Not-so-breaking news flash – – Did you know some Vikings had non-Scandinavian ancestors?

Illustration of what a Viking warrior may have looked like. Typical armament would have been one-hand battle ax and wood shield.  Notice well groomed hair and beard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Sometimes you just gotta’ laugh at news reports…

With surprise that is not news to anyone who’s ever read more than one actual book on the Vikings, news reports from most media outlets are breathlessly reporting somewhere around 90 researchers in evolutionary genetics announced their research showing that there’s a lot of Western European, English, Slavic, and Mediterranean DNA in Vikings buried during the Viking Age. News reports present this as breakthrough research.

Check out:

The supposed shocker is people buried in Scandinavia during the Viking age are not pure blood Scandinavians.  Instead there are “significant gene flows” into the Scandinavian population from southern Europe and Asia.

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Can we compare wages of merchant ship captain in the Pirate Era compare to today?

Photo of deck with gun visible onboard the HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum. Photo by James Ulvog.

How do we roll forward those financial amounts we read of during the pirate era to provide some sort of context for what those amounts represent today?

One of the best way to do so is to compare wages or earnings today to a wages at a previous point in time. Other ways are to look at purchasing power. Another way is to look at values of specific items such as a cow or a basket of food.

I will try to construct some comparisons of salaries today to the pirate era. Follow along and you can watch me as I develop those comparisons.

Eric Jay Dolin in Black Flags, Blue Waters, provides one data point for salary earned by a merchant ship captain:

Continue reading “Can we compare wages of merchant ship captain in the Pirate Era compare to today?”

Specific data points of pirate loot and wages during the Pirate Age.

Gun ports. Photo of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

Since this website focuses on ancient finances, I am going to dive deeper into the financial amounts I can find from the Pirate Age. I will try to develop some ways to interpret values from back then in terms of what we can understand today.

Reason I do this is we have no frame of reference when we read a comment that each member of a pirate crew received a share of £1,000 from the spoils of seizing a ship.

Likewise we can’t interpret or comprehend what it means for domestic servants being paid between £2 and £5 annually or a merchant ship captain who would draw an annual salary of £24.

This post will pull together the data points mentioned in previous posts of this series.

Pirate Loot

Data points of loot seized by pirates provided in Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates author Eric Jay Dolin:

Continue reading “Specific data points of pirate loot and wages during the Pirate Age.”

Value of Spanish silver dollar and British pound during the Pirate Age? Part 2 of 2

Spanish Pillar Dollar, Piece of Eight, Charles IV of Spain 1803 b by Jerry “Woody” is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Continued discussion of the value of coinage during the pirate era. Part one is here

So how do we understand British pounds circa 1600?

A fun website called Life in Elizabethan England, provides background on coinage.

One page provides basics of Money and Coinage.

Most significant piece of information is that there was no “pound” coin until 1583. It seems to me that would be just far too much value to put into a coin.

Continue reading “Value of Spanish silver dollar and British pound during the Pirate Age? Part 2 of 2”

Value of Spanish silver dollar and British pound during the Pirate Age? Part 1 of 2

Spanish Pillar Dollar, Piece of Eight, Charles IV of Spain 1803 a by Jerry “Woody” is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Spanish silver dollar is referred to as the first global currency. There were so many produced and they  spread so far across the world that they were the common currency.

Because the Spanish silver dollar was present everywhere and the valuations referred to during the pirate are in British pounds, let’s explore the value of each.

Spanish silver dollar

Continue reading “Value of Spanish silver dollar and British pound during the Pirate Age? Part 1 of 2”

Financial rewards of piracy.

Silver & Gold Coins from Spanish Warship San Diego, Sunk 1600 by Gary Todd is in the public domain (CC0 1.0)

Author Eric Jay Dolin provides some indications of how lucrative it was to be a successful pirate in his book Black Flags, Blue Waters

Dixie Bull

The story of Dixie Bull provides one sliver of a view of the rewards from piracy. I won’t repeat the long tail of his adventures. Suffice it to say that he raided a fort after he and his crew decided to try their hand at piracy.  His haul was estimated at £500.

The book provides the following prices for context:

Continue reading “Financial rewards of piracy.”

Why go out pirating? How many pirates were there?

Photo of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog. Bow of Soviet sub visible behind the Surprise.

In Black Flags, Blue Waters, author Eric Jay Dolin says that many men in the American colonies signed on with a pirate captain for a cruise in order to make a fortune.

Even modest good luck would produce enough wealth to buy a nice chunk of land and enough livestock to live well.

A really successful voyage would produce enough loot to be quite well-off when you returned.

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Bad reputation of pirates was a good strategy for capturing ships.

Photo of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

In Black Flags, Blue Waters author Eric Jay Dolin says pirates would rather not engage in a fight when they captured a prize ship.

The downside of a battle is the target ship might be sunk, some of the valuable cargo might be destroyed, and more significantly some of the pirates might get hurt or killed.

The far better battle strategy was to win through intimidation. There were enough accurate reports of pirates torturing or killing captives that an approaching pirate ship would create justifiable fear.

Continue reading “Bad reputation of pirates was a good strategy for capturing ships.”

Photos for this discussion of pirates.

Photo of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

Photographs for this series of posts are of the HMS Surprise, replica of a British 24-gun frigate named HMS Rose. The ship is now part of the collection of the San Diego Maritime Museum.

It was built in 1970 and weighs in at 500 tons. It is 170’ long, with 32’ beam and maximum draft of 13’.

All photos of the HMS Surprise are by James Ulvog, taken during various visits to the museum over the last decade or so.

HIstory of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

This ship was configured as the star of the movie Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World. It name was changed from Rose to Surprise for the movie.

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Pirate ship organization.

Photo of HMS Surprise at San Diego Maritime Museum by James Ulvog.

Mr. Dolin’s book Black Flags, Blue Waters provides intriguing background on how pirates organized themselves and how they split up the booty. Also provides a contrast of their reputation compared to their actual battle techniques.

Pirates organized themselves in something with very strong correlation to a democracy. The crew voted to select the captain and first mate (or quartermaster). In battle the captain had absolute authority, which is obviously necessary. Other than during battle the crew could vote to depose the captain if he were sufficiently unacceptable.

Apparently this issue has been discussed at great length in the literature.

The author says this self-governance structure was not due to any particular philosophical enlightenment or fondness for democracy as a concept. Proof for this is they held slaves and did not treat non-crewmembers well.

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