The Pirates of the Resolutions: A Pirate Voyage of 1683-1684

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Our speaker is Dr Ian Friel who says:

The talk is based on research I did for a chapter in my book Britain and the Ocean Road – Shipwrecks & People 1297-1825 (2020) and concerns a predatory voyage by a group of pirates that began in Jamaica, crossed the Atlantic to Africa and ended in shipwreck on the coast of North America – followed by capture and trial for some of the pirates.

The talk is based on the firsthand testimonies made by some of the pirates after they were captured, and the slightly odd title is down to the fact that in the course of the voyage the pirates went through three ships, and named each one Resolution (they also went through several captains, though without spilling their blood!).

Their story contains some of the familiar tropes of pirate narratives familiar from books like Treasure Island – such as marooning, pieces of eight, a duel, boarding actions – and some that are not, such as slave-trading, and unexpected acts of contrition and forgiveness.

The crews of the Resolutions were multinational, but the seven pirates who ended up on trial included Englishmen, a possible German and an American teenager.

The talk also looks briefly at the longer history of piracy, and where Robert Louis Stevenson got the ideas for his famous novel, ideas which have shaped our view of pirates ever since. The piece concludes with an account of what happened to the surviving pirates once they were shipped back to England for trial at the High Court of Admiralty in London, with the threat of a trip to Execution Dock hanging over them.

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