these people who were not you know, pedigreed or from great families returned to England, they were they were the nouveau riche. You could buy everything, you know, like the Russians coming and you know, buying up Kensington these days, these folks were showing up and offending all of the established families by being able to buy all their estates and all the rest. And we’re considered to have terrible manners and all of that, but they were incredibly rich. While they’re when they ran out of land. They, on this tiny island, they turn to this new colony in the subtropical woodlands of the North American mainland, and set up a new West Indies style slave plantation society there, which is where you get the legacy culture of what became the cotton South comes from transposing this model directly by the barber in planters themselves. So yes, that place existed and was very much tied into the West Indies, it was considered part of the West Indies not separate from it. And so as the port most intimately involved in the trade with the Pirate Republic in the Bahamas, through intermediaries, and many of the people in the Bahamas had ties or connections in one way or another to Charlestown. Well, the scene you’re describing where Flint you know, comes a shorter parlay with the governor there and then ends up you know, there ends up being him being captured and there ends up being Charles Vane showing up to liberate him. That’s all keyed off a real historical events, which was one of the pirates they dropped from this Stede Bonnet was indeed captured and brought to Charlestown where he was trying to be home. And there was some sort of uprising popular uprising to storm the, you know, the seat of power that almost succeeded and would have resulted in the overthrowing of the leadership of the South Carolina colony and liberation of Stede Bonnet are ultimately the uprising actually failed, and Steve Monroe was hanging there. But something like that did indeed happen, which is what they’re, they’re keying off. It didn’t involve Charles Vane. But the Attorney General there in South Carolina wrote letters about, you know, something terrible that they had just dodged the details, or kind of never discussed too much. But it’s clear that his government almost fell out when this uprising happened. They


Dan LeFebvre  28:29

probably weren’t too keen on planning that out.


Colin Woodard  28:31

Yeah. And I would love to somebody to dredge up more details about what happened there. But they’re not in the they’re not where they shouldn’t be in the in the British National Archives. Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  28:41

it was probably Yeah, it’s probably a little embarrassing for them, that that kind of thing.


Colin Woodard  28:47

Right, because there’s a popular uprising by many of their own people and pirate sympathizers too, which is not something they want to broadcast. In


Dan LeFebvre  28:54

season three, we see another character was Rodgers arriving in NASA as the he’s the English Governor tasked with kicking out the pirates and turning New Providence island into, as the show puts it, a civilized English colony. In his first act there is to offer a pardon to anyone who are tuned from piracy, no questions asked. And a lot of people take the offer a lot don’t most notably in the series, Charles Vane, Jack Rackham, and we’re teach team up to try to defend the harbor against Rogers. And the only person who Rogers offered does not extend to is the guy who was behind the attack in Charlestown in this series, at least Captain Charles Vane and then we see vein getting captured publicly hang by Rogers and NASA which ends up turning into a spark for the pirate resistance against would Rogers, but how accurate was the show’s portrayal of what happened between Woods Rogers and Charles Vane?


Colin Woodard  29:45

The part with the pardon and they and woods Rogers taking control of Nassau is almost completely as it really happens. It was Woods Rogers idea to have the king issue a pardon and he had been lobbying for some time, he believed that through that you could have a divide and conquer strategy. So which which Rogers had been the greatest hero of that war that I mentioned that ended in 1714, the war of Spanish secession, he’d been a privateer, and at a time when most private tears just went out into the English Channel and captured a French, you know, sloop and then went back into port and divided up the plunder and called it good. He built from scratch to frigate size warships, man them with hundreds of men and circumnavigated the planet at a time when very few people had done so to read the Spanish shipping in the Pacific, which nobody had to go around the Tierra del Fuego and through the circumpolar storms going around Antarctica. It took him a couple of years, but he was seeking to capture one of those Manila galleons. And he did it and he in fact, got a musket ball in the jaw and his brother was killed just like the show says happened. And he eventually brought it through all kinds of trials and tribulations back all the way around the world backwards, around Africa and back up and anchored in the Thames and he was the hero of the war. And he used that political capital from having done that and, and writing a best selling book that they refer to in Black Sails as well. To to lobby the king to issue this part and they said, you know, you issue the pardon and back my private, you know, mercenary fleet with some royal navy vessels, and I can go and take Nassau in the Bahamas, you will make me governor, that was kind of the deal. You know, I can be governor, you can be governor which Rogers if you can take and hold this pirate nest. And so that was a deal worked out and he didn’t do come ashore. Charles Vane was not excluded from the list. But Charles Vane refused to participate. He was one of the diehards, right? The idea was divide and conquer and a lot of pirates including Orta, gold and Jennings and many others sign, you know, took the pardon, at least provisionally. And, and and some didn’t. Some are like no way we’re not, you know, we’re committed to piracy. We hate England and all that. And Charles Vane was very much in the latter camp. And so when which Rogers fleet arrives, Charles Vane is the you know, the one who puts together this fire ship, he sets a ship on fire and sends it sailing straight towards the, the, the, the fleet, the English leap, it’s arrived, just like you’re shown in Black Sails, that he then escapes out the back, there’s the bomb. NASA has a you have NASA on Providence Island, you have a sandbar like Island, that’s now Paradise Island, that was then Hogg islands. And they almost meet together and forms the harbor a big long slit like harbor. But if you’re in a really small vessel, you can actually instead of going out the ocean side of the harbor, you can go to the head of the harbor, and navigate around the shoals and go out the back entrance. If you’re really small, he did that he escaped out the back and there was at large for some time. So the Charles Vane defies the pardon. You know, and causes all kinds of trouble part is correct, even if some of the details have been shifted around for dramatic purposes.


