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History of Pirates

Arrrrgh You Ready to Learn about the History of Pirates and Their Pirate Ships?

History Of Pirates

By Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

Are pirates real? You bet they are! In fact, colonial pirates were an important part of America’s history. There were lost treasures, terrible deeds, and gallant heroes. Whether you are celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th or just feeling like a pirate on any other day, you may find few things more fascinating than a pirate unit study?! Discover more about American pirates and their menacing pirate ships here!

What is a Pirate?

A History of Pirates Pirate Ships
Pirate Lesson Plans & Activities for Kids Pirate Projects & Crafts for Kids

Other Pirate Resources

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although many of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials.
Disclaimer: History can be messy! Please review all the resources before sharing them with your homeschoolers to ensure they are age-appropriate.


What is a Pirate?

You may think you know what pirates are because you have seen them portrayed in movies and on television shows, in plays and in musicals, and even in commercials and on advertisements. You may know about pirate ships and pirate hats, Jolly Rogers and pirate flags, and buried treasures and doubloons. What you may not know is that some of what we think we know may actually be fiction. Try these resources to find out what exactly a real pirate was (or is?) and about some of the most famous pirates who ever lived:



For younger kids…


And for older kids…


Bartholomew Roberts | Academic Kids
Also known as “Black Bart,” Bartholomew Roberts was a famous English pirate. Find out more about this outlaw of the seas here.

Blackbeard for Kids | Thought Co.
“Kids are often interested in pirates and want to know the history of people such as Blackbeard. They may not be ready for the adult version of the biography of Blackbeard but can have their questions answered in this version for young readers.”

Captain William Kidd Facts for Kids | Tim’s Printables
“Learn about Captain William Kidd, the 17th century privateer who was hanged for piracy. You can download the William Kidd Facts for Kids printable or read online.”

If There’s a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate Queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read | Smithsonian Magazine
Renowned for their ruthlessness, these two female pirates challenged the sailors’ adage that a woman’s presence on shipboard invites bad luck.”

Pirate | Britannica Kids
What is the definition of “pirate”? Find out pirate facts by reading or listening to short passages about a pirate’s life and the history of pirates. You can also explore short videos and fun facts. Click on “students” for readings geared to older children.

Pirate Facts for Kids | Growing Play
Who were the pirates? Discover pirate facts about their appearances, behaviors, ships, crews, and superstitions. Lots of ads here but also some golden nuggets of information!

Sir Henry Morgan | Britannica
Discover the life of this “Welsh buccaneer, most famous of the adventurers who plundered Spain’s Caribbean colonies during the late 17th century. Operating with the unofficial support of the English government, he undermined Spanish authority in the West Indies.”


A History of Pirates 

Whether we like it or not, American pirates have been part of our history. Colonial pirates have, more or less, helped to shape the Americas, and their legacy not only informs our studies of history but makes for some exciting reading and movie watching. Check out these resources to find out more about the history of pirates:



History of Pirates | Mocomi
Explore this interactive reading pod to learn about the history of pirates, famous pirates, and fun facts about pirates.

Loaded Guns, Barrels of Rum, and a Silk Ribbon | Archaeology Archive
“Move over, Johnny Depp. It’s time for evidence of real pirates to be unearthed.” This is an article for high schoolers, by Sarah Pickman, that will paint a fuller picture of the real pirates who lived.

Pirate Money
“Pieces of Eight and Doubloons: Reales and Escudos. During the Golden Age of Piracy, Spain minted coins in silver and gold. The silver coins were known as Reales (Reals) and the gold coins, Escudos (Escudo). The famous “Piece of Eight” was an 8 reale silver coin that had a distinctive “8” stamped into it.” Learn more about pirate money here. There’s even a chart of how much pirate coins were worth!

Pirates | DK findout!
Learn about the history of pirates by exploring this interactive map filled with pirate topics. Did pirates have pet parrots? What were the treasures of the East? What is a Jolly Roger? Were there pirate women? Find the answers to these questions and more!

Pirates and Privateers | The History of Maritime Piracy
Within these pages of Pirates & Privateers, you’ll find articles on all aspects of maritime piracy from ancient times to modern day. Pirate Articles is an annotated list of all the articles I’ve written. Pirate Links is an annotated list of the best web sites that specialize in piracy and life at sea from early days through the Age of Sail. The Book Review pages house the reviews on the latest fiction and non-fiction pirate and maritime books for children and adults. Other highlights include specialized bibliographies, piratical places to visit, pirate dates in history, piracy quotes, and information about The Rebel and the Spy, my current novel-in-progress that started me on the path of piracy.”

Pirates! Fact and Legend | Maritime Pirate History
Welcome to Pirates! Fact and Legend a website devoted to maritime pirate history and all topics related to piracy. Our site is divided into several sections: Famous Pirates, History of Pirates, Pirate Facts and Pirate Legends. Also check out our Pirates Message Boards and Pirate Books.”

Terrorism In Early America
For older students…. Learn about America’s war against pirates—the Barbary Pirate War—fought to avoid paying tribute to the pirates of the Barbary States.


