All posts by yichenma

Pirate and Corsairs (S1)


As a golden city of maritime commerce, Venice attracted not only merchants but also hundreds of thousands of pirates. In fact, piracy together with corsairs, are highly related to maritime transports and even played a significant role in the decline of the Republic of Venice [1]. However, perhaps since neither Shakespeare nor Disney had written a play or movie named “Pirates of Venice”, research in this domain is insufficient and always limited to some specific aspects. Therefore, the goal of this project is to provide a more organized and general information about piracy in the ancient Adriatic.


Objectives and deliverables

By focusing on some famous characters over a given period of time, my project aims to:

  1. Build a database which contains information about pirates’ activities, the keys should be the pirate’s name, the event’s time and location.
  2. Present the spatial distribution and the time evolution of the piracy activities on a Geographic Information System.



Documents selection

In order to build a considerable database, we need to collect as much information as possible from the available materials. Instead of directly looking for an overall piracy map, my approach is to follow the trajectory of some famous pirates during the renaissance such as Pedro Navarro, Barbarossa, the Uskoks etc., and try to discover the trend of their activities. Materials like history articles, official records, pirates’ biographies and even pirates’ log can be used as reference. The principle is that the selected documents should focus on facts and detailed information instead of qualitative descriptions.

Data digitization

As soon as we have sufficient documents, we could start to digitize them. More specifically speaking, we need to identify and extract useful information from these documents. This is the most challenging and important part of my project. Of course, we could do it manually by reading all the book and articles. However, a computational linguistic approach might be a better solution. In fact, as mentioned above, our major question is when and where did the robbery happen. Therefore, we could begin with searching place names and time information in an article. Then, by analyzing the linguistic relation between them, we might be able to identify a piracy event without even reading the article. Results will be compared with the manually collected data to show the accuracy and efficiency of this method.


Data organization and representation

By using a Geographic Information System (ArcGis or QGis), we would be able to present not only a piracy map, but also the evolution of this map during the renaissance. The system will contain a map of the Adriatic Sea, a scatterplot of piracy activities with smoothed densities color representation and a slider to control timeline.




Week 1-2:          Document selection;

Week 3-6:            Analysis of documents, extraction of useful information;

Week 7-9:            Computational linguistic approach;

Week 10-12:        Data representation on GIS;

Week 13-14:        Report and presentation;







[1] Piracy and the Decline of Venice, 1580-1615, Alberto Tenenti