Dan LeFebvre  33:14

Yeah, no, it’s that’s that’s impressive that, you know, they they stuck to a lot of the historic detail even I like that, you know, the, the background of was Rogers and that, you know, getting shot and because you see him with scars in this series, and he kind of explains that, and yeah, it’s impressive.


Colin Woodard  33:31

This brother is pulled by the mask on the musket ball, and I was amazed at the point where there’s would have the scene in Black Sails where Woods Rogers and his fleet, his mercenary vessels and real Navy detachment are sailing with him. And like the name of every vessel and the size of it all Exactly, right. They added one more vessel, you know, that was going to be the one that was going to take Mrs. Guthrie back to be in prison, but all the other vessels are exactly right. And even the Commodore the fleet was the real Commodore so I mean, at Chamberlain, so yeah, the they would always zoom in and when they had a chance to use the accurate details they did, it was kind of fun for me to see a CGI of all the ships done well, right. So I’ve been read about them in the documents and you know, assembling what his fleet was like from all the documents where I was writing Republican pirates and then see somebody you know, take that and recreate it was fun in the


Dan LeFebvre  34:25

show, after the news of Charles Vane dies and that news reaches his old mentor Edward Teach, that causes teach to then return to NASA and we find out that another pirate captain Benjamin Hornet gold has aligned himself with what Rogers in the British so on one side, you have the British led by Rogers and corn and gold, along with a bunch of British soldiers who came with Rogers. And then on the other side, you have the pirates led by captains teach Flint Rackham and John Silver. And the pirates have their own crews but they also find an ally of their own and what the show calls the Maroons. They are marooned slaves. Who set up their own village in secret and away from anybody else? The pirates convinced them to help in trying to overthrow the British. And at least as as of the end of season three, it kind of works the the pirates managed to force the British to retreat from the island. Did any of this battle between pirates and England actually happen?


Colin Woodard  35:18

Yeah, in the sense I mean, Woods Rogers came ashore, he split the pirates he occupied the fort for the gold and Jennings both joined him, Jennings actually became a pirate Hunter trying to hunt down Charles Vane. So you know, all of that is pretty true to form. Roger Rogers governorship and re imposition of, you know, organized colonial rule was in jeopardy though for a years thereafter, as the show is kind of suggesting disease didn’t did in fact break out among his people that the locals were, you know, not as susceptible to and so a lot of his soldiers were dead or incapacitated. there was danger of renewed war with Spain, which the black trails touches on as well. He was in a very precarious spot and Charles Vane and some of the other diehards, later Calico Jack Rackham, married named Bonnie take a small vessel and reading things to their they’re all at large. Before Rogers showed up, Vane came ashore and kind of reestablished piracy. There was a pardon came before what’s Rogers did word of the part. And it was brought to them by another ship and other governors. So the pirates, many of them before Woods Rogers arrived, and already gone off to other colonial governors and gotten pardons and come back. So a lot of them had their pardons and which Rodgers took other pardons. But during this interval between when many of the pirates would decide, Oh, I’ll take the part and that’ll be great. And before woods, Rogers arrived, Charles Vane showed up there and like, came down and kicked but you know, like said, No, we’re gonna be pirates again and shook it all up again. And then when Rogers shows up, Vane has that that fire ship incident that covers his escape, and then he’s spending all his time reading all the merchant shipping, trying to come in and out of Nassau to basically make a mess of the finances and the commerce which is really complicating what’s Rogers life. But there’s no point where there’s actually a siege by the pirates, reestablish order once Rogers is there, he is fearful of it. I mean, that’s something he’s he’s watching his back the whole time, but it doesn’t quite materialize in the same dramatic way it does in Black Sails, however, their whole idea. I mean, I love the idea that they took the potential plot lines of an alliance between the Maroons, the enslaved people who’d escaped and had set up longtime, like maroon settlements, they call them deep in the interior, the famous one was deep in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, there was a whole society there have escaped slaves who they had their own matriarchal Queen leader, just like Black Sails suggests. The governors in the real history surrounding the Bahamas, we’re all terrified by the Bahamas, because the pirates let people of African descent join their cruise and become rouse up to become captains and, you know, the word that you could be treated as a human got around, and a lot of slaves were ready to the governor of Bermuda said that the rumor was that the pirates are going to come invade Bermuda and that the slaves knew this. And we’re gonna rise up with them to take Bermuda and turn it into another pirate nests like NASA. So all of that was a real concern. It never actually materialized in, in our in our own history. But it absolutely could have and if you’re going to expand out and dramatize and elongate the Pirate Republic. Yeah, if I were a show director, I would have totally gone to that material to it’s mentioned in Republican pirates, and it’s all out there. But I liked that they decided to take that and the tensions that the genuine distrust that the maroon communities would have of the pirates, the pirates were also, you know, yes. people of African descent were fellow humans, if they were apparently appears to be from the evidence that if you were a fellow like born in the Americas person, that didn’t matter what race you were, you could all join the pirate cruise. But when they would capture a slave ship with, you know, people chained in the hole coming straight from Africa, who’s speaking weird languages, strange customs, right? They’re not Americanized, that Eretz would often just treat them as things right. Seldom is cargo and all the rest, just like the slaveholder. So it seems like it was from the evidence that parents attitudes were defined not by race, but by cultural foreignness. Right. The people were from Africa where they would other and treat His things, but the fellow sailors and people in the new The world seemed to be treated as fellow sailors and people in Pirates. So you know, it’s a mixed bag there. But


