They’re a little too early for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sunday, September 19), but last week the Library of Congress announced its new digitized collection of pre-1923 piracy trials. Spanning two centuries, this collection provides transcripts of historical pirate trials from around the world, from Captain Kidd to lesser-known buccaneers. This site joins HeinOnline’s Legal Classics Library and The Making of Modern Law: Trials on the list of good sources for historic trial transcripts (see library research guide to Court Records and Briefs for more info).
While it’s usually 18th-century pirates who capture our pop culture imagination in books like Treasure Island and films like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, piracy remains a very real threat on today’s seas, especially in international waters off the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) reported on August 2 that 18 vessels are currently being held by Somali pirates. MARAD’s Horn of Africa Piracy page contains a wealth of reports, news releases, and travel advisories on the subject of modern piracy, as well as links to international and intergovernmental organizations which monitor piracy and international security issues.
The Goodson Law Library also has a collection of books related to piracy and international law. Find them with a search of the online catalog for the subject keyword: piracy. Note that this search will also bring up books about the other kind of pirates (intellectual property) – you can use the “subject” filters on the left-hand side to further narrow your search to “Maritime Terrorism,” “Hijacking of Ships,” and even “Trials (Piracy)” – the last of which will retrieve more trial transcripts in the style of the Library of Congress collection.
For help with locating other materials on piracy or law of the sea, be sure to Ask a Librarian. For help with talking like a pirate before September 19, consult the online glossary at the official British headquarters of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarr!