Piracy, which can be loosely defined as lawlessness and usually at sea, has a long history, dating as far back as the Phoenicians (1200 to 800 b.c.) Piracy occurred on almost every body of water from the China Sea to the Mediterranean and eventually along New World's Atlantic shores and in the Caribbean. Pirates were both feared and romanticized as heroes. They thrived on the booty (or stolen wealth) they stole from merchant ships and shoreline villages. Their practice lasted well into the nineteenth century when British and U.S. naval forces eventually overwhelmed them. Nonetheless, some piracy continued throughout the twentieth century and into the early 2000s. Beyond crimes committed on the high sea, the term has been applied to many different types of theft, including the illegal downloading of material from the Internet.
One famous pirate is Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, a British...