Notes: Episode 51, Caribbean Piracy (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


6:36 – The Chinese pirate I’m referring to was named Ching Shih, or Madame Ching sometimes. She commanded a fleet of over 300 vessels, commanded tens of thousands, faced many of the major empires of the 18th and 19th centuries including Britain and China, and retired from piracy to die of old age. That’s a lot better than most of our most famous European pirates were able to pull off for themselves.

13:10 – For the episode I did on smallpox, check out this link.

16:50 – The type of ship I’m describing here is what’s known as a carrack, which would become the blueprint upon which sailing ships would be based for the next four hundred years or so. Its main features were a larger hull with a rounded/pointed bottom, multiple square-rigged masts, and a large rudder to aid in navigation. The carrack would eventually be overtaken by multiple larger ship designs, but it was the breakthrough that allowed transatlantic and global navigation to become a reality.

22:56 – For more information about the protestant Netherlands, you can check out my episode on the Reformation here.

30:38 – I should note that it wasn’t called Haiti when settled by the French, but rather Saint-Domingue. The name Haiti didn’t arrive until after what is now known as the Haitian Revolution.

37:30 – The phrase was the Latin “Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt“, meaning “He blew with His winds, and they were scattered”. This is a very loose play on Job 4:9, which reads “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed”. No matter the form, it’s clearly an acknowledgment of divine intervention in the battle.

40:17 – The Anglo-Spanish War had also demonstrated something that was only informally understood until the early 20th century – namely that navies were good for more than just direct engagement. While most naval officers dreamed of grand battles between evenly matched ships of the line, the grand defeat of the Spanish Armada masked the extreme usefulness of mercantile action by a navy. The attack on Caribbean ports and the capture of a Spanish Treasure Fleet had been as severe a blow to the Spanish war effort as the defeat of the armada, and indeed the armada was only launched as a response to English success in disrupting trade and blockading ports. The 20th century British admiral Sir Julian Corbett would eventually propose that economic action was one of three equal pillars of a navy’s usefulness to its nation.

40:45 – Spain detested letters of marque so much that they would hang privateers as pirates with their letters pinned to their chests.

1:05:12 – Jamaica is not, in fact, the largest island in the Caribbean. That particular award goes to Cuba, which was decidedly Spanish at the time. That being said, Jamaica is quite large enough to be extremely dominant in the region with the support of the nascent Royal Navy.

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