Socialist Worker

Ahoy, matey! Pirate series treasures truth of high seas

Gabby Thorpe urges Socialist Worker readers to get beyond this docudrama’s corny characters and misshapen plots, and embrace their inner raider

Issue No. 2747

The Lost Pirate Kingdom is currently on Netflix

The Lost Pirate Kingdom is currently on Netflix


When you think of pirates, you think of skulls and crossbones. But Netflix’s new docudrama The Lost Pirate Kingdom sheds new light on the society that the pirates of the eighteenth century built.

Schools and popular culture ­bombard us with images of pirates plundering treasure and drinking rum. But very little is said of the pirate republic of Nassau.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom uses sometimes overacted dramatisations and expert interviews to uncover the exploits of pirates. Riding on the ­popularity of Amazon’s Black Sails, it is an eye-opening series.

Nassau was established as a “pirate republic” after Benjamin Hornigold arrived in 1713. He took refuge in the harbour and raided the ships of the Spanish ruling class.

He later established himself as leader. The pirates governed ­democratically—establishing the “first fully democratic republic”.

For many in eighteenth century Britain, a life of piracy was an attractive prospect. Many who left the navy were abandoned by the British state and left in poverty.

Weakening

But the state was threatened by the increasing lawlessness of privateers. Piracy was soon made illegal, leading pirates to sail across the Caribbean in hopes of finding a new government.

Before long, Nassau grew into a large colony in the face of ­weakening British rule.

Nassau was governed on the ­principle that all men were equal. Anyone could captain their own ship, and ships were run in a similar way to Russia’s soviets.

Slaves being transported were freed and given voting rights in Nassau.

One of the most interesting stories explored in the series is the story of Anne Bonny.

Stories of pirates tend to be ­dominated by men. But Bonny and other women played a fundamental part in the governing of Nassau.

The role of women in ­resistance is often glossed over by ­history, so Bonny’s story is critical in ­understanding how the pirates of Nassau strove for democracy.

Blackbeard

Of course, it was not all ­wonderful. The series goes into the story of Blackbeard—perhaps the most ­infamous pirate in history.

Stories of pirates tend to be ­dominated by men. But Bonny and other women played a fundamental part in the governing of Nassau.

Although Nassau was run ­democratically, a lot of its history was blood-soaked and violent. A strength of the series is giving a balanced view of the republic.

The series is short and easy to binge. Some of the acting seems overdramatic.

And the interviews tend to ­interrupt the flow of the storytelling. But it is entertaining and informative enough that a bit of bad acting and the bumpy plot is easy to overlook.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom is worth checking out. It can teach us a lot about how resistance led to the establishment of a democratic society.

And it also goes into the mistakes made that led to Nassau’s downfall.

The Lost Pirate Kingdom is available on Netflix now

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