Was walking the plank a real pirate punishment?
A horrific, but morbidly fun, practice shown in films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise involves unfortunate victims being forced to walk along a plank of wood positioned over the edge of a ship, usually leading to them falling overboard and drowning. Real-life pirates did not use this as a method of punishment, however.
Instead, many pirates’ victims – including people forced into piracy to replace deceased crew, or hostages taken during battle – were tied up and kept below deck, where they were subject to beatings and (in extreme cases) disfigurement.
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Marooning was also a form of punishment, reserved for victims whom the pirates deemed to be little threat on land. If a person refused to join the pirate crew but swore to stay quiet, they would be left stranded on an island with a bottle of water, a bottle of gunpowder, a pistol and a single bullet.
This content first appeared in the December 2021 issue of BBC History Revealed
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