Is Piracy the Second Oldest Profession?

Marines’ Memorial Theatre, San Francisco

A Special Sunday Afternoon Program to launch our Season at Marines Memorial Theatre near Union Square

3 lectures and 1 performance. Piracy on the high seas is the stuff of ancient legends and today’s headlines. Homer and Thucydides told of pirates roaming the Mediterranean. Julius Caesar himself was ransomed. Augustus Caesar’s fleets vanquished them and the Byzantines kept them at bay. The Ottoman Turks unleashed the Barbary Coast pirates, while European rivals in trade and at war preyed on one another through state sponsored privateering. The long history of piracy has been immortalized, and sometimes romanticized, in the world’s artistic heritage.

Sunday: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Hurrah for the Pirate King?
Ian Morris
 (Classics, Stanford University)

From The Pirates of Penzance to Pirates of the Caribbean, pirate kings and their crews have been presented as lovable outlaws, but real pirates are among history’s nastiest parasites. Pirates have always been with us, but when we look at the three Golden Ages of piracy—the 1st century BC in the Mediterranean, the 16th-17th centuries AD in the Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and South China Sea, and our own century in the Indian Ocean—we see a pattern. Piracy takes off when maritime trade is rich but security is low. So long as it is cheaper for governments to ignore piracy than fight it, it flourishes; but as soon as a government—Rome in the 1st century BC, Britain in the 18th AD—decides fighting  piracy is cheaper than ignoring it, it collapses. There are some lessons for our own times in this history.

Liberty’s Stepchildren:  Pirates, Piracy, and the Making of the Modern CaribbeanTyler Stovall (History, UC Berkeley)

From Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp, popular culture has closely identified piracy with the Caribbean in the era of European colonial rule over the Americas.  Dean Stovall takes another look at this relationship, exploring how certain key themes in the history of piracy resonate with the shape of Caribbean society and culture during the modern era.  In particular, he considers how the pirates represented a certain idea of freedom, and what that meant in a region whose history has been so fundamentally shaped by bondage and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  He suggests that piracy has represented not only an alternative to Caribbean slavery, but also that its vision of freedom has important affinities with the character of political independence in the region during the modern era.


Piracy: From History to Fiction to Terrorism.
Andrew Jameson
 (USC, UC Berkeley and Harvard)

Piracy entered a new phase in the seventeenth-century when pirates became popularized as romantic ‘outlaws’ of the seas. Yet contemporary sea piracy flourishes as a real threat to the world’s economy, with the open seas essentially beyond the jurisdiction of maritime governments. Terror has gone to sea, with an unprecedented increase of piratical hijackings not seen since the eighteenth century, especially along the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. Professor Jameson himself was a lecturer on a cruise ship attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.

Performance.  Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch. (Oakland)

Concluding Panel Discussion 


Skip Henderson plays regularly in Oakland with his band The Starboard Watch. He is a fountain of knowledge, and some of his own compositions were picked up by Disney for the movies Pirates of the Caribbean. YouTube videos of Skip are here and here.

Andrew G. Jameson is Professor of Bibliography, University of Southern California (PhD, History, Harvard; doctorate, History, The Sorbonne, Paris; MS, Library Science, Simmons; Archival Management, Radcliffe). Prior to USC, Professor Jameson taught Byzantine, Near Eastern, and African history at Harvard and UC Berkeley. He is Director Emeritus of Books for Asia of The Asia Foundation and President Emeritus of The Academy of Art SF. He was advisor to the National Libraries of Nigeria and China, visiting professor at Bosphorus University and advisor to the library of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul-Constantinople. He serves on Harvard’s Graduate Council, as a trustee of the William Saroyan Foundation, and as historian of the Bohemian Club of SF. He belongs to the Explorers Club of New York, having climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro and Cameroon and trekked the Sahara with the Tuareg. A World War II infantry veteran, he earned a Bronze Star with Cluster and a Purple Heart with Cluster in the Battle of the Bulge.

Ian Morris (Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of History, Stanford) is an archaeologist and historian who has dug in Britain, Greece, and Italy. He has published eleven books. The latest, Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future, examines eastern and western history from the Ice Age into the twenty-first century, and was named as one of the best books of 2010 byThe EconomistForeign AffairsNewsweekThe Independent, and theLondon Evening Standard. At Stanford he has served as Chair of the Classics Department, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Humanities
and Sciences, Director of the Archaeology Center, and Director of the Social Science History Institute, and in 2009 he won the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. From 2000 through 2006 Morris directed Stanford’s excavations at Monte Polizzo, an indigenous town in Sicily, uncovering new evidence about the transformation of Mediterranean societies in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE.

Tyler Stovall is a professor of French history and Dean of the Undergraduate Division at UC Berkeley. He has written several books and articles on the subject of modern French history, focusing on race, labor, colonialism and post-colonialism. Major publications include The Rise of the Paris Red Belt (1990), Paris Noir:  African Americans in the City of Light(1996), and The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France (co-edited with Sue Peabody, 2003). A new book, Paris and the Spirit of 1919: Consumer Struggles, Transnationalism, and Revolution, is forthcoming from Cambridge in 2012. Professor Stovall is currently working on a textbook entitledUniversal Nation:  a transnational history of modern France. He serves on the Humanities West Board of Directors.