San Diego Course Info

Pirates: Fact, Fiction and History

Assoc. Professor of History UCSD, Mark Hanna, Yale ’96

Thursday, October 13, 2016* – Wednesday, November 16, 2016

 * In observance of Yom Kippur, we will hold the first session on Thursday evening, 10/13/16.  All other sessions will be held on Wednesday evenings.

Course Description:

A fascinating introduction to the history of pirates and piracy, from early days to the present, this intimate seminar will also introduce participants to the way historians conduct their archival work.  In addition to weekly on-campus class sessions at UCSD, we will visit the incredible Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, which includes first editions of every significant 17th and 18th century print text on piracy housed in UCSD’s Special Collections Library. We will explore original manuscripts of ships’ logbooks from the Age of Sail. We are also planning a special guided tour of the Maritime Museum of San Diego and the amazing San Salvador galleon replica.  Class sessions will include such topics as the “golden age” of piracy, and how historians work with complicated sources that are often biased, blend fact and fiction, or present contradictory information. We will apply what we learn from piracy’s “golden age” to the rise of modern piracy off the coasts of Africa and in the Straits of Malacca. Professor Hanna is one of the world’s leading experts on the history of piracy and this will be a unique and remarkable opportunity to explore these fascinating topics in some depth and with real insight.

About Mark G. Hanna, UC San Diego

Mark Hanna is Associate Professor of History whose work focuses on piracy, smuggling, and other illicit activities in early America and the British Empire. He was recently the winner of the UC San Diego Academic Senate Distinguished Teacher Award and is also the Honorary Curator of the Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages in UC San Diego’s Special Collections Library and recently the Endowed Chair of Maritime History at the San Diego Maritime Museum. Hanna is the founding Associate Director of the Institute of Arts and Humanities initiated this summer at UCSD. His first book, Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 (UNC Press, 2015), analyzes the rise and subsequent fall of international piracy from the perspective of colonial hinterlands. The book explores the often overt support of sea marauders in maritime communities from the inception of England's burgeoning empire in the 1570s to its administrative consolidation by the 1740s. Although traditionally depicted as swashbuckling adventurers on the high seas, pirates played a crucial role on land. Far from a hindrance to trade, their enterprises contributed to commercial development and to the economic infrastructure of port towns. Pirate Nests recently won the prestigious Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians for a first scholarly book dealing with some aspect of American history, as well as the John Lyman Book Award, honorable mention, for U.S. Maritime History from the North American Society of Oceanic History.


Professor Hanna received his B.A. in history at Yale University (1996) and a doctorate in the History of American Civilization at Harvard University (2006). He has been awarded numerous fellowships including a two-year residential National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. He has received outside fellowships and funding from the John Carter Brown Library, the Huntington Library, the Harvard University Law School, a William Nelson Cromwell Fellowship from the American Society for Legal History, and an Arthur H. Cole Grant from the Economic History Association. At UC San Diego he has received a Hellman award, a Public Scholarship Award, an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Panhellenic Association, and the Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.