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14th century pirates seen in a new light

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Amy Nicholas


In Die Welt Online journalist and historian Berthold Seewald paints a particular band of 14th-century pirates in a new light. Nikolaus Storzenbecher, or Klaus Störtebeker, is remembered as Germany's most famous pirate. He was the leader and best-known representative of a companionship of privateers (privateers = government protected and funded pirates) known as the 'Victual Brothers' (die Vitalienbrüder).

'The Violent entrepreneur’ – Seewald argues that Storzenbecher, in fact, represented a typical businessman in the transition time between the middle ages and the early modern era. According to him, this band of pirates used violence sparingly and operated within a widely accepted framework of unwritten rules. So, then, were these pirates an early expression of the famous German entrepreneurial spirit? Kann ja gut sein.

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