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How to Survive in the Golden Age of Piracy - A handy guide with Iszi Lawrence

Okay, let’s say it’s a Tuesday. You are on your way to the shops. Perhaps you need to buy some yogurt (why is there never enough yogurt in the fridge?). You step out your front door, listening to some Tay Tay on your enormous planet-sized headphones (that’s the fashion apparently), when you accidentally fall into a time portal. It could happen to anyone. Thing is, it happened to you!

Children's Author Iszi Lawrence. Photo Credit - Billie Charity, Hay Festival

The time portal whisks you back to the Golden Age of Piracy, where men were pirates, women were pirates, and pirates were pirates. Everyone was a pirate.

So, you’re trapped in the past… what will you do? How would you survive in the Golden Age of Piracy?

Well, don’t worry dear reader, for we have you covered if in the incredibly likely eventuality that you inadvertently time travel to the Golden Age of Piracy comes to pass.

We have sought out an expert in the field of piracy to provide us with a survival guide, none other than children’s author Iszi Lawrence!

Iszi wrote the fantastic children’s adventure book, ‘Blackbeard’s Treasure’, so is ideally suited to offer us hints and tips to survive and thrive in the Golden Age of Piracy!

Imagining History - Hi Iszi, thank you for answering our questions. Our readers would love to learn more about how to survive as a Pirate in the Golden Age of Piracy!

First off, where and when was the Golden Age of Piracy?

Iszi Lawrence - In the Caribbean! I would argue the Golden Age is right after the Spanish War of Succession and right before the publication of the General History of the Pyrates. 1715-1724 ish.

The cover for Blackbeard's Treasure by Iszi Lawrence.

Who should you befriend?

If you’re out to be a pirate, you want to be in the crew with the most successful experienced pirate captain, like Blackbeard. Someone who you wouldn’t want to cross, but someone who, if you were on board their ship, would treat you fairly (that is unless he got desperate and sold you into slavery… or allowed you to be captured by Woodes Rogers - pirate hunter - to save his own skin). But he wouldn’t have you whipped as readily as a merchant captain nor would he get you into scrapes — like Captain Stede Bonnet would by attacking more powerful vessels.

Who should you definitely avoid?

The Spanish. They will capture and kill you if you even smell slightly of pirate, mainly because they like annoying the British. However, the British should also not be trusted. Particularly the Governors of the colonies. They don’t always do as they say they will. They might offer you the King’s Pardon for example, but they may well demand you to pay them. They’ll certainly want you to betray your old comrades, and may even force you to help capture them!

Where should I visit?

Definitely Nassau, but you’ll need plenty of stuff to trade unless you like eating conch and sea turtles. Alas, these days it is a port for cruise ships and you won't get the same sense of the place as you would have back then.

What hobbies should a Pirate have?

Getting good at tying knots. Sailing is a massive part of a pirate's life, and the more skilled you were, the more valuable you were to a pirate captain looking for able crewmen. Remember, a pirate crew member got a much thicker slice of the takings than any merchant seaman, and was better treated. Successful pirate captains had their pick of possible crew members, and remember, a merchant vessel was more likely to surrender without a fight to a feared captain. So the more valuable you were, the more money you’d make and the safer you’d be.

Fun, adventure, pirates! What more could you need in a book?

Which crew would be the best to join?

You want an experienced captain like Hornigold, Jennings, Bellamy (just not be on the boat that sank), Blackbeard, and not a flashy inexperienced captain like Stede Bonnet, or a cruel cowardly one like Charles Vane. That way you get the most money for the least amount of violence/risk to your life.

What’s your top tip for survival?

Don’t live in the early 18th century! With the diseases, the storms, the violence, the accidents and lack of medicine, it really wasn’t a healthy place to be. The life expectancy of a pirate wasn’t very long, which is partly why they were pirates... What is the point of living a ‘moral’ life, on a stinking merchant vessel where you were underpaid, half-starved, and regularly beaten only to die in a few years from disease? If you were a slave why wouldn’t you attempt to escape being worked to death and take hold of your own destiny? No wonder so many people thought piracy was cool, and fantasised about becoming one!

Thanks Iszi, now we’ve got what it takes to survive as a Golden Age Pirate!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Blackbeard's Treasure (9781801990967) for only £7.99 by clicking here to visit the Bloomsbury website!

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