UC San Diego historian Mark Hanna, an authority on the rise and fall of pirates during the first British Empire, will deliver a lecture at 1 p.m. on January 16 on “Pirates in Print: Seafaring Treasures of the Mandeville Special Collections Library.” The lecture is free and open to the public and takes place in the Seuss Room in Geisel Library on the UC San Diego campus.
The lecture coincides with an exhibition curated by Hanna, which is on display in Geisel Library through February 10. The “Pirates in Print: Seafaring Treasures of the Mandeville Special Collections Library” exhibit, which showcases first editions of seminal books about the Golden Age of Piracy, draws from the 2,000-plus works in the Library’s Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages. Considered the world’s most extensive collection of books on early voyages of exploration and discovery to the Pacific, the collection was donated to the UC San Diego Library in 1974 by Kenneth E. and Dorothy V. Hill.
Hanna, an assistant professor of History at UC San Diego, earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2006 and completed his dissertation on “The Pirate Nests: The Impact of Piracy on Newport and Charles Town, 1670-1730.” Hanna teaches a class titled “The Golden Age of Privacy,” which traces the role of sea navigators in transforming global politics and commerce. According to Hanna, most pirates were much more complex, multidimensional figures than popular culture often portrays. Many, in fact, were married and owned real estate, and some were respected members of society.
“Pirates often were skilled mariners and erudite explorers who helped redraw the world map of civilization,” said Hanna. “For the vast majority of these men and women, piracy was only one or a few acts committed over more complex and varied careers at sea.”
The Hill Collection holds first editions of every significant work on piracy from the 17th and 18th centuries. These include Alexandre Exquemelin’s 1684 Bucaniers of America, William Dampier’s 1698 A New Voyage Around the World, and Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 A General History of Pyrates, the collection’s most important holding and Hanna’s personal favorite.
“The mysterious author of this book compiled original newspaper reports, trial records, letters, and criminal interviews, and he blended them with pure fiction to create some of the most compelling characters in early modern history,” said Hanna. “The book describes Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, Captain Kidd, and two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. It has left an indelible mark on the image of piracy in modern popular culture.”
According to Hanna, many of the books on display in the exhibit were penned by mariners who dabbled in piracy. “Lionel Wafer and William Dampier committed acts of piracy against the Spanish in Panama and in the Southern Pacific,” Hanna said. “When they returned to London, they printed journals of their travels that were major advances in natural science and medicine, and what we today would call anthropology. Their publications were supported by the Royal Society in London.”