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The Real Blackbeard

Evening Seminar

Monday, July 14, 2014 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Code: 1B0047

What’s on the entertainment horizon? Pirates! A fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film is in the works, there’s a new video game called Black Flag, and Black Sails launched earlier this year on Starz.

Blackbeard, the most legendary pirate of them all, is getting the star treatment from John Malkovich in a new NBC series called Crossbones, and Hugh Jackman has signed on to play him as, of all things, Peter Pan’s nemesis in an upcoming film that transports him to Neverland.

Blackbeard—the nickname given to British-born Edward Thatch—led the most notorious and feared of several pirate crews based in the Bahamas in the early 18th century. From there, he and his men swept through the Caribbean and along the Atlantic coast, terrorizing the approaches to the Chesapeake Bay and New York harbor, becoming a target of the Royal Navy, and traumatizing the governor of Pennsylvania who feared an attack on Philadelphia. But beyond the legends of violence, plunder, and deadly swordplay that swirl around the popular image of Blackbeard like smoke from a frigate’s cannon, what was this most famous of early-18th-century pirates actually like?

To Colin Woodard, who wrote a cover story on the pirate’s final stand for the February issue of Smithsonian magazine, Blackbeard was a canny strategist, master of improvisation, showman, natural leader, and an extraordinary risk taker. Woodward, whose nonfiction book The Republic of Pirates provides the basis for Crossbones, draws on new research to present a portrait of a surprising man whose real-life exploits rival their fictional retellings in their color and boldness.


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