Blog Post 1

Progress Blog post 1


The goal of my project is to construct a map of piracy activities near Venice from 15th century to 17th century. Therefore, I need to build a sizable database which contains information like when and where did who robbed whom. The first step to achieve this can be simply summarized in 2 words: finding books, books which recount the crime of pirates. However, due to their photogenic actions and dramatic behaviors, most books head in the direction of Treasure Island [1], while the actual useful books are like the true treasure buried by libraries. In fact, the studies of pirate have been criticized by some scholars “to be unsystematic or even anti-systematic”, compared with the works on paintings, novels or drama [2], due to the fact that literary sources about piracy are insufficient and quiet a mess, thus fail to build a comprehensive knowledge of such activities. However, from a statistical point of view, we might be able to integrate the scattered information into a database by using digital humanities methods. This step is considered to be the essence, but also the biggest challenge of my project and will be explained more precisely later.


Let’s first take a look at the general situation of piracy in Venice. According to the book “Piracy and the Decline of Venice: 1580-1615”, merchants of Venice have to face not only the avaricious usurer, but also the Uskoks from Croatia, the Barbary pirates from North Africa and European pirates from Spain, France and England. Among these pirates, the Uskoks and the Barbary are believed to be the two biggest threaten and hence are the focus of my project. After two weeks of document selections, here is a summary of the useful books:


Title Author Subject Availability
Piracy and the Decline of Venice: 1580-1615 A.Teneti General description Google books
Venice and the Uskoks of Senj 1537-




The uskoks Jstor
The Uskoks of

Senj : Piracy, Banditry, and Holy War in the

Sixteenth-Century Adriatic



The Uskoks Ethz library

Recherches pour servir à l’histoire de la piraterie

D.A.Azuni The Barbary pirates NY public library
Quand la mer est territoire. Paolo Sarpi et le Dominio del Mare Adriatico R.Descendre Piracy over the Adriatic sea


The above documents are the major source for this project, and apparently we could read them all like a historian and note the useful information for our database. However, since we are interested in the active area of piracy, I could try teaching the computer how to recognize a piracy event and then extract the information automatically. I know this sounds a little bit unrealistic, but both my supervisor and I believe that this is worth trying because this course is called digital humanities for a reason. The challenge is to build a corpus, a structured set of texts which describe a piracy event. Then we could apply it to do statistical analysis, checking occurrences of piracy events in a book and identify their key value: location, time etc. This is the focus of my work for the next 6 weeks and during the same time, I could start build the database with hypothetical data and place them on Google maps or QGIS so that once I have the real data, I could directly put them on my piracy map.




[1]  “Who Needs Pirate Heroes?” by C.R Pennell

[2]  “Pirate Studies and the end of humanities” by Laura Rosenthal