The Enlightened Pirate

For our HIS-309: The Enlightenment in Europe semester-long research project, we were challenged to create a digital salon. As the salonniere, I decided the type of salon that I wanted to create. I had to choose the participants and I had to decide the audience I wanted to reach.

After deciding to invite pirates and philosophers alike to my salon, I decided it was integral to the evening to discuss the topics of Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality, as well as Democracy, Human Nature, and Authority. While Kant, Locke, and Rousseau discussed their beliefs on the matter, the Pirate guests would offer their input as to best actualize the philosopher’s theories, as Pirates put ideas into action.

Finally, I was tasked with putting my salon online in digital format, so that it was easily accessible to not only those in my class, but to anyone who is interested in Enlightenment history, or Golden Age Piracy. The Agnes Scott College History Department loves digital history and this project correlates with the Summit curriculum and the development of our digital portfolios. Below is my methodology for my project, and a link to view the final website!


As a Digital and Visual Literacy tutor, I knew that I had not only the training but the resources to create an engaging and dynamic digital salon. That, coupled with my love of Enlightenment history and my interest in piracy, I threw myself into my research and creation of, what I believe, is my most comprehensive and well-designed website to date.

The Frontispiece (Home Page)

I spent a lot of time working on the frontispiece, or home page, of my digital salon. As the landing page of my subdomain, I wanted to make sure it was eye-catching, informative, and provided suitable navigation for the rest of my website. I wanted to include the quote that formed my thesis, the Yoke of Nonage quote from Immanuel Kant. That, contrasted with the image of Blackbeard directing two men underneath a yoke, provide a direct correlation between the Enlightenment and Piracy that I continue throughout my website.
I first selected my template because it allowed for video as a header. The first piece of media created for my digital salon was the header video, which shows images of the Golden Age of Piracy with an overlay of a waving black sail. All photos, including the pictures in the video, were either from Wikimedia Commons or sources otherwise.

As the reader scrolls through the Frontispiece, the reader comes to a series of text boxes that link to three critical areas of research, the thesis, evidence, and analysis that make up the backbone of the website. The images included in the text boxes are ornamentations from Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates. As this text formulated much of my research, I wanted to include the beautiful ornamentation that I had come to know and love in my readings.

The reader then comes to a miniature “about” section, preceding the more in-depth separate page with navigational links. These sections allow the reader to quickly learn about the class, as well as the creator of the site. If the reader clicks on the links, they go to my digital portfolio or the Agnes Scott History Department website. These links allow the website to function not only as a research project but as an advertisement for Agnes Scott and myself as a content creator. Throughout the Frontispiece, as the website logo and icon, I have an image of the Jolly Roger, Calico Jack Rackham’s flag and the most enduring symbol of the Golden Age of Piracy.

About the Project (About Page and Scope)

I chose to include a page introducing the history of the salon, as well as the purpose of the digital salon. The project is not typical, and therefore, the average reader might not understand the reasoning behind the project. I further chose to include the methodology essay, albeit differently formatted, on the about page, so it is readily available to my classmates and the reader.

The page that introduces the scope of my project is when the research behind The Enlightened Pirate is introduced. I begin the page with a quote from noted pirate historian, Phillip Gosse. It was impossible to research the entirety of the Enlightenment, the Golden Age of Piracy, or the connections between them. As I explain on the page, I chose to narrow the research scope for the project based on coursework, primary source documents, secondary source research, as well as geographic range. I also included an image of an engraving from the 1772 edition of Encyclopedie, again, via Wikimedia Commons. After defining the scope of research, I was able to write my thesis and begin researching The Enlightened Pirate.

Research (Thesis, Analysis, and Evidence)

My thesis, as presented on the thesis page, went through several revisions. I wanted to create a thesis that adequately stated what I was attempting to argue but also provided sufficient information for someone casually reading the project. I chose to accentuate the thesis page with a quote found in a valuable secondary source, Bandits at Sea: a Pirates Reader, that informed my research but did not directly make it into any analysis. I also chose to include one of the more complete images we have from A General History of the Pyrates, an engraving by Benjamin Cole that depicts Bartholomew Roberts, and his flag.

Next, I have a category of posts that summarize my research, or, what would be my essay, if this was a traditional research essay. I wrote six posts, three about piracy and the enlightenment, and three about enlightenment philosophers, to best examine the evidence and argue my thesis. I chose to outline the philosophy of the Enlightenment philosophes attending my salon, that is, John Locke and the Right of Rebellion, Immanuel Kant and the Yoke of Nonage, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and The Social Contract. I then chose to synthesize my argument in three short essays; Enlightened Pirate Democracies; Piracy, Human Nature, and Autonomy; and Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and Pirates. Each post contains links to direct evidence, as located further on the website, as well as footnotes.

I also chose to create images for each post, by combining an image of Enlightenment art, or a portrait of an Enlightenment philosopher, with an overlay of a pirate flag, in the same motif and design style of the video header.

Like the categorical organization of my analysis, I chose to organize primary source evidence in one category, with each piece of evidence having its own post. This system allowed for an efficient tagging and categorizing and allowed me to link back to direct evidence with ease. While I did not upload every piece of evidence utilized, I thought that uploading the primary sources that I found showcased my research abilities.

The Salon

While the Salon page precedes my scope and research on the toolbar, as it was the most in-depth page, I decided to leave it to last in my methodological essay. On this page, I showcase the guests of the salon; with the guests being three Enlightenment philosophers and six pirates. For each guest, I show a portrait, and give a brief biography, alongside essential arguments or accomplishments. For the Philosophers, I link to the posts that further outline their arguments.

I chose Kant, Rousseau, and Locke as guests for my salon because of the similarities in their arguments about autonomy, the human condition, and social contract theory. While each offers a different argument, and in Locke’s case, one that precedes the other two by a century, all of the philosophers chosen created a cohesive base argument for my research.

In regards to pirate guests, I chose the most famous, most successful, and most notorious. This was difficult, and I had to leave out many notable pirates (Edward England, Emmanuel Wynn, Henry Every, Mary Read) to create a concise guest list. I also chose pirates based on the availability of primary and secondary sources on their lives. For instance, while Mary Read may have been more ruthless than Anne Bonny, I chose to showcase Anne Bonny because there were more resources about her life and her actions.

Beneath the guests of the salon, I included one of the most famous images of the salon era, Madame Geoffrin’s Salon, painted by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier in 1812, again with the imagery of the pirate flag. The text is what would have been my conclusion if this were a traditional research essay. It summarizes the topics discussed at the salon and leaves the reader thought-provoked and interested in learning more.

Biography and Links

The bibliography is separated into primary and secondary sources, just as they would be in a research essay. To keep the dynamics of the rest of the website, I decided to consolidate the bibliography into a file-like widget, which allows the reader to view the full citation of a work, only if they wish. I think this allows the page to be less cluttered, and it also is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.

Finally, I included a link to my digital portfolio and the Agnes Scott College website, to continue to promote my work and the college.

I really enjoyed creating my digital salon, and I am incredibly proud of my work. I hope you enjoy looking at it and learning more about the Enlightened Pirate!

View The Enlightened Pirate here!

Leave a Reply