Ed Mayo's Blog

Pirates as early co-operatives?


To be a pirate is to set yourself against society and its rules. To even the odds, pirates come together. They co-operate.

It might sound like an extreme claim, but there is a body of evidence of early mutuality and even democracy among some of the most successful seventeenth century Caribbean and Atlantic pirates.

Bartholomew Roberts, Welsh born, was the most renowned pirate of his day. By the time he died, in February 1722, resplendent on deck in his crimson waistcoat, struck by Royal Navy grapeshot, he and his crews had captured around four hundred vessels. His approach to organising, giving every pirate a say and a share, was described by Captain Charles Johnson two years later in his A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates.

Drawing on my new short book – free to download – which is a retelling of the history of co-operation and mutuality, I have expanded on this, in an article about Pirates, Mutiny and Mutuality on Huffington Post.

Pirate co-ops… is this a tradition we will draw on again?