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Counterculture Analysis: Blackbeard

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1205 words Published: 15th Sep 2017

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Zachariah Chiles

Many groups have been established as countercultures throughout the course of history. However, what makes those groups actually be considered countercultures? Author W. LaVerne Thomas attempts to answer such a question in his book, “a group [that] rejects the major values, norms, and practices of the larger society and replaces them with a new set of cultural patterns” (Thomas). One group that significantly follows Thomas’s definition are the Blackbeard pirates. This group rejected the cultural patterns of the British monarchy to live their own cutthroat life of stealing, killing, and raping. To this day pirates are still a significant threat to those who tread international waters, and even those who live in third world countries.

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Before Blackbeard acquired his name, he was known as Edward Teach or Edward Thatch. As far as origin goes, not much is known about Thatch. However, it is recorded that he joined the British navy as a privateer during the Queen Anne’s War, and turned to piracy shortly after (Division of Archives and History’s Office of State Archaeology). Blackbeard began his pirating in 1713 under the Captain Benjamin Hornigold (Ossian). Once given a smaller ship by Hornigold and able to command his own crew as a captain, Blackbeard found the French slaver ship La Concorde. This esteemed ship would be known to many as the Queen Anne’s Revenge, “La Concorde was big, fast, and powerful. With such a vessel, Blackbeard knew his men could cause more havoc…” (Woodard). In 1717, the two pirates were so deadly that the British monarchy offered both Hornigold and Blackbeard currency in exchange for putting down pirating. Hornigold accepted, whereas Blackbeard denied the offer, and continued ravaging the Caribbean on his esteemed Queen Anne’s Revenge. However, his time came to an end on November 22nd, 1718 when facing a British Royal Navy Contingent sent by Governor Alexander Spottswood. Blackbeard and his crew mainly raided ships for one thing, and that was gold. Everything they did was based upon how much loot they could take, and although he has died many years ago, his reputation and name still stands out in the history of pirating.

Both the sociological perspective and the sociological imagination can be used to explain the actions of Blackbeard and his crew. According to author LaVerne Thomas, “The sociological perspective helps you see that all people are social beings. It tells you that your behavior is influenced by social factors and that you have learned your behavior from others” (Thomas).

Many heard and saw the stories of Blackbeard and his ferocious crew. Because of this, many saw his actions and adopted them, to continue pirating and adapting Blackbeard’s techniques for more efficient plundering. His name alone put fear in the hearts of men, so many see that fear and want to become it; inspiring many to take up piracy and life on the seas. C. Wright Mills believes the sociological imagination is, “the capacity to range from the most impersonal and remote [topics] to the most intimate features of the human self and to see the relationship between the two” (Thomas). In other words, this describes the insight of how your social environment shapes you, and how you shape your social environment (Thomas). Blackbeard and his crew’s environment most likely included a poor social background, and the loss of a loved one. Many who are greedy and kill, have often grown up in these conditions. They surrounded themselves with murderers and thieves, and thus became murderers and thieves themselves. They shaped their social environment by surrounding others with the same negative behavior, thus having new people join Blackbeard’s crew. The more people in his crew, means the more people that go out and tell the infamous story of Blackbeard, the cutthroat killer.

Ethnocentrism is a large part of any culture. It is described as, “[the] tendency to view one’s own culture and group as superior…” (Thomas). Countercultures are subcultures, therefore Blackbeard and his crew is technically a subculture of the larger society the British monarchy. Blackbeard and his crew saw these norms as superior to the restricting life in the monarchy, and therefore ethnocentrism formed. Also, the British already having ethnocentrism, saw the opposing moral standards set by Blackbeard’s new found subculture, and rejected their views, making Blackbeard and his crew a counterculture. Many examples can be made as to why he and his crew is a counterculture. One such case is that there was no law against killing on Blackbeard’s ship, whereas it was outlawed in the British monarchy. Another similar case would be with stealing, where Blackbeard plundered and stole from other ships for loot, whereas such atrocities were against the law in the British monarchy.

Cultural relativism can be defined as, “the belief that cultures should be judged by their own standards rather than by applying the standards of another culture” (Thomas). Looting, pillaging, and killing is what pirates know. These simple standards cannot be judged outside cultural beliefs without noticing the large moral negativity that follows. Blackbeard and his crew had no moral compass, so their actions should not be justified through the eyes of the British monarchy. From a logistical point of view, them being strong, picked on the weak in order to gain wealth and become stronger in the world. Although they may know what they do is morally unacceptable and goes against the laws of many larger societies, they followed their own standards and traditions and should not be judged outside of that.

My counterculture Blackbeard and his crew, have many intriguing norms and standards that oppose that of many societies of that era as well as modern times. However, this does not excuse the actions of Blackbeard and his crew. Killing, stealing, and plundering all leave large marks on this world. Anywhere from crushing the economy of a British town to killing the last son of a lonely French mother, cultures that directly affect the larger societies in a negative manner should not exist. Cultures having opposing standards is completely fine, as long as the opposing standards does not actively contradict those of a larger society. Blackbeard and his crew have very free standards, however the deaths that have been caused forces me to disagree with the philosophy and norms of their counterculture.


Division of Archives and History’s Office of State Archaeology. Queen Anne’s Revenge Project. n.d. 12 3 2017.

Ossian, Rob. The Pirate King. n.d. 12 3 2017.

Thomas, W. LaVerne. Holt Sociology: The Study of Human Relationships. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2003.

Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2007.


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