Anarchy and the Golden Age of Piracy

By Robert Graham Anarchist News

Here is another excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Anarchist Current, a history of anarchist ideas.

Anarchy and the Golden Age of Piracy

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Madagascar was a haven for pirates. One story about them is that they established a utopian community on Madagascar called Libertalia. The story is told in The History of the Pyrates, Volume II (1728), by “Captain Charles Johnson,” thought by some to be a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe. Others have attributed the book to Nathaniel Mist (died 1737), who had spent some time as a sailor in the Caribbean, where piracy was then rampant. [A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the most notorious Pirates, Vols. I & II, ed J. Franzén (Independently published, 2017)] Whoever Captain Johnson really was, his two volume history of the pirates was very popular and widely read.

The History of the Pyrates, Volume II, has a chapter on Captain James Misson (Chapter XX), a French pirate whose name is not found in any other historical records. Purportedly active in the 1690s, Misson begins his seafaring adventures in the French navy, and then to develop an anarchist sensibility. While on shore leave in Rome, Misson observes the “licentious Lives of the Clergy” and the “Luxury of the Papal Court.” [page 3] He comes to realize that religion is used to fleece the people, with “the wiser Sort”  being well aware of this. [page 3] Those higher up in the Church hierarchy use religious beliefs to exploit the people and to further their own interests. In this regard they are no different from the aristocracy.


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