Dan LeFebvre  40:07

yeah, and it makes, I mean, the pirates. So there’s that level of trust that yeah, I don’t know that I would have that there, too. But I’ll also when you have some of the pirates that are that are taking the pardon? And basically switching sides, it sounds like like, I mean, do you know that this person who was a pirate before Are they are they still? Or have they turned to the law? And then, you know, gonna turn you in? Like, I mean,


Colin Woodard  40:32

what’s what’s lose? I mean, you’re literally to the pirates get the pardon, but they could be absolved of all their prior acts of piracy. And they could keep their stuff the loot. So why wouldn’t should do it? It’s just like, you gotta, you know, you just gotta absolve for all the piracy you’ve done so far. Are you gonna do more wait and see, but you know, at least I’ve cleared the slate. So it took real diehard types who were, you know, especially furious at England and organized society to not be tempted by the party. But some of the you know, people like Horta, golden Jennings, you know, took the party and never looked back and became, you know, sort of right hand lieutenants to the historical Woods Rodgers in his effort to consolidate control and bring civilization back. In


Dan LeFebvre  41:17

the final season of this series. It’s pretty clear that would Rogers is not going to stay away from long he gets, as I mentioned, pushed out for a little bit comes back, but his fleet manages to track down and reteach his ship, and after boarding it, they overpower the pirates they and reteach and Bonnie Jack Rackham, are captured by wood Rogers. And he wants to make an example of ever teach Blackbeard. So in episode three, season four, he calls for really the most horrendous tortures, they put a bag over his head, tie his hands and legs, tie a rope to his feet, hanging them upside down over the side of the ship. And then using a rope connected to his hands, they pull him under the water from one side of the ship scraping his body against the bottom, that ship comes back. He’s a bloody mess when it comes back up. But teach survives the torture three different times each time more flesh is ripped open by the saltwater in the end, he’s barely recognizable. Everybody is just surprised he’s not dead each time. And then Rogers ends up shooting him in the in the head after the third time. Is that really how Blackbird died.


Colin Woodard  42:22

I mean, that’s called keel hauling. And that was a punishment the Royal Navy would mete out to sailors in the Royal Navy who had been bad, usually not done until it was fatal. But yeah, tear up your back against the barnacles. And which Rodgers in Black Sails is seeking to basically to use this as a method of execution by repeating it until the guy’s dead, which is, you know, to terrorize the the the other pirate captives and show that he means business. The real Woods Rogers was a mixed bag, but he didn’t have the same sort of like sadistic and intensity that the Black Sails, Woods Rogers had. He also never laid eyes on Blackbeard at any point. So When word of the pardons started arriving in the Americas, remember, there was no radio or TV. So once the king had issued a pardon, it had to be sent out on ships and physically in pieces of paper, and word literally had to get around right communication is only as fast as transportation back then. And so it took a while, you know, it’d be delays or weeks or even a month or two between when each column your court knew about this. And Blackbeard was out cruising with his fleet when word started coming around. We know the moment pretty much when he learned of the pardon, he learns it from a vessel he’s captured in the US He’s working his way up the up the Leeward Islands. And he goes off to try to make a final score in the Gulf of Mexico. So he’s off in the Gulf of Mexico theater, and eventually will comes around to take a pardon. From a corrupt governor in the poorest colony of the mall, North Carolina I remember I mentioned that sort of backwater, relatively new colony, it had just survived a war between the colonists and the indigenous people who didn’t want them there. And he goes to the governor of this place in this little town of 600 that sometimes serves as its capital. And he just shows up there and says, Hey, I want to take your part in and you know, wink wink nudge nudge I will spend I’m just going to set myself up in the trash collection business right and if I if I keep finding you know, piles of gold out see one want to trash I’ll sell them to you and my matter all you know that the indigenous people attack again, I’ve just almost doubled the population of your of your army, you know, with all these battle tested men around me so basically he buys off the protection of the governor. In this scheme where he’ll keep he’ll he’ll become an under a world crime figure protected by the cops mayor. He’s bought off the authorities in this tiny colony and he’s fencing his goods to them so they get to hear the governor in this impoverished place. Suddenly you have all these goods coming in. Under pay your debts, and you’ve got all these some, you know, well trained people know how to handle weapons to help keep your place secure. So he goes for that. So he so Blackbird never crosses paths with Woods Rogers, but his death is not unlike what they show in Black Sails. So the unscrewed another governor who was very unscrupulous was the governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood and Spotswood with no authority whatsoever, invaded North Carolina he conspired with a the real the captains of the two Royal Navy vessels posted in Hampton Roads. And they did a two pronged invasion using so like as mercenaries. And basically Blackbeard is surprised at Ocracoke Island. And there’s a battle not between Woods Rogers and Blackbeard but a battle between a lieutenant Maynard the Royal Navy, sailor in charge of the detachment center to capture him. And it happens very much like they depict in Black Sails, the the there’s a broad side across the depths of the of the sloop that the Royal Navy sailors are on. Blackbeard has been boarded, thinking they’ve won the day, there’s bodies on the deck, and then all of a sudden, it’s an ambush coming out from the hold. Come all the Royal Navy sailors and gentlemen who have been hiding down there, surprise them, there’s a giant battle just like in Black Sails, and ultimately, Lieutenant Maynard, you know, and his men kill Black Beard and behead him and take the head back home to their governor as a prize where it’s placed on what’s now known as Black beards point and Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Virginia. So the manner of death is correct. It’s out of sequence in the timeline, and the person who did it is completely different. But yeah, that’s what became of Blackbeard. And they pay homage to all that, and having Woods Rogers take on black beer, but they have they set up the battle to be very similar to what actually happened to black beard. In Ocracoke sound and 1718 Wow,


