Pirate legends have inspired many star movie characters: really mean, like Capt Hook in Peter Pan

Or completely wacky, like Jack Sparrow, in Pirates of the Caribbean.

But in the 18th-century, real pirates did scour the seas, spreading terror in their wake.

Who were these pirates?

Pirates were bandits who plundered ships between America and Europe.

Their spoils? Gold, weapons or fine fabrics. That’s how some pirates made a fortune, like the infamous Blackbeard…

But they all risked life imprisonment and even hanging!

Among pirates, there were former Navy sailors, escaped slaves or just outlaws… To be hired, you had to be brave and loyal.

On board, there were rules: the booty had to be shared out equally and fights were forbidden.

The whole crew would vote on important decisions and they even elected their captain!

He was respected but, if he was not courageous in combat, he was abandoned on a desert island…

What about privateers? They had the King’s permission to plunder enemy ships, on condition they gave him a share of the spoils.

Today, in certain parts of the world, bandits still raid ships, but these pirates don’t have cutlasses or wooden legs!