Whether as freebooters, buccaneers, corsairs, privateers, marauders, swashbucklers or sea rovers, pirates have long captured the Atlantic imagination. But why? This course interrogates the concept of piracy from its earliest manifestations to our present day. We will focus primarily on the “golden age” of Atlantic piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries and its artistic re-imagining in the 19th and 20th centuries. After a brief study of the ancient roots of piracy, we analyze the lived experience of Caribbean pirate life through readings of first-person chronicles and travel accounts. We pay particular attention to the diverse and humble origins of these mariners: commoners, indentured servants, religious refugees, soldiers, and slaves. On the edge of empire, these men- (and women!-) turned-pirates radically challenged the emergent slave economy based on triangular commerce while simultaneously profiting from it. In the second part of the course, we explore the romantic re-imaginings of these real-life Caribbean Pirates in 19th- and 20th-century literature from both sides of the Atlantic (Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America). We end with an analysis of piracy’s legacy in 21st-century popular culture, as well as a discussion of new forms of “piracy” (digital piracy, data theft, guerilla open access) as a challenge to the global economy. Our corpus includes texts in English, as well as translations from French, Spanish, and Dutch.