Dan LeFebvre  47:00

yeah, it’s not Yeah, another example of how they’re fitting it into their story, of course, but still adhering to history pretty well. It sounds like Yeah,


Colin Woodard  47:09

it’s like what’s Rogers gets to take on some of spots, woods, you know, on scrupulousness, and then gets to play the dashing Errol Flynn, like Lieutenant Maynard character in his battle with Blackbeard. Okay, you kind of tie them all together. But again, we could have made it up any way they wanted. They intentionally echoed what actually happened to Blackbeard in history when they decided how that battle would play out, which, you know, is a story and it’s like, Hey, if you’re gonna do it, yeah, right.


Dan LeFebvre  47:36

As I was watching that, you mentioned that the queue hauling of Blackbeard. It really kind of struck me that you know, that Woods Rodgers was sent there to be the English governor is supposed to be returning the island to the civilized world. And although pirates have been romanticized throughout much of pop culture, I think everyone knows that they’re brutal murderers without regard for law and order. They’re pirates. But we don’t really think of the brutality on the other side the brutality of those in a position of Law and Order were the actions of what we call a civilized nation of the time just as brutal as the pirates were.


Colin Woodard  48:12

Oh, yeah, definitely. That’s what you know, really came through in researching the pirate story for when I was writing Republica pirates was that you know, the authorities needed to cast them as you know, demons Villains of All nation, Devil people trying to bring down all that is right and true. And when you really look at it, though, you know, all this propaganda was out there. The pirates themselves, most of them, Charles Manson exception, but Blackbeard and Bellamy and most of these other pirates. You read through all of the surviving documents and all the documents are from unsympathetic witnesses. They’re all from the victims of the pirates are the accounts of what happened. The pirates didn’t leave any letters or anything behind for us. So we have court death. We have depositions given to officials and then court testimony. And despite that, like Blackbeard right, bloodthirsty, scary, Blackbeard, didn’t harm or kill anybody in any of these accounts, you know, there’s probably 1415 Different piracy attacks on ships. He scares people, he acts threatening and says I’m gonna do terrible things lets you do what I want. And so everyone does what he wants me doesn’t have to hurt anybody until his final battle with the Royal Navy and Ocracoke sound. And if you compare that restraint by these particular outlaws to what you know, the legally sanctioned people are doing like privateers like Henry Morgan. I mean, oh my god, Henry Morgan, like, you know, goes to Panama and Saxa city and like, kills every single person, man, woman and child just for fun and the law you know, children in London, you know, caught starving children stealing loaves of bread, you know, are executed and orphans or, you know, sold to people who are chiming sweep up, you know, operators who send the small children up and down the chimneys that scrape them out personally until they fall to their deaths or, you know, die of, you know, not being able to breathe anymore. I mean, it’s like, brutal, terrible time and official and legally sanctioned violence, when you really start reading into it is considerably worse than what the pirates were actually doing. So yeah, it’s it’s a brutal time. But the pirates seem to be acting with remarkable restraint in their actions compared to the norm of violence around them.


Dan LeFebvre  50:33

It leads to another aspect of understanding how why people would turn to piracy when they’re seeing that law and order is not really Law and Order anyway, then. I mean, especially if all this Spanish gold is crashed off off the coast. Why not go get it? Yeah.


