me: horrible histories


(he did)

Admiral Horatio Nelson, died at The Battle of Trafalgar 1805. His last words were “Kiss me Hardy”, but many tried to later pass it off as “kismet” to avoid embarrassment.

hello I am here to explain everything I am able to comprehend about Caribbean trade routes and the logistics of pirate settlements.

[description: This is a map of the Caribbean islands (Greater and Lesser Antilles) and the Spanish Main (all that coastal stuff, ie the Spanish colonial mainlands) with numbers explaining different bits]

1) Up here north of this map were winds called “prevailing westerlies.” You had to catch the prevailing westerlies if you wanted to get back to Europe. I do not know why they were called westerlies when they in fact blow in a clockwise circle around the Atlantic Ocean. They do not seem like any-direction-lies, but this is I guess why I am not a geographer. See #6 for why you could not just sail between the Lesser Antilles to get out of the Caribbean, which seems like it would be much simpler.

2) New Providence Island! (ie Nassau) This was a great place for a pirate island because it was close to the passage between Cuba and Florida that Spanish ships from Mexico had to use if they wanted to get to the prevailing westerlies (#1), which they did. It’s also not far from the Windward Passage (#3), another potential route for ships heading back to Europe. It had a large harbor that was too shallow for most warships, and it had lots of yummy green turtles for pirates to gobble.

3) the Windward Passage! If ships were coming up from the coast of South America (see #7), this was a good and easy place for them to pass through the Antilles to get to the prevailing westerlies. It was therefore an excellent place for pirate ships to hang out. That teeeeny wee little island right to the west of my number 3 box? North of Haiti? That’s Tortuga! Pirates liked it there, and you can see why.

4) Port Royal! It’s not the same thing as Kingston; it’s a wee skinny spit of land in the Kingston Harbor. It is right between wealthy, wealthy Cartagena (#7) and the Windward Passage (#3), so a nice place for pirates to hang out. A bunch of it sank under the sea after an earthquake in 1692. Charles Vane and Jack Rackham were both hanged at Port Royal. :(

5) Mona Passage. You could sail your ship through this to get to the westerlies to the north, but trade ships did not love doing that. The Mona Passage had lots of unpredictable currents and was very dangerous. I’m marking it so you won’t say “hey but why didn’t they sail between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico?” They did sometimes. It was just more dangerous as a passage, and harder to get to anyway because you’d be sailing against the northeast trade winds.

6) Sailing between these small eastern islands (the Lesser Antilles) was a great way to get TO the Caribbean and the Spanish Main, if you caught the northeast trade winds. It was not a good way to get BACK, because you’d be sailing against the wind. Plus once you got out past the Lesser Antilles, you’d be stuck! No prevailing westerlies to swoosh you back to England or Spain with all your lovely sugar and gold.

7) Cartagena was one of the important Spanish ports; it exported a bunch of like Peruvian silver I think. I’m pointing it out mainly so you can see some of the places the Spanish were sailing from and why the Windward Passage would have been such a handy way to get out back to Spain (if it hadn’t been for those pesky pirates).

8) Over off east of this map were more Mexican cities. The Spanish also sailed from there. I mention this for the same reason I mentioned Cartagena (#7); ie so you can see why New Providence Island was such a good island for pirating until Woodes Rogers ruined everything.

9) A section of water you apparently could not sail through to get from Mexico to the lovely, convenient Gulf Stream (current) and the lovely, convenient prevailing westerlies (wind). If you wanted to get from Mexico out back to Spain, you had to THIS IS TRUE sail up to the mouth of the Mississippi (YES, south of New ORLEANS, I know, I find it insane also), and then around the coast of Florida. This route would spit you out, as you can see, right close to Nassau. Handy for pirates, no?

ETA: if anyone wants to check my work, I’m pulling a lot of this from Peter Galvin’s super useful book Patterns of Pillage: A Geography of Caribbean-based Piracy in Spanish America (Peter Lang, 2000).

A HORRIBLE COLLECTION Your favourite historical figures singing about their lives in a pastiche you never knew you needed.  A collection of Horrible Histories songs for fans of the show or fans of history (and pop music).  

