m of care – jun 17

1 hr video – Stephen Snelders, author of the The Devil’s Anarchy

reading group jun 17 2021.. selection of the text: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1jcvjFhZp8y2d-wKgV2j-CPbGo7D2NpE6

#MuseumofCare continues its series of lectures and discussions with Dutch historian Stephen Snelders, who’s going to introduce his work on pirates tomorrow
at 18-30 London time.

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/nikadubrovsky/status/1405149477443444737

@StephenSnelders: Historian, research fellow Utrecht University. Research interests in drugs and drug markets, piracy, smuggling, wildlife (trafficking). http://www.stephensnelders.nl/

his book: the devil’s anarchy: This book explores pirate culture as radical social organization: a salty picture of anarchic pirate life, liberated, pleasurable and violent!Rebelling against hierarchical society and choosing the Jolly Roger, pirates entered the political spheres of anarchist organization and festival, with death and violence ever-present. Pirates created an upside-down world full of heroics as well as the deep horrors of life outside authority.Examining piracy as limited social rebellion,The Devil’s Anarchy travels from the Hollywood pirate-as-hero to the stories of two great Dutch pirates: Claes Compaen, who terrorized the seas from 1623 to 1627, and Jan Erasmus Reyning, who ruled the seas a half-century later.This unique focus on the politics of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries, featuring the first english translations of key Dutch texts, makes this a hugely entertaining book that provides insight into the real lives of these legendary bandits of the seas.


dang.. my bad.. i didn’t see the time change and missed it

notes/quotes from meeting:

s: studied in netherlands – amsterdam.. pirates.. everyone being a kind of childhood’s dream.. but esp 80s and later.. a lot of cultural symbols of piracy also taken up by squatting .. new social.. movements.. people felt link to this kind of libertarian hero.. in certain circles.. discretion was triggered.. ie: taz by bey – was popular in 90s.. it came up w idea of revolution not about change in society but about creating temp autonomous selves.. ie: what people in squatting movement.. rather than new society.. creating free spaces w/in the society.. one of bey ie’s – pirate utopias.. few years later.. published pirate utopia – by peter (his real name).. he gave this as an ie of being able to temp regain freedom.. fighting against the broader world

5 min – s: i wasn’t as interested in ie: leaving out some history.. talking about all the heroics.. but leaving out ie: all the women they raped.. et al

8 min – s: so i wondered if i could offer a retelling.. took years and years before published.. mixed comments/response with those in piracy and anarchy.. because subject is not very neutral.. this is how devil’s anarchy came into being.. also big influence.. social banditism.. not as criminal but as a kind of protest of the lower classes..

11 min – v: tell us about the texts you offer

s: directed about the idea that anarchy is organization.. influenced by colin ward’s anarchy in action.. 60s.. anarchy about continuously trying to org self.. so on anarchists trying to form organization

colin ward


12 min – s: w pirates.. other way around .. their position in society made their org/work very horizontal.. only way they could work in world dominated by colonial powers.. it’s not that they thought they were anarchists and so needed anarchist system.. they created a spontaneous order.. the practical expression of their position in society.. not about controlling large territories.. but about having to find in the territories of someone else.. you have to develop practices/operation.. then you see this is what they come up with.. ie’s i gave you.. mostly in european waters.. s africa.. caribbean..

16 min – s: my latest book is about smugglers in the 20th cent – who also have anarchic ways of operation

17 min – s: to org.. they have contractual agreements.. ie: who has what authority when (why i chose the 1st 2 texts).. 3rd text – showing these are all people who live in a world where boundaries are not so fixed.. can move from one world to another.. became difficult if notorious.. but even then.. could still move.. so a lot of flexibility going on here

not free enough – bauwens contracts law et al

19 min – v: that clarified what you distinguish piracy and pirating/privateering

s: yeah.. nation states are trying to control armed robbery at seas.. but they don’t want to dispense from it yet.. ie: have pirates working for them in wars.. same social group of people these people are recruited from

21 min – s: leg of power of authorities to control.. that’s why methods in 17th cent.. chase and hang and if not possible.. give a pardon.. he comes back bearing gifts.. or you make him like admiral in own navy.. formulated in such a way that it’s still acceptable

22 min – n: can you describe in more detail.. how these places of autonomy was functioning

23 min – s: to start with.. forget about that this was some kind of anarchist utopia where they lived freely and in harmony w each other.. so basically these are places which in practice have broken authority of king/states or any larger authority.. not in a formal way.. ie: pirate island.. there was a governor there.. there were rep’s of authorities.. but didn’t have authority.. so mostly ignored.. and were corrupt.. took part of shares.. or good willing and realized it wasn’t in their power to order the pirates about.. don’t want to lose the pirates.. because they were only people who could fight (in dire situations)

25 min – s: a certain moment the state gets stronger so they move the pirates out.. and go to places like madagscar.. like david’s book is about.. wild territories.. and they build their own settlements.. which are basically a kind of trading posts.. where pirates can rest/recoop.. make arrangements to go back to europe et al

27 min – s: another ie where pirate chiefs form a council to rule the society.. so not utopia.. but free to operate as pirates.. not persecuted.. have connections to markets/foods.. et al.. it’s all very flexible.. it’s not like ‘this is anarchist state’.. so an autonomous settlement on the move.. just like ships themselves are autonomous settlements.. so .. continuously dangerous.. like anarchy/autonomy in motion

29 min – nika: on a guy describing that after occupy.. that by fighting more they were able to win and he felt frustrated that they didn’t.. so what do you feel about success/failure with these pirates.. most likely they’d be killed by age 30 .. not successful from normal pov.. so looks like we’re a bunch of losers.. and why we’re so fascinated.. so why is that

30 min – s: yeah.. so perhaps not such losers after all.. if you look at the class of people they come from ie: ship of jack belemy.. we have detail of his crew.. they are people w various backgrounds.. ie: africans.. slaves and free but all former slaves.. so they had not much career prospects.. the same goes for every ordinary sailor of the day.. they would all run a lot of risks and life expectancy not great.. low or no pay..