Colin Woodard  50:54

And, you know, they, there were many reasons for the outbreak of piracy. But most among them is that, you know, the, the world of the English Empire was starting to get much more difficult for ordinary people. And this is this is in the middle of the sort of what they call the enclosure movement. So the all of the relationships between Lord and serf in the countryside in England were kind of breaking down, you know, serfs run their families to be on 100 year leases for their little scrap of land. But there was suddenly these incentives as the beginnings of industry were start to happen for the Lord’s to get rid of this 150 individual little plots of subsistence farms and make one big sheep pasture and grow sheep for the wool to send to the woollen mill mill would be a much better deal. So over the decades leading up to this, a lot of the Lords were not renewing the lease, which was just like what you know, that wasn’t even a possibility in people’s minds. And so tons of people from the countryside massive numbers were moving destitute into the cities. That’s where the Dickensian phrases about the surplus population and the social Darwinist would use at the end of the 18th century, this is what was driving it. And if you were a person, in the worst possible situation coming to the cities, you had absolutely no prospects. The last straw thing you would do to survive, would be to go be a sailor, because being a sailor was staggeringly dangerous and paid terribly, and the food was awful. And all the rest, but you would use the line was it was much like being in prison, except for the added possibility of drowning, right? It was something we didn’t do unless you had to. When people were doing that, then the worst fantasy session comes along, you know. And when the war ended, the British Navy reduced its size of its force by two thirds, just dumped all these real Navy sailors on the docks, and then the labor market a supply demand problem. And a lot of merchants like yeah, we’ll pay these people a third as much as we used to, which was already starvation wages. And so people were just getting cheated. And the system was consolidating the sort of emergence of an English upper class who would send their children to different schools who would speak a language different than the other people like with their own dialects, that all that stuff was starting to happen and the resistance to it was starting to build. And the pirates, the sailors were in this one position, where they’re operating out of the reach of the law on the ships, right, and the possibility of resisting and taking over the ship. They’re the sort of the people who had the most opportunity to, if they were fed up to finally do something about it in a way that you couldn’t on land back in England. And so the piracy outbreak, I say all this because when the Pirates start saying, you know, we’re, we’re not just brigands, we’re Robin Hood’s men, right, we’re, we’re fighting back, we’re fighting the man, on behalf of all the people who are getting screwed. People on both sides of the Atlantic were like, yeah, like they weren’t buying the pirate story, despite everything the authorities were doing, which made the pirates folk heroes which led to that uprising to free Stede Bonnet led Alexander Spotswood, not to dare to share his plans to stop the pirates with his own House of Burgesses his own assembly, because there were so many pirates sympathizers in Virginia. And it led to the publication of a book in 1724, when some of these pirates were still active, called a general history of the pirates. Legit history. It’s a mix of things that are perfectly accurate, almost quoting official documents and other things are made up. But the point is, this book was a best seller on both sides, the Atlantic, and it casts the pirates in pretty good light. Every pirate mythic story you’ve heard, basically comes from this book, including Treasure Island and all the rest. And because it was such a hit, and the point is they say the pirates at the time are folk heroes, because rightly or wrongly, people bought their version of the story that, hey, we’re fighting the system and the system’s evil and a lot of people felt like the system was being pretty evil.


Dan LeFebvre  54:54

Well, it sounds like in many cases, it was


Colin Woodard  54:58

absolutely, my boy. If you’re kind of describes just how bad it was. And again, it’s it’s also carrying Henry Avery whose crew was was, was betrayed in the most terrible ways by some of the most powerful people in England. And they’re like we’ve had enough, we’re just gonna seize this ship and you know, go live a merry life and a short one that was the fantasy and something about that spirit, you know, grabbed onto the public imagination then, and as a let go yet?


Dan LeFebvre  55:25

Well, if we go back to this series, we see was Rogers can’t seem to get any support from England anymore. So he turns to the Spanish governor in Havana, Cuba, to help him put down the pirate in maroon rebellion. And according to the show, Spain and England are at war. So the Spanish are not likely to help was Rogers. But then Rogers points out that if pirates and slaves are allowed to take NASA then words gonna spread, and there’s gonna be even more uprisings of pirates and slaves. And on top of that, Rogers also mentions that they have the earth a gold that we talked about earlier that pirates are using to fund their future ventures. And the only way for Spain to get that back is to help him. So then we see in the series, Rogers returns to NASA with a Spanish fleet. There’s violent fighting in NASA, and they destroyed many of the plantation of the island as well, we see Rogers killing his own wife, Eleanor Guthrie, that was kind of by accident. He didn’t do it himself in this series, but sent people off and she died. And then so we get this idea of the English going to the Spanish for help, to form kind of an alliance to put down the pirates and slaves on New Providence Island. Does any of that historically accurate?


Colin Woodard  56:37

I mean, if I were a show, right, that I need to figure out how to have some excitement, I might have come up with something like that. But whoa, in the real universe, would Rogers definitely wouldn’t have done that it would Rogers had many flaws, he had some kind of personality flaw that we don’t know exactly what it is. But what we do know is that he managed to make enemies of all sorts of Royal Navy captains and other people need to be as allies, it results in him being suddenly dismissed as the governor of the Bahamas and sent back home, he ends up in debtors prison for a while before in the 1730s. He’s returned to NASA. I mean, he obviously had some kind of, you know, social bilateral screw loose. But one thing he definitely was was a patriot in the English sense. He didn’t like the Spanish, his brother had been killed in that raid he wanted to, he expended a lot of energy, in the period between his round the world trip and going to NASA and wanting to figure out a way to placate another pirate nest in Madagascar, the place that Henry Avery was supposed to go to. He’d invested in large amounts of Bibles, and it approached the Church of England, for sort of a messianic effort to bring the Word of God to the pirates to sort of shift them morally, she was like really committed to bringing law in order about and he didn’t like the Spanish and and a time of war, he wouldn’t have turned to them in reality. But what rings true is the Spanish did indeed, do well, you know, tried to attack Nassau later on and tried to seize the place that was always a danger, and had in an alternate timeline, had the pirates and the maroon communities and enslave people form this kind of alliance. Maybe you’d end up in a situation where a governor might have or where England would have approached Spain, or they would have had similar interests. None of that, though quite happened. What they’re doing there is they’re sort of foreshadowing the Haitian Revolution, which would come a century later, where a enslaved people really did rise up and take over a colony and wipe out the planters and form their own Republic. And it’s sort of like they’re imagining, let’s say, we were a century earlier, and somehow the pirates acted as a catalyst and formed alliances. And that happened earlier. And that had happened to NASA. Yeah, it’s kind of a neat, you know, if you’re trying to create an alternate history sort of event, that’s a pretty cool one. And that would have been threatening Hades uprising, even the early 19th century, was something that terrified, you know, the Power Base everywhere, including the United States, by the by the idea that enslaved people would not only rise up successfully, but would build their own country, and their own Republic that was deeply threatening to all sorts of things. So yeah, that, you know, the themes are interesting, but it didn’t happen in the 1710s. And woods, Rogers would not have been a part of it. It