Pirate Ships 

What can be even more fascinating than pirates? Their pirate ships! Do you want to learn about the legendary vessels captained by colonial pirates? Have you ever wondered, how do pirate ships work? Check out these resources to find out about famous pirate ships, the parts of a pirate ship, and more:



Blackbeard’s Booty: Pirate Ship Yields Medical Supplies
Archaeologists are excavating the vessel that served as the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, and the medical equipment they have recovered from the shipwreck suggests the notorious buccaneer had to toil to keep his crew healthy.”

Learning the Parts of a Pirate Ship | Gift of Curiosity
“Ahoy matey! While studying pirates, we learned a lot about life on a pirate ship. I also wanted to introduce my kids to ship terminology. This post shares two activities we did to learn the parts of a pirate ship.”

Pirate Ships: Quick Facts for Kids | Imagining History
“Pirates didn’t sail in just one particular type of ship. They were opportunistic and would often steal their ships (after all, they were pirates!) and then rename the ship to something suitably piratey. The other way to acquire a pirate ship would be for a regular crew to mutiny and get rid of the captain; in this way ANY type of ship could become a pirate vessel.” Find out what pirates looked for in a ship here!

Queen Anne’s Revenge
As archaeologists, conservators, and historians, staff of the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab and Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Office of State Archaeology are dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the past. Join us as we explore day by day the origins of Blackbeard, his famous flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and the ship’s prior history as La Concorde, a transatlantic slave-trading vessel.”


Pirate Lesson Plans & Activities for Kids 

Exploring a pirate unit study may be fun, and you and your treasure hunters may love the freedom, but slightly more structured activities and lessons can also spice up the journey. Here are some ideas for how to make pirate learning effective (while also still being fun):



Pirate Facts & Worksheets | KidsKonnect $
“A pirate is a sailor who attacks other ships at sea and steals their property. Piracy is the act of robbery and related criminal acts by ship.” Learn facts about the word “pirate,” the history of pirates, pirate culture, famous pirates, pirates vs. privateers (or corsairs), and fun pirate facts. With a premium membership, you can access a collection of ready-to-use pirate worksheets.

Pirates | Rebecca Rupp
“Few of us want our babies to grow up to be pirates. When it comes to social responsibility, compassion, and moral rectitude, practically anybody is a better role model. Pirates fight with cutlasses, use objectionable language, consume unhealthy foods and beverages, and steal stuff. They are totally reprehensible. No wonder kids love them.” Read about science, math, and pirates and learn about imaginary and real pirates, pirates on stage and screen, pirate activities, and pirate ships.

Pirates: Dead Men’s Tales $
By Anne Rooney (Author), Joe Wilson (Illustrator)
“Who were the real pirates of the Caribbean—and beyond? Find out! Pirates: Dead Men’s Tales brings us face to face with some of the most villainous and scurrilous rogues ever to sail the seven seas. Travel from North Africa to the China Seas to meet the notorious Blackbeard, the fearsome Barbarossa brothers, and the women pirates Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Zheng Shi. With five sumptuous maps, themed spreads, and true tales of a pirate’s daily life, this book takes you on an epic adventure.”

Treasure Island $
By Robert Louis Stevenson (Author)
For sheer storytelling delight and pure adventure, Treasure Island has never been surpassed. From young Jim Hawkins’s first encounter with the sinister beggar Pew to the climactic battle with the most memorable villain in literature, Long John Silver, this novel has fired readers’ imaginations for generations. A rousing tale of treachery, greed, and daring, Treasure Island continues to enthrall readers of all ages.

Treasure Island | The Literature Network
Read Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous book, in its entirety for free online. You can also search the book or access chapter by chapter. Enjoy!

Treasure Island Homeschool Seminar: Literary Lesson Plans and Nautical Worksheets | Little Blue School
It’s here! The Treasure Island unit study you’ve been staying up nights longing for! Ready to download and use in your homeschool family, your co-op, or even your regular old classroom! Get out your eye patch and saw off your leg — it’s time to launch the Hispaniola and go search for Captain Flint’s lost cache of Spanish gold! Since the book itself is so full of pirates being skewered and shot in their pursuit of financial gain, I’m giving away the lessons for free. Free is the new ARRRRRGHHHH!”

What are Pirate Activities for Kids? | Twinkl
Children generally love pirates and are fascinated by their exciting way of life. In fact, the topic’s so popular that many schools use pirates as a learning theme across a range of subjects to engage children. This is called theme-based learning. You can also make the most of your child’s enthusiasm about pirate matters – just read on to find out more.”


Pirate Projects & Crafts for Kids

If your little pirates like to get up to their elbows in pirate hats and hooks and pirate ships, you may want to add some arts and crafts projects to your pirate unit study. The following are some extensive collections of hands-on pirate fun:



Ahoy Matey! 20 Awesome Pirate Crafts for Kids | Big Family Blessings
Explore this collection of pirate crafts, like cork pirate ships, pirate finger puppets (get the free printable!), pirate hooks you can wear, colorful parrots, and cardboard pirate ships you can play in.

