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When was the Golden Age of Piracy?

A pirate ship attacks a Spanish galleon.A pirate ship attacks a Spanish galleon.Pirates are people who steal from ships. During the "Golden Age of Piracy", which lasted from the 16th to 18th centuries, many pirates sailed across the oceans in stolen ships. They attacked other ships, seized their cargo and killed their crews. The Spanish Main (the southern Caribbean Sea) was a popular hunting ground for pirates. From the Caribbean coast of South America, Spanish galleons transported gold, jewellery and coins (“pieces of eight”) back from the Americas to Spain. The treasure ships were a tempting target for pirates.

A look inside a pirate shipA look inside a pirate ship

Pirates on board their shipPirates on board their ship


Pirates were murderous outlaws who attacked ships for their own gain. Many pirates had once been ordinary sailors who became pirates to escape the brutal treatment they received on merchant ships or warships. They found that they could make much more money as pirates—but it was still a tough life.

From the 16th century onwards, the Barbary Corsairs captured people from ships and coastal towns all over Europe. They took their captives back to North Africa to work as slaves.

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