Dan LeFebvre  59:32

sounds like a putting a lot of things that could have happened, especially with the Orca goal too, because that plot point makes sense to have like the Spanish are wanting their gold back. So it just seems to make sense that it could have happened, even if it didn’t, yeah,


Colin Woodard  59:45

and the Spanish the governor in the era was furious in the real in the real world timeline, at the gold being seized, and by this pirates nests not being pacified and was there was this constant threat that invasion fleet would come at one point you know, I think just Bad weather turned back out Spanish invasion fleet that would have destroyed NASA and burned it to the ground. So there, there are fears that come up over and over again among the pirates that that their their nests could be destroyed and the sort of zone of freedom as they see it would be destroyed by the Spanish is was absolutely true and was a constant menace, facing the Pirate Republic and woods Rogers, you know, early post Pirate Republic, which was on thin ice and you know, provisional state for many, many years after his arrival in 1718.


Dan LeFebvre  1:00:32

If you go back to the series near near the end, there’s a climactic showdown at a new location called skeleton Island. And according to the show, skeleton Allen is a place that not on any charts and the Spanish use it to conduct illicit transactions for decades. But then Henry Adria was the first Englishman to find it. This is all according to the show. And then when he gets there, Henry he gets there he finds us a Spanish ship that set sail from Havana and 1636 the Captain’s Log says there were 31 souls, Avery finds the remains of all 31 on ship. It’s locked from inside the ships hold there’s some evidence that someone were dismembered while still alive. So it starts to add this idea of this island being haunted. And then in the in the series. Captain Flint is recounting the story in the show, and he says the rumor is that the crew refuse to go inland after the first few came back with reports of hearing strange sounds and voices. And this is the setting for where Woods Rogers and Captain Flynn have their final battle once and for all in the series. Not to get too far ahead. We’ll talk about the battle but we see Captain Flint actually burying the treasure from the Erica. It’s been a key part of the story throughout the entire series. So the impression I got was this is Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. Is there any truth to the location and legends of skeleton Island?


Colin Woodard  1:01:50

Yeah, I think they’re at that point they’re pulling in the setting for Treasure Island because they did the plot of that as they go. They’re trying to find the elderly Billy Bones arrives at this little kids fam the in a little kid family owns at the end in the West Country of England. This old man pirate. Billy Bones shows up as a guest he ends up dying while he’s there already has a treasure map. And the kid ends up on this involved in this adventure to go find the treasure left by Captain Flint. And he ends up the cook on the vessel is on is a guy named Long John Silver, an old man who turn leads a mutiny to take things over and they go to skeleton island. So in the end to bond the fictional world of Robert Louis Stevenson to the pirate world they need skeleton Island to be the fulcrum point which has them shifted there but know that island didn’t exist and there wasn’t anything like that. The closest you could say, I mean, there are a couple of things. The idea of us there’s a there’s a stranded sailor there has been stuck on this island in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book and that is all modeled off the real Robinson Crusoe. Alexander Selkirk was a guy actually stranded on an island in the middle of the Pacific alone for years and years and years, surviving off goats and stuff and it is his story became very famous in England. So tapping on that was already a trope. Well, he was rescued by who Alexander Selkirk the real Robinson Crusoe was rescued by Woods Rogers during the circumnavigation of the parliament, right. You just have come by and they found this guy. So, the route the Robinson Crusoe story, the real story was first publicized in woods Rogers book. And so that part has some echoes that Robert Louis Stevenson ended up using that island would have been in the Pacific Ocean instead. The other element is that pirates, the real pirates in the Caribbean had all sorts of pirate layers they would go to including, you know, abandoned or unoccupied islands. Outside the view of the major sea lanes, they would go into those places to clean the bottoms their vessels, there’s a whole thing about creating a vessel and one of the things in season one of Black Sails, which is all true, you had to kelp and stuff would grow on the bottom of the hole of your vessel and slow it down, which could result in your death of your pirate. So they regularly had to find a beach where they could at high tide, bring it in and lay it on its side and then when the tide goes out, scrape all the stuff off the bottom and then get it back seaworthy again that you can’t do that, you know, they don’t have shipyards, so they can’t wait somewhere safe to do this. They actually have to do this somewhere where they hope the authorities won’t happen by while their ships careened or otherwise incapacitated. So they had all kinds of layers like skeleton Island, where pirates would go to do r&r To repair ships to you know, find fresh water or to hang out and just recover. You know, when far from NASA, and they were often far from NASA. I mean the pirates based in the Bahamas, rated as far north as Newfoundland In Canada, and what’s now Canada and as far south as the Spanish mean and Venezuela, so I mean, or even some of them even down to the coast of Brazil. So I mean 1000s of miles of range with the Bahamas in the middle, but they were oftentimes when you needed some other place of refuge. So there were many in that sense, there were many skeleton islands scattered all over the place. And finally, even you know, there were places where you could go to fence your goods. There’s a famous place gardener’s Island, in if you look at Long Island in New York, and which starts in New York City and goes out along Long Island Sound and ends in a fork and in the fork of the seaward fork, there’s a little island in the middle, that’s gardener’s island where Captain Kidd went and fenced his treasure to the garden or family or the proprietors of the islands until just two years ago. They’re like 13 generations of them had been proprietor this island continuously. And after Captain Kidd the next generation fence the goods for Sam Bellamy and Paul’s, Greg Williams and others, so there were places you would know you could go not to hide treasure in the ground, but to parlay your treasure with the sort of, you know, Cayman Islands slash Swiss bankers of the era.


