Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Buccaneering Era > Buccaneering Era Decline

Buccaneering Era Decline


The decline of the Buccaneering Era was brought about in the waning years of the 17th century by major geo-political changes that occurred in Europe such as the Treaty of Madrid in 1670 and the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. The territorial scramble for the West Indies that began after the Privateering Era was finally waning in popularity. Following this while certain territories would change hands in the 18th century and beyond, nothing occurred on the scale scene during this century.

Treaty of Madrid (1670)

The Treaty of Madrid, signed in 1670 brought about an official end to the Anglo-Spanish War which had been started in 1654 by the English seizure of Jamaica. This treaty was highly favorable to England at the time and resulted in Spain confirming English ownership over Jamaica and the Caymen Islands as well as Barbados and any other islands the English may settle.

However, due to the end of the war the practice of buccaneering was no longer necessary and in fact a liability to maintaining this advantageous outcome of the Treaty of Madrid. During his period Henry Morgan who may or may not have known about the conclusion of the war launched the devastating Sack of Panama on 28 January 1671 which landed him and his political backer Modyford in chains back in London.

Both men were later acquitted of all charges, but the golden age of buccaneering had drawn to a close. Many former buccaneers joined lucrative logwood harvesting operations and became known as Baymen. Their pirate colony on the mainland of New Spain eventually became British Honduras and later the nation of Belize. Within two decades after the signing of the Treaty of Madrid the fabled buccaneer city of Port Royal Earthquake (1692) sunk into the sea during an earthquake in 1697

Treaty of Ryswick (1697)

At the end of the 17th century the Treaty of Ryswick was signed which ended the Nine Years' War and created a measure of stability by ending territory disputes in the Caribbean. During the time of peace, many buccaneers turned to an honest life of farming, plantations, log cutting or other lucrative industries while others such as the English simply moved into full-scale piracy in the Bahamas.

Overall all of these factors of increasing government scrutiny, other available economic options, the destruction of the pirate havens all contributed to a decline in Caribbean piracy in the 17th century characterized by buccaneering.


Primary Sources

A treaty for the composing of differences, restraining of depredations, and establishing of peace in America, between the crowns of Great Britain and Spain, concluded at Madrid the 8/18 day of July, in the year of our Lord 1670

Secondary Sources

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