Off-Campus History

Episode 18 - Our Flag Means Death with Chris Baldwin

May 30, 2022

On today’s podcast, we’re discussing the brand-new television series Our Flag Means Death! (Spoilers ahead!)

Our Flag Means Death is a romantic comedy about pirates in the early eighteenth century. The story follows Stede Bonnet (played by Rhys Darby), a landed gentleman who abandons his comfortable lifestyle and family to become a pirate. Unfortunately for Stede, he’s not very good at piracy, which leads him and his ragtag crew to many misadventures. Stede eventually meets up with Blackbeard (played by Taika Waititi), who teaches Stede about how to be a pirate while Stede teaches him how to have fun and how to be emotionally vulnerable. The two become very close and develop a romantic relationship.

Today we dig into the history behind the show. How does the show challenge assumptions about gender and sexuality in the eighteenth-century Caribbean? How did race and slavery historically relate to piracy, and how does the show depict those subjects? And we often think of the late seventeenth and late eighteenth centuries as the “Golden Age of Piracy”—what caused it to begin, and why did it come to an end?

To discuss all this with me and more, I’m joined by Chris Baldwin. Chris is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto whose research focuses on privateering, race, and slavery in the Caribbean during this period. He also recently taught a course on the history of piracy!

For those of you interested in learning more about the history of Caribbean piracy, check out Mark G. Hanna’s Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015). We also made frequent reference in this episode to A General History of the Pyrates, a 1724 book by Captain Charles Johnson that is the source of many popular beliefs and myths about pirates. If you’d like to read it yourself (though be advised this book should not be taken as an accurate history), you can find it here: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/102498705!

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Podcast logo is made by https://www.instagram.com/nethkaria; music is from “Mystery,” recorded in 1919 by Paul Biese and his Novelty Orchestra. Follow the show on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/offcampushistory/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/offcampushistory)! You can also email the show at offcampushistory[at]gmail.com.

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