Dan LeFebvre  1:06:12

I like that I like that. That comparison.


Colin Woodard  1:06:16

The awful bankers had them to offshore


Dan LeFebvre  1:06:19

bankers again quite literally. Some violence


Colin Woodard  1:06:22

was was very open and the kind of capital they would bring in and deal with to at the time. Wow,


Dan LeFebvre  1:06:28

wow. Well go back to the series. There’s the battle I mentioned it on skeleton island I already mentioned Captain Flint buried his gold there, and the fighting between the pirates seems to come to an end. When was Rogers burns John Silver ship in the harbor while Flint is fighting silver and Israel Hands. And then just then Captain Jack Rackham shows up with his own ship. There’s another battle on the ship that ensues and woods Rodgers ends up a prisoner of the pirates, but they don’t kill him. The reason for that in the in the series because Rackham went to Philadelphia with Max to strike a deal with Eleanor Guthrie’s grandfather, the Guthrie’s are rich and powerful family in this series. So even though her grandfather refuses the deal publicly, grandmother Marian agrees to it. There’s all this political intrigue going on in this series. She turns out to be the one in power anyway. Not really the grandfather, it’s the grandmother that’s that’s the one in power so she finances the support to house with Rogers as governor from England’s perspective, while recommend Max help the Guthrie’s get control of NASA under a new governor. So once Rogers is in pirate custody, he’s basically sent back to England to face his crimes. Is that a pretty good portrayal of what really happened to Woods Rogers?


Colin Woodard  1:07:42

Well, in that we don’t have the Guthrie angle, woods, Rogers loses his governorship unceremoniously and ends up in debtors prison. He’s eventually bailed out of it. And he has all kinds of difficulties and travails. But eventually, people feel bad for him about, you know, 20 years later and send it back as governor, he dies in the Bahamas, in the 1730s. So he had a bad go of it, but he wasn’t like in prison for his crimes and all that sort of thing. In the real world timeline. But we’ll why was he removed from his governor’s post that’s never totally clear. He’s kind of left high and dry by English. He’s constantly saying, Oh, the Spanish are about to invade, I need help. I’m out of money. He’s having to shell out his own money to pay, you know, troops and to bring in, you know, cannon balls and provisions and things to hold this colony for England. And all of his pleas for help go on the answered back, you know, in London. So and then eventually they recall them. So you know, could there have been some additional plotting going on behind the scenes? Yeah, sure. Hypothetically, they tried to get rid of him, somebody else was in there as governor for for quite some time after Rogers left, before he ended up returning as an old man. So you know, there’s, there’s enough room for, you know, maybe scenario tossed in there, but we don’t have any evidence as such.


Dan LeFebvre  1:09:03

One of the things that we see in this series is Jack Rackham is kind of, he’s one of the he’s a wheeler and dealer throughout the entire series. But at the end, part of the deal is that he makes with the the Guthrie’s in England is basically that he wants to be the one to help tell the story of what Rogers downfall in the historical record. So very heavily suggests in the series that he was given that opportunity. Do we know if Jack Rackham was involved in the would Rogers story at all?


Colin Woodard  1:09:35

Yeah, no, what’s Rogers kind of gets to tell his own story in that the the only telling of the story in any form really comes in the general history of the pirates, the book I described. And if you’re like me parsing this book, where some of it is completely made up fantasy, and some of it is absolutely right, almost down to the word. You’re trying to figure out the passages. You don’t know which one isn’t. Right. So I was constantly like Daniel cheating backwards? Where did this come from? Where are these? I find that if I don’t have any source for it, is this possibly true? And what you start figuring out is anything that Woods Rogers could have been the source for about things that were happening in NASA, the book is pretty accurate on a lot of the documents, like you’d see that the, you know, basically sort of secret documents from Woods Rogers back to London, that they’re quoting from them in real time documents that whoever had this book shouldn’t have access to. So I mean, there’s a good case to say that basically, Woods Rogers was approached by the person who wrote under a pseudonym wrote this book, and cooperated with them to sort of tell his story and through the that book going out, that’s what rehabilitates Woods Rogers reputation in England and makes people a little more sympathetic to him and, you know, eventually results in him being set back to being governor. So I think Woods Rogers got his story out through another writer, Calico Jack was dead by them. The book in the series, portrays him as sort of thinking higher ed talker, but who’s very concerned the whole time about his legacy about making his mark. The real Calico Jack was, there’s not that much sight of sight of deep substance there. He ends up betraying well, that well leading a vote against Charles Vane and deposing Charles veinous captain and being elected Captain himself. And then his whole captaincy, and his second trip out with Mary readin and Barney are not very successful pirate trips, he takes all kinds of risks he shouldn’t take, he read a damn body all get captured and sent off to Jamaica for trial because, you know, he’s operating in a small vessel in around the waters of Jamaica, which are the most dangerous place to be it’s like, you know, basically, you know, committing crimes in front of the police station, as it were on gets caught by the police, right? It’s just like really dumb stuff. You’re like, what do you think of? So you didn’t seem to be particularly good at being a pirate. And so his reign as an independent pirate captain was very short and resulted in his hanging in Jamaica, so he was not available to tell any stories.


