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Pirate Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

Jeremy taught elementary school for 18 years in in the United States and in Switzerland. He has a Masters in Education from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He's taught grades 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8. His strength is in educational content writing and technology in the classroom

What do you call a robber who steals his treasure on the high seas instead of breaking in to someone's house? Pirates! This lesson will teach you all about the famous robbers of the sea, including some famous pirates.

A Brief History of Pirates

Pirates have been around ever since people began to travel and trade goods across the seas. There are accounts of pirates going all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times. In fact, it's believed that the famous Roman Julius Caesar was actually kidnapped and held for ransom by pirates. Ransom is money demanded for the return of someone or something that has been kidnapped or stolen.

The Barbary pirates, who camped out along the Barbary Coast in North Africa, attack a ship.
Pirates Attack

The heyday of pirates, though, was during the exploration of the New World and the Caribbean. As ships from England and Spain sailed around trading gold, silver and gems, pirates became vicious in their attacks.

By the late 1700s, pirating started to decline. More and more pirates began losing battles to stronger ships and more heavily armed crews. Soon, the pirate flag flew no more and the seas became safer.

There are still pirates today, but they use small boats and powerful guns to board cargo ships. They usually capture the ship and hold the crew and captain for ransom.

How Pirates Plundered

Imagine you're on watch in the crow's nest of a Spanish galleon, a huge, multi-level sailing ship. Your job is to watch the seas for trouble. Suddenly, you see a ship closing in fast, flying a flag that looks like your own. You breathe a sigh of relief. It's a friendly ship. But you're wrong. Once the ship gets close enough to strike, they fly the Jolly Roger and begin to attack! Pirates often flew the Jolly Roger, which is the famous black flag with the white skull and crossbones.

Pirates would fly under a flag of a skull and crossbones called the Jolly Roger.
Pirate Jolly Roger

Once they were close enough, they would begin firing their cannons, and sometimes they would get close enough to swing across on ropes. When this happened, a fierce battle could take place right on the deck of the ship. Most ships that were attacked had weapons, too, so they would fire guns and cannons at the attacking pirate ship. Pirates didn't always win the battle and, as time went on, more ships became heavily armored to protect themselves.

If the pirates were able to take over a ship, they would steal all the treasure and burn the ship on the water. Sometimes, they would make the captain and crew walk the plank, forcing them to walk off a piece of wood into the ocean to their deaths.

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