chapter  7
Alternative Masculinities: Pirates and Family Life
Pages 30

Contemporary narratives rarely focus on pirates’ relations with women or on their domestic ties but, whether taken for granted or only mentioned in passing, they informed popular opinion and subtly influenced attitudes towards piracy. Most seamen were young, unmarried men, and the same is true of most pirates. Yet while we tend to think of pirates operating in a male environment, many had domestic ties. These were often reported, matter-of-factly, in apparently authoritative media, including contemporary newspapers, trial reports and accounts of the last dying speeches of condemned men. It is true that buccaneers who thrived on the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga from the 1640s to the late 1670s lived in a close-knit male community and elevated male friendship. The pairing of buccaneers was common. Known as matelotage (a term thought to derive from matelot, the French word for sailor), it featured accepted rules of behaviour. Each matelot, for example, stood to inherit the possessions of his partner on his death. But by the mid-1680s, the French and Spanish had combined to end this buccaneering activity, and later pirates maintained a different way of life.