Dan LeFebvre  1:12:16

Yeah, well, speaking of kind of how his story ended, but I thought, overall, Black Sails did a pretty good job of of wrapping up storylines at the very end of the series, kind of leading into Treasure Island. We talk a little bit about that. In this series, we see John Silva ending up with the marine leader Batty, although initially she’s not happy with the piece and NASA wasn’t really the kind of piece that they had fought for. And we see, silver finds out that the love of flinx life Thomas Hamilton is alive in a plantation near Savannah, Georgia, where people from England make other people disappear. So he arranges for Flint to go there so he can let Captain Flint as a character die. And then he becomes James McGraw again. be reunited. Yeah. And then back in NASA, there’s a new governor that gets installed installed is a former pirate named Mr. Featherstone that we kind of see throughout. Although the real power going into series, it seems like it’s going to be with with Max kind of like the real power and Philadelphia’s mayor in Guthrie and that really your husband. And then since the governor is a former pirate who just happened to be second command on Captain Jack Rackham ship, the last moments of this series, we see Captain Rakim going back out to sea with and Barney and then a new recruit named Mark reed in the in this series. Is there any other like realistic elements is what as far as how the show ends, that we see,


Colin Woodard  1:13:38

they elongate and prolong the tension over what’s going to happen to NASA by quite a bit and have entire invasions didn’t happen in the you know, the, the alliance with the Maroons, and that, you know, uprisings and there’s a whole series of wars that didn’t really take place. In terms of how it all ends, it doesn’t end with any pirate veterans as governors, that would be difficult because one station mattered a great deal back then, you know, a person born poor was just not going to be appointed to be the permanent governor of anywhere. Somebody else would be sent in, which is what happened. But some of these pirates did end up, you know, respectable members of the restored Nassau society, you know, merchant leaders, and I think some of them may have even ended up on the Governing Council, the governor’s council have sort of advisors and stuff. So they, there were people who, who became upper middle classes, we might call it afterwards within living regime. And then the Bahamas eventually stabilizes. It takes really a decade or two for it to happen, but it eventually does so and and carries on without leaving the British Empire to return to piracy again.


Dan LeFebvre  1:14:53

Well, thank you so much for coming on to chat about Black Sails. Before I let you go. I want to shift to your book, Jay. Have you the Republic of pirates? Can you share a sneak peek of your book for someone who wants to learn more about the true story?


Colin Woodard  1:15:06

Sure, well, this book, I was researching it long before Black Sails existed and many of these other shows that you’ve seen. And my quest was to figure out who these pirates actually were back to the archives, separate fact from fiction and, and solve any the mysteries around them. So this was the first time I think, probably in 40 years that someone had really tried to go into the archives and do this kind of work. And when I was doing this, in 2005 2006, when I was doing the official research on this book, I was kind of the first person to go in with the digital tools available where, you know, the first versions of the big microfilm collections, you still have to if you want to look the newspapers there, you had to go through the microfilm of each newspaper individually, right? That’s incredibly laborious. If you want to, you know, if you couldn’t keyword search it, you couldn’t like say, I wonder who this you know, Featherstone guy is if he shows up, nobody could have you know, search for Featherstone in every newspaper and see what you could come up with. Well, now I could write the first keyword searchable database versions where everything was in PDF or in OCR two images, which was happening. And you could do the work of you know, 20 people in 1950, you could do as one person with, you know, the catalogs and other things available, and then use that to triangulate and figure out where documents might lie. And most of it was done in the National Archives in the UK, where most are the primary sources are was digging and things like people looked at the official records of each colony and each government, but nobody had really plumb the Admiralty, the Navy’s records, which included not only logbooks of all these various vessels, some of the mentioned in the general history of the pirates, and but also the letters of their captains. And the captains were the primary Intel, you know, agents trying to keep track of these pirates on behalf of the Empire. So with their letters, there’s all kinds of gold mines of things that people didn’t know about yet. And if you started tracking each individual pirate, like in a spreadsheet and on a piece of paper, where were they on this day? What’s the prevailing winds? Which direction were they headed? Where did they have to be the next day? If they were going to end up now? You see them here? And then five days later they here? Where did they have to go in between to get there? And then that would allow you to say, okay, you know, which colonial official was there? And go fine, dig up that colonial officials, look them up alphabetically, figure out where their letters are, and see, did they see a pirate vessel go by them. And maybe a previous researcher had said, you know, they mentioned a pirate vessel, but who knows who it is? Well, you know who it is, especially when they described the vessel that matches. So it allowed all kinds of my triangulating and all different ways, rebuilding their story, because if you organized everything in that way, you could kind of figure out where people were, where they were going next and where the archival treasure lay that would solve various mysteries. So we’ll roll that all together and told the story of this Pirate Republic primarily through four principal characters that it focuses on because it tells the story well, Blackbeard, wax and Bellamy indeed Charles Vane, who was not a well known pirate then, and with Rogers, who, you know, the understanding of him as being the person who overthrew the Pirate Republic was not well focused on either. So I sort of put that all together and told the story of this gang of pirates and how they’d captured our imagination. And why both because they were super effective because they had this pirate base, but also for the ideological reasons of they cast themselves not as criminals, but as Robin Hood’s men and many people agreed with. So that was the sort of story in a nutshell.


Dan LeFebvre  1:18:47

Fantastic. I’ll make sure to add a link to that in the show notes. Thanks again, so much for your time.


Colin Woodard  1:18:51

Pleasure anytime.



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