The Fascinating History of the Legendary Pirate Haven: Libertalia

Libertalia’s existence has been debated for years. But what exactly is it about? Follow to learn more!

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A pirate ship sketch in front of an orange sunset reflecting against the blue water

Everyone has a place to go home to at the end of the day, but not a pirate. A pirate has his ship and crew. But Captian Charles Johnson (a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe) wrote about a haven for all pirates. This haven abolished differences of race, religion, and class. They called the refuge Libertalia. The story is in Captain Johnson’s book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. However, historians consider Libertalia (sometimes called Libertatia) a work of fiction. But there is some historical accuracy to the tale.

The Beginning of Paradise

Libertalia was established in the 17th century by Captain James Misson and Caraccioli. Misson had joined the French privateering ship Victorie. While traveling, he met a carefree priest named Caraccioli. Caraccioli was a deist and thought that organized religion was a way to control the masses. Misson adopted his views, and the rest of the ship followed. Misson was elected as its new leader when the captain of Victorie died in battle.

Three pirate silhouettes and they are standing on a hill. The background is a mountain range with a sun set

Afterward, Misson and Caraccioli pronounced themselves and their crew as free men. Eventually, the company headed for the southern coast of Africa. On the way there, they battled merchant ships and ships that held enslaved people. The crew of Victorie rescued these people and integrated them into their team. After Victorie arrives on an island named Johanna, some of the group stays while others continue to follow Misson and Caraccioli.

The Pirates Freedom

Since these pirates settled on the north coast of Madagascar, they named this new settlement Libertalia. Around this time, the crew also met Captain Thomas Tew, a pirate who used to be a privateer. Captain Tew and his men joined Libertalia. Both groups helped begin the construction of the new settlement.

An old fashioned compass with the needle pointing west. The compass is sitting in a wicker basket

A few years pass, and Libertalia is thriving. The pirates shared what they had. They also began a new form of government for their nation due to tensions between Tew and Misson’s men. This government was a democracy. Captain Misson was elected to be in charge, but his term was for three years. Then another person would be appointed. Sadly, that never came to pass.

People native to Madagascar attacked Libertalia. These people killed many of the citizens, including Caraccioli. However, Misson escaped with 40 men and some treasure. Tew was sailing at the time of the attack and met up with Misson. Afterward, Tew tried to convince Misson to establish a colony in America, but Misson declined. After Misson left Tew, he and Victorie went down during a violent storm.

Myth or Fact?

Defoe leaves historians guessing if this story was real. There are some things about this story that are historically accurate. Pirates spent their time in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. Evidence also points to them settling in places like Johanna and Ile-Sante Marie. Additionally, Captian Henry Avery created settlements on sparsely populated islands. But the most interesting evidence is that most pirates held the same views as Captain Misson. The captain was a leader, but they had little power on their ship as it was a democracy.

The silhouette of a pirate on the left and the silhouette of a man on the right. Between them is a question mark and the background is teal

However, historians believe that Libertalia is only a work of fiction. There is no real evidence it or Captain Misson existed. But that has not stopped others from speculating about it. A video game called Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of these speculations. This game features the legend of Libertalia but changes the backstory of this legend. It changes it to Captain Avery and a group of pirates, including Captain Tew, who founded Libertalia.

Whether or not Libertalia is real, it is an interesting tale added to the legend of pirates. It shows how some pirates wanted not only a place to call home but an escape from oppression. But Defoe not being a pirate does not take away from this view. Defoe shared the same worldview as pirates. However, this tale is inspiring and broadens people’s minds about pirates.

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