S1-S2:  BORN TO RULE (the 4 King Georges as Westlife) LITERALLY (Vikings sing classic rock) THE KING OF BLING (Charles II raps to Eminem) SPARTAN SCHOOL MUSICAL (Spartan school boys break into High School Musical)  ORIGINAL GIRL POWER (World War II girls deliver Girls Aloud style) COULDN’T STAND MY WIFE (George IV sings about his problems as Westlife; dad doesn’t help) BLACKBEARD’S SONG (Blackbeard with a crew keen on Gilbert and Sullivan tunes) VICTORIAN INVENTIONS (some music hall Victorians)  THE HIEROGLYPHICS SONG (an ancient Egyptian school teacher goes about the lesson as the Jackson 5)  REAL LIFE COWBOYS (some old west cowboys sing bluegrass) BOUDICCA (Boudicca to the Ting Tings with a dash of Pop Muzik) FUNKY MONKS (some good old Gregorian chant… and Wild Cherry)  DO THE PACHACUTI (the Inca emperor reigns with an epic summer novelty song)  

S3-S4: HIGHWAYMAN (Dick Turpin stands and delivers a la Adam and the Ants)  RUTHLESS RULERS (A Chas & Dave tune to help you remember your kings and queens)  SCOTTISH REBEL (William Wallace takes on heavy metal) WORK, TERRIBLE WORK (Victorian kids? Must be Oliver!)  RA-RA CLEOPATRA (the Egyptian monarch shows Lady Gaga how it’s done) MISUNDERSTOOD (Richard III and a pop ballad on how he didn’t suck, no really) BAD EMPERORS (Roman rulers did bad long before Michael Jackson) SUFFRAGETTES (more girl power, this time Bananarama style) AIN’T STAYIN’ ALIVE (Aztecs priests bring death to life with the Bee Gees)  ENGLISH SIDE STORY (Cavaliers and Roundheads know West Side Story is the only way to wage a civil war) THE AGES OF STONE (a jazzy caveman walks us through time)  CELTIC BOAST BATTLE (Celts locked in an epic battle… rap battle, that is) RAF PILOTS (fighter pilots tell Germany to Take That) NATURAL SELECTION (in which Charles Darwin is a David Bowie fan)  THE THINKERS (it’s The Monkees, but it’s also the Beatles, but it’s mostly greek philosphers)  THE NEW WORLD (they’re no Jay-Z or Alicia Keys, but the pilgrim fathers are, well, new to this)  MARY SEACOLE (A medical bad-ass deserving of no less than Beyonce) VICTORIA AND ALBERT (the mushiest 80s love ballad with no happy ending) BLUE BLOODED BLUES (the Stuarts lament their bad luck through the blues) LUDDITES (Sex Pistols? The Clash? Rage Against the Machine? Must be angry Georgian factory workers) THE BORGIA FAMILY (and you thought the Addams Family was scary) MARY I (only Kate Bush can express how poorly things went for Mary) SHOOBY DOOBY SHAKESPEARE (Billy Willy and the Quills, the ultimate smooth jazz combo) GEORGIAN NAVY (sports songs sung as they should be… on a navy vessel under command of Admiral Nelson)  FLAME (Olympians through time sing on their Fame) 

S5:  I SAT ON A BUS (Rosa Parks in the style of Aretha Franklin and Motown)  VIKINGLAND (Vikings show their softer side with Simon & Garfunkel)  A MISERABLE SOUL (a Charles Dickens lament worthy of the Smiths) I’M MINTED (Crassus does Dizzee Rascal) JOAN OF ARC (you can’t put a price tag on this story set to Jessie J and B.o.B)  ALEXANDER (only stadium rock can contain Alexander the Great and his, well, greatness)  OWAIN GLYNDWR (Welsh hero? Tom Jones has simply got to factor in) TRANSPORTATION (pioneers of transport technology sing about their machines to Grease Lighting) THE ORIGINAL TUDOR (Henry VII and glam rock, of course)  THE NORMAN FAMILY TREE (the Anarchy unfolds in the style of ABBA) AUSTRALIA (Australia, Australia - must be Kylie Minogue) WE’RE HISTORY (everyone gets together for a big charity number epic) 


this day in horrible history 

↳ 29 May 1660 AD ‘Oak Apple Day’ - Restoration of the monarchy in England. From Pepys diary “Parliament had ordered the 29th May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.”