Jan 232014

Black SailsStarz’s new series, Black Sails, is set twenty years before the events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which my generation probably read during high school and forgot about.

The series takes place near the end of the Golden Age of Piracy (1650-1730). During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), Britain had unleashed thousands of privateers, essentially legalized pirates, to raid Spanish merchant ships. Privateers were popular because they were much cheaper than paying for the expansion of the Royal Navy, and all captured cargoes were sold to the British government, which turned a nice profit re-selling the goods. When the war ended, the British government cancelled the privateers’ licenses, presuming that the privateers would happily return to crewing on merchant ships. However, a surplus of sailors on the job market led to low wages. Faced with few job prospects and aware that the thriving cross-Atlantic trade offered a wealth of targets, many of the ex-privateers adjusted their business model and became full-fledged pirates, attacking ships from every nation. The cargoes were sold at Nassau, on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, which was claimed, but not actually governed, by Britain.

Black Sails is a weird mix of history and fiction, since the lead character, Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) is taken from a novel. However, there are quite a few historical figures in the show, including Charles Vane, Anne Bonney and Calico Jack Rackam, but Edward Teach, better-known as Blackbeard, is missing. I wonder if Teach’s absence is related to his role as the central character on the upcoming NBC series Crossbones, which examines the exact same period of time.

It is Starz, so there should be a fair amount of sweaty flesh, um, for those who like that kind of thing. Starz is becoming a big player in the historical fiction field, since it has Outlander, set in mid-18th century Scotland, coming up in the spring.

Pirates. I love pirates. Man, I hope this is good. Black Sails premieres this Saturday.

  • E.

    And…? Is it good? I have read absolutely nothing about it. It is usually not a good sign. Unlike you, I find the idea of a series on pirates quite unimaginative.

    • historyonfilm

      It’s okay. I am enjoying it, but I don’t think you would like it if you don’t like pirates. Mob City is much more worth watching, unfortunately it was not renewed.