Title: The Field Museum
Posted: October 17, 2009 (04:13 PM)
So today I went to the Field Museum here in Chicago because of the totally awesome pirates exhibit they have there until the 25th. I went with a large group from the pirates-related history class I'm taking since the trip was meant to serve as an extra credit opportunity.
The exhibit itself was really neat. It reflected a lot of what we had been learning in class, especially since the main historical consultant who helped the museum put it together had written a book about the subject that we have to read for the class. His name's Marcus Rediker and the book is Villains of All Nations if anyone's interested.
The book, and to a large extent the exhibit, portrays piracy in a different light than the romanticized "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Treasure Island" vibe that we all grow up with.
The real stories behind pirates are a lot more sobering and dramatic than what you see on TV or in film. Pirates became pirates for many reasons, but to make the history lesson short, I'll just focus on the 18th century during what was called the "Golden Age of Piracy", which lasted from around 1715-1726.
After the War of Spanish Succession, the great demilitarization of the British Royal Navy forced a lot of sailors out of work. Unable to get jobs or any sustainable income, some turned to criminality, which included piracy. Others merely shifted roles from becoming privateers to pirates, which happened easily enough since piracy was no longer sanctioned by the state after the war in an effort to maintain peace with Spain. However, the majority of pirates emerged out of naval mutinies, either with the Royal Navy or merchant marines. These mutinies occurred to crewmen dissatisfaction with the captain's abusive treatment, which ranged from beatings and torture (to try and get them to work... because who wants to put all their effort into a job when they're receiving shit pay?) or withholding provisions so the captain could sell them off to his own profit, among other misdeeds. These mutinies also occurred on slaving vessels because disciplinary measures were probably some of the strictest there.
However, the largest influx of pirates came from captured crewmen of non-piratical vessels. Many often offered to join the pirates freely because they felt that piracy made a far better living than the miserable life of a naval seamen or other maritime job.
Anyway, history lesson aside, the exhibit reflected much of this. It even started off with discussion of the slave trade, which served as a huge target - and source - of piracy. There were actual artifacts from the era such as cannon, firearms, pieces of eight, and even bits and pieces from clothing such as brass buckles and clips and the like.
All around it was pretty fascinating. And then afterwards we ate lunch at a nearby restaurant, where there were only about 6-8 of us, including the professor, because the larger group had already left to go eat somewhere else. During a discussion there I had a hilarious brain fart that should amuse many of you, especially EmP... if he's around.
A grad student in the class was discussing his two-day exploration of the British Museum when he was over there whenever ago. Towards the end of his tale, he said something like, "It was all pretty amazing until I dropped £100 in the bookstore." Of course, me being me, focusing on the sheer amount of walking he must have been doing, said "You lost 100lbs just from walking?" XXXD At which point everyone just laughed at me and I had to explain that I'd just had a brain fart and probably had food on my mind more than money.
While it was very amusing to everyone involved, including myself, the incident did bother me a little if only because it made me look the stereotypical self-centered American who thinks only of her own country even when outside it. This of course cannot be further from the truth especially considering the fact that I had gone to Mallorca over the summer, and the fact that I have both British and European currency hidden in my room. I also pride myself in my international perspective and abhor the stereotype, but that aside, the incident hilarious and I'm going to assume that everyone thought it was an honest mistake (which it was).
Anyway, now that I'm done talking, I really should get some work done... *sigh*
Posted: October 17, 2009 (06:28 PM)
Brain Fart is definitely my least favourite word(s) of all time. Never has there been a word which made people seem instantly less intelligent just by virtue of their having it in their vocabulary.
As for the pirates, yeah, a lot of people don't know much about real pirates. That said, the popular image of pirates is much closer to the real version than the popular image of knights and samurai.
Honor my ass, Samurai and Knights were some of the biggest bullies the world has ever known.
Posted: October 18, 2009 (06:28 AM)
Pirates still kick ninja's arses.