The Piracy Trails Collection is housed on the Library of Congress’ online platform and holds a variety of types of documents, including letters, confessions, records of trials, narratives, and more. As the title suggests, the collection deals with piracy prior to 1923, in this context referring to robbery or violence committed on the high seas. By including trials records as well as the confessions of those convicted prior to their executions, this collection incorporates more than one perspective on why piracy occurred and what role it played in society.

Beyond this collection, the Library of Congress website is an open-access resource available for students and teachers to browse. It boasts a wide selection of documents, many of which are free to use. These documents include photographs, books, films, web archives, legislation and more, from a range of subjects and time periods. The Library of Congress also offers some lesson plans making use of primary sources they host, a blog describing teaching methods, and other resources to enhance both the student and teacher experience. These resources, combined with its easy to use platform, make it, as well as this collection, great resources and guides for use in the classroom.

Piracy is still a struggle today, although we now most often hear it reference to stolen copyrighted material. This does mean that piracy on the ocean does not occur; in fact it has become a difficult crime to prosecute due to the fact that many of these crimes occur in international waters. Something interesting to note is that this collection was specifically digitized by the Law Library of Congress. This demonstrates that this collection is not only of use for students of history, but is also relevant for those interested in international law, and laws of other countries. Not all of the items in the collection are available in English, and the variety of languages includes gives students from non anglophone backgrounds or those with a variety of language expertise an opportunity to learn from and compare the languages and international response to piracy.

Reviewed by Carolyn Mason, George Mason University
How to Cite This Source
Carolyn Mason, Piracy Trials in World History Commons,