32 min – s: also .. on ships very much subject to quite rigorous discipline.. harsh punishments.. so for a lot of these people.. point of no return came and they say.. if we join the pirates we have something to say of what we do.. if make money we share it.. so made more money than any sailor would have.. for a lot of these people.. your question is very interesting.. why go on with it if so hard.. i think it was often not hard as they would have had in ‘normal’ jobs.. in merchants/navy.. a lot of these people actually choose to do so.. they become masters of their fate even though for temp/short time.. i think that was the benefit of piracy.. and a few really got rich.. ie: the king of pirates by daniel duvough.. they succeeded in gaining a lot of loot and disappearing.. nobody knows how they died..

36 min – a: what were they doing once they were back on land? any org ing there?

37 min – s: basically they did what sailors also do when they get on land.. party.. they’d have 48 weeks on sea and 4 weeks on land.. so most would party .. few would have to org how to sell the loot.. they drink a lot of alcohol of course.. so i’d assume they have a lot of hangovers also

38 min – v: on your 11 point rules/regs.. seems when on land can resolve issues they had on board.. which they can’t do on boat..

39 min – s: very interesting.. when not pirates.. often confronted w early form of our regs.. so interesting that they put it into their regs.. i must say.. not sure that articles are 100% accurate.. but they do give sense of atmosphere.. on laying down beforehand how would proceed.. and possible areas of conflicts.. ie: everybody can drink rum unless it gets scarce.. lot of stories about divisions over gambling.. those who lose don’t want to go home.. those who win do.. also if women on board.. potential source of conflict.. so arranged to eliminated these conflicts.. ie: no women on board, don’t gamble, .. drink only if.. also .. important point is position of the quarter master.. don’t want a stuffy figure bossing you around. that’s why you became a pirate.. but if no one leading when have to chase something.. in trouble.. so there is a captain w certain powers.. which creates power.. so create quarter master.. diff than position of the captain.. not focussed on enough in movies/books of pirates.. except netflix – black sails – where there is this whole play between captain and quarter master.. i very much like it.. it’s very clever

44 min – n (laughs): so what you said that pirates really progressive.. social point at sea.. inter racial.. while society is racists.. had women.. homosexuality.. so more progressed.. but still depicted criminals.. so such a dissonance.. still considered bandits

45 min – s: yeah.. but they are bandits.. that’s how they live.. it’s not a contradiction.. i think for us what’s progressive about them.. partly because a lot of the categories in which we discuss these kinds of things don’t exist in the 17th cent.. but also because i think they were very much pragmatic.. maybe this is a lesson.. this kind of org can only work by some kind of tolerance.. ie: interracial aspect.. but this is true of all ships.. more than we realize.. so basically see a kind of maritime cultural that transcends in to criminality but has a lot of these ideas about solidarity.. moral ideas.. that we now call progressive.. but at the time .. almost traditional.. esp because throwing christianity/bible overboard.. what they could/couldn’t do.. so also a lot of stories about the devil.. sailing with them.. so creates a space for the kind of progressive ness you are talking about.. but in a very diff way than we should do it

48 min – n: the power of story telling.. they were so marginal.. but looks like all newspapers were talking about them.. something like hollywood.. looks like it was deliberate strategy.. as a pr weapon.. as a historian .. what do you know about that

49 min – s: definitely the fascination we have also existed in 17 cent for these people in contrast w everyday life was fascinating.. but also quite possible that a lot of the stories we know are actually stories told by pirates themselves.. trying to frame what they did in a certain way.. can’t prove this.. a theory.. but also a kind of manipulation.. then on pirates not wanting to talk because don’t want to implicate friends.. very interesting how these stories get into the media of the time.. all people being very much aware of the whole phenom and existing people.. a kind of circling stories/legends that people use for their own purposes..

52 min – m: where do they get the ships..

s: often take over ship you’re working on .. then take other ships if bigger/faster.. leads to whole fleet of ships.. mostly group of 3 is max.. fleets of 7 start to quarrel too much.. so that’s one way.. but also what happens.. existing privateers or rich merchants who want to go into piracy.. have authority to act as privateer but overstep authority and start to work as pirates.. one thing pirates never do is buy a ship.. and don’t deal w a ship over long period.. and mostly ships aren’t that big.. have to be fast.. also part of caribbean inhabited by native americans .. they build ships

david w the dan car

56 min – s leaves convo

s: yeah i read david’s book .. so maybe when it comes out we talk again.. i have to go.. some problems i have to attend to.. that’s the pirate life

n: maybe next time we also invite people from european pirate party.. talk about how these ideas are being now

s: yeah.. but those people don’t often look very piratical to me..

58 min – n: yeah.. the book for david is very important to me too

simona: can we stay a moment to org next week.. another reading group at regular time.. i thought we could sell something like eventbrite tickets.. to have people sign in before.. (free).. to prevent what happened at beginning.. so i’ll see how eventbrite works.. or we can just have a google forum for registration.. but some kind of registration

1:00 – simona: next reading group .. 24th..

n: i think 24th is italians

then cut off.. so not sure what’s next






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