21 Pirate Crafts for Children | Craftsyhacks
Love pirates? Get crafty with these pirate crafts and make it a great activity for the whole family.” Make a paper cup pirate spyglass, transparent treasure box, DIY duct-tape pirate sword, nature stick pirate ships, pirate treasure hunting slime, and much more!

25 Argh-mazing Pirate Crafts and Activities for Kids | Play Ideas
Ahoy there, mates! Your kiddo must love pirate play from the shows they watch! These Argh-mazing pirate crafts and activities for kids are sure to shiver their timbers and enjoy their treasures for hours!” Create a fun backyard treasure map, a gold counting activity, a digging up treasures activity, a creative footprint parrot, a pirate counting plank, and more!

25 Pirate Crafts Kids Can Make | Kidsactivities.com
“Argh! Shiver me timbers! Avast ye landlubbers! It doesn’t have to be Talk Like a Pirate Day to make some fun pirate crafts! Kids love make-believe and playing pirate, so check out some of these great ideas for celebrating everything pirate. Yo ho ho!” Find craft ideas for making pirates, pirate ships, pirate booty, and pirate costumes.

Pirate Crafts and Activities | Pinterest Collection by I Heart Crafty Things
Check out these DIY pirate crafts and activities, like handprint pirates, paper plate pirate ships, treasure chest math facts sorts, pirate treasure beginning sounds activities, and popsicle stick pirate flags.


Free Pirate Playdough Mats




Other Pirate Resources 

Still searching for more pirate learning treasures? We’ll leave you with a few more nuggets of pirate gold. Explore these resources for even more pirate knowledge and pirate-y ideas:



Ahoy! Pirates! Adventure | Ducksters
The object of the game is to grab the coins while avoiding the soldiers. Get all the coins and you will advance to the next level.”

Beej’s Pirate Images
“If you’re looking for pictures of pirates, maps, battles, ships, galleons, or treasure (buried and unburied), this is the place! Arrr!”

Captain Hook
“Captain Hook is the main antagonist of Disney’s 1953 animated feature film, Peter Pan. He is a bloodthirsty pirate that commands The Jolly Roger, a brig docked on the shores of Neverland.” Discover more about this fictional pirate here!

Metal Pirate Coins $
Unlike others, our Spanish Doubloon Replicas are made from zinc and feature a shiny gold surface. This gives them that realistic “cha-ching” sound that you won’t find anywhere else. […] Our Fake Gold Pirate Coins are detectable with a metal detector! This makes them the perfect treasure for a treasure hunt party” or as a fun way to practice counting!

Pirate Monkeyness
“The Pirate Translator attempts to translate English language into something you could say in a drunken pirate brawl or when writing to your pirate pen pal. A dictionary of nearly 1200 words and phrases are used, not counting variations on verb tense and plurality, making this translator one of the most comprehensive pirate translators in the world.”

Pirate Museums | Carschooling
Plan a road trip to a museum that offers pirate history, artifacts, and memorabilia. Many provide educational materials for teachers and students, as well as guided tours. A few provide pirate living history days and reenactments along with tall ship events and Chantey sing-alongs. Check out these destinations for your next carschooling road trip!”

Pirate Role Play Costume $
“The Melissa & Doug Pirate Role Play Costume Set is a dress-up and play set that includes a pirate hat, soft sword, embroidered vest, and the iconic pirate eye patch. The Melissa & Doug children’s pirate costume is made from high-quality materials and assembled with precision manufacturing standards. Our children’s pirate costume can be machine washed and comes with wipe-clean accessories. It’s a fun pretend play option that promotes narrative thinking and creative expression, along with independent and cooperative play.”

Pirate Ship Cruise | Pirates of Hilton Head $
“Be a pirate for a day! […] The entire experience with the crew of the Black Sparrow lasts about an hour and a half. The first fifteen minutes is spent on the dock getting the little pirates ready and teaching them how to talk like a real pirate crew. Once the crew is ready, we board the ship and head out on the Calibogue Sound for about an hour and 15 minutes.”

Plunder: A Pirate’s Life $
“Adventure awaits any swashbuckler brave enough to command a fleet. Conquer islands to gain valuable resources. Build and upgrade your ships with masts and cannons. Wage war against rival captains and rule the seas. The thematic and intuitive gameplay allows new players to quickly grasp the rules and will have you helming your battleship through the Caribbean in no time. […] This pirate game is designed for 2 to 6 players, plus a team play option. Average playtime is 20 minutes per player. There is no player elimination, so every captain fights to the very end.”

Risk Junior $
“The Risk Junior board game is a great way to introduce kids to the strategy gameplay of the classic Risk game. The game is for kids ages 5 and up; for 2 to 4 players. The Risk Junior game’s pirate theme has kids moving their pirate ship tokens around the board, competing for treasure and control of the islands. […] Move pirates on to islands, defend territories, and control of treasures. The player with the most treasure and islands at the end of the game wins.”


Maybe you’ve found an interesting resource about the history of pirates or their pirate ships? Please share the links you have discovered in the comments below….

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