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The Pirates of Colonial North Carolina
Hugh F. Rankin

The Author and the Work

The Pirates of Colonial North Carolina is a publication of the Historical Publications Section, Division of Historical Resources, Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources: in its 23rd printing, it has long been one of the most popular items in its catalog. Once this current printing is exhausted, though, the State plans on issuing an altogether new title on the subject to replace it, taking into account many new developments, among which the firm identification in 2010 of Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge found off Beaufort fifteen years earlier. The new book, expected to be published by the State in the summer of 2015, will join the 300‑some other titles available at the NC Historical Publications Shop. A select group of publications is also available in Kindle format.

The author, Hugh F. Rankin (1913‑1989) was a noted historian of colonial America and the American Revolution and a history professor at Tulane University from 1957 to 1983. He was the author or co-author of well over a dozen books on historical subjects, and many journal articles. A man of diverse interests and experience, he came late to his career as a historian, crediting it to injuries he received as construction supervisor in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. As a college student he had been a football player — and as a much older man, he would eventually chair the athletics department at Tulane for many years, accompanying the football team on its trips; he is fondly remembered by several sports figures.

Table of Contents


Who Would Go A‑Pyrating?


Renegades of the Sea


Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Pirate


Blackbeard, the Fiercest Pirate of Them All


The End of "The Pest of Pirates"


Technical Details

Edition Used, Copyright

I transcribed my own hard copy, Raleigh, Eighteenth Printing, 1994; it bears no copyright notice. As stated in the Foreword, the book was first published in 1960: in order for copyright to subsist now, any 1960 copyright would have had to be renewed in 1987 or 1988, and that was not done. The work thus appears, so far, to be in the public domain: details here on the copyright law involved.

The matter is further complicated, however, by a statement in the same Foreword, that it was revised in 1979. If that revision was in any way substantial and if the 1979 edition carried a copyright notice, the work would remain under copyright thru the end of 2059 (70 years after the death of its author), provided further that it had been registered with the Copyright Office within five years of publication; but it was not, and the work therefore still appears to be in the public domain.

Considering these numerous uncertainties, however, a more thorough check of the booklet's copyright status was in order. A couple e‑mails and a phone call later, I'm happy to thank Mr. Bill Owens of the above-mentioned Historical Publications Section in the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources for confirming that the booklet is indeed in the public domain: No copyright was asserted even for the first publication in 1960, and none was asserted for any of the subsequent editions; and the 1979 revisions were, as I suspected, minor. In effect, the State of North Carolina has generously made the work freely available to the public.


I haven't reproduced all the illustrations: for the details, see my note to the Acknowledgments. The print edition has no Table of Illustrations; here is mine, only of those reproduced:

Blackbeard (Edward Teach),
the most commonly used illustration


A Spanish galleon


Anne Bonny and Mary Read — women pirates


A Spaniard shot by one of Captain Low's crew


A large three-masted sloop


A brigantine


The hanging of Stede Bonnet, "gentleman pirate"


Blackbeard, "the fiercest pirate of them all"


Blackbeard in the fatal fight
with Lt. Robert Maynard.


The head of Blackbeard
hanging from the bowsprit of Maynard's ship


For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

Some of the illustrations not reproduced, and a few of the ones I moved, take up an entire page of the book; in order to avoid the appearance of a page having been skipped in the transcription, the place of those not reproduced is marked by a small bracketed page number in the left margin.[p58]

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the authors' own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was fairly well proofread. I've marked the inevitable typographical errors, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A flag-like design in which the field is divided into three portions equal in area: on the viewer's left, a broad vertical field one-third the width of the whole, and on the right the remainder is divided into horizontal halves: centered on these latter halves, a stylized line drawing of two crossed swords, points upward, and below them a small pistol, pointing right. The design, based on the flag of North Carolina, serves as the icon used on this site for my transcription of the book 'The Pirates of Colonial North Carolina'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a design closely based on the flag of North Carolina, on which I superimposed a little vignette found on the book's title page.

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Site updated: 31 Mar 18