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Matt McLaine: Writer and Historian of the Golden Age of Piracy

  • About the Author

    Matt McLaine lives in the South Carolina Lowcountry, less than an hour from where Blackbeard once blockaded Charles Towne harbor, and has fished the same Edisto River where reluctant pirate Charles Yeats once anchored his ship while waiting for a pardon from the Governor. He’s been writing about the Golden Age of Piracy since early 2017 when he wrote the first of his Wikipedia pirate articles. It quickly became a fascination which grew into two books (with more in progress), an academic journal article, interviews, and nearly 200 Wikipedia entries.

  • WTAT FOX24 News Now Interview

    Filmed an interview with Fox 24 Charleston’s Leyla Gulen on October 27 for their Halloween segment to air on the 31st. Talked a little about Charleston SC’s pirate history, how I got my start in writing, and about some of the spooky pirate ghosts rumored to haunt Charleston. Check it out here!

  • Interview with Mary Regan from Summerville Journal Scene

    My interview with Mary Regan from the Summerville Journal Scene came out in the October 26 edition. Great talking to Mary, she’s been super helpful making connections in the Lowcountry – contact her at ProPublicist!

  • Appearing at Coastal Coffee Roasters (Summerville, SC)

    Meet local authors D. M. Sonntag and Matt McLaine – ask about pirates, talk nautical fantasy and pirate history, buy a signed copy, or just say hello! 9AM to Noon on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at Coastal Coffee Roasters, 108 E 3rd North St, Summerville, SC.

  • “Merrily to Hell Together”: Threats of Self-Destruction among Golden Age Pirates

    The threat of death hung over every aspect of pirate life during the Golden Age of piracy. They threatened governors and governments who dared to capture, prosecute, and hang their fellow buccaneers. They threatened their victims for running away, for fighting back, or for hiding their money. They even threatened death on each other should any of them suggest leaving off their chosen course or for betraying their company. Even the iconic skull and crossbones “Jolly Roger” pirate flag was a visible, physical symbol of a threat of death: for victims it was a reminder that surrender may mean mercy, but resistance would be fatal; and for the Pirates themselves, a grim reminder that capture or failure could mean their end. Many pirate crews in the Golden Age took this menace of death to the extreme by threatening to blow up their ship to avoid the noose, promising to take prisoners and pirates, captives and captors, and gold and galleon to the bottom of the ocean, going “merrily to Hell together”. Yet despite their boasts and despite embracing the symbols of death, when the time came to make good on their oaths, few of these crews took that final explosive step and fewer still succeeded. This paper examines twenty incidents from the Golden Age of piracy in which pirates or their victims threatened or attempted to blow up their ships and themselves to avoid capture. Witness statements, period newspaper accounts, and trial testimony reveal that the threat was frequent but the attempt was not. In the end it was often prevented by the pirates themselves after a change of heart, despite promising one another that they would “live & dye together”. This article appeared in the journal Humanities, volume 11 (2022). View the full article here.

  • Game & Word: “The Greatest Pirate Stories Never Told, featuring Matt McLaine”

    Jay from the fantastically in-depth Substack blog Game & Word interviewed me for a bonus eposide. Game & Word focuses on deep analysis of games and gaming and Jay was kind enough to bring me in during his extended series on pirate video games. We talked about how games intersect with real history and how designers tread the line between realism and playability. There’s a 40-minute podcast audio version and a very lengthy transcript – and those are the edited versions! Check out the interview here.

  • Piracy Papers: Primary Source Documents from the Golden Age of Piracy

    “These are the horrid, barbarous and bloody facts truly set down with every circumstance, for which I am now condemned to die, and whereby it appears that I am not alone guilty…”

    The Golden Age of Piracy was over by the 1720s, but the legacies these scoundrels left behind are still with us. Part of that legacy exists in written form: trial records and newspaper articles, speeches and sermons, laws and proclamations. Collected here are thirty-eight original period documents, edited and footnoted for clarity and context. The letters and memorials you’ll find inside show all sides of life in the time of pirates, from preachers to prisoners and from victims to governors and mayors.

  • A Merry Life, and a Short One: Unhelpful Self-Help and Terrible Advice from the Golden Age of Piracy

    Thirty-two true tales of corsair counseling, sea-rover psychology, and free advice from freebooters!

    Feeling down because you’re missing your one true love? Why not hide her aboard a pirate ship dressed as a man, then convince the Governor she’s actually a runaway noblewoman instead of a moonshiner’s daughter? It worked for pirate John Bear!

    And what if the real Governor runs for his life because his island has been overrun by pirates? Declare yourself Governor instead, of course! Strut around like you own the place, let everyone know you’re in charge, and make it official by giving people receipts when you rob them at sword-point. Pirate Thomas Barrow did!

    Want more questionable guidance from the world’s most unlikely therapists? Look inside to find genuine adventures and misadventures from the Golden Age of Piracy, learn a few new pirate facts, and get life coaching from Benjamin Hornigold, Stede Bonnet, Charles Vane, and more.

    Let’s be clear: pirates were neither Robin Hood nor chivalrous liberators nor lovable rogues. They were at best thieves and scoundrels, and too often murderers, slavers, and worse. Of all the questionable advice you’re about to receive, here’s the best you’re likely to get: don’t try any of these at home! Or at sea, if you’re so inclined. Of course, if you somehow acquire a time machine and find yourself aboard ship in the early 18th century, give it a whirl! You’ll fit right in. As pirate William Fly probably thought but never said, “There’s a noose for that.”

    Pirates unlucky enough to be caught may face trial, and would be harangued by merchants seeking revenge, judges eager for justice, and ministers hoping to save a soul. They might not have had any good advice for the doomed pirates (though pirates awaiting execution sometimes had choice advice for their captors), but with luck – and possibly rum – perhaps our reader might find a nugget of wisdom among the fool’s gold inside.

  • Wikipedia Articles: Pirates and Piracy

    I’ve written or completely rewritten almost 200 pirate, privateer, and buccaneer articles for Wikipedia starting in May 2017. I concentrated on the Buccaneer era and the Golden Age of Piracy so I haven’t covered the “Sea Dogs” like Drake or Cavendish, or late 18th / 19th century pirates, or modern piracy. I’ve also avoided rewriting any of the “big” names like Bartholomew Roberts or Blackbeard. I do have a few more in the queue. Most of the list can be viewed here (just page creations, not rewrites of existing pages). Look for Wikipedia editor name “TheLastBrunnenG.”