And so the Research Begins…

by eobermanns

Finding primary sources concerning a 17th century pirate is not as easy as one would think, considering how illustrious Captain Morgan proved to be in his lifetime.  I learned the hard way this past week that the UK National Archives has only digitized 5% of its resources, which seems surprising until you consider that they maintain thousands upon thousands of documents.  After hours of arduous searching on every database I could manage to find, I finally stumbled upon British History Online.  I was incredibly lucky to find hundreds of digitized references to Admiral Sir Henry Morgan in  multiple volumes of both the “Calendars of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies”, and the “Calendar of Treasury Books”.  Spanning from 1671 to 1688, I seem to have only just cracked the surface of tracking the career of Henry Morgan.  A reference to Morgan from May 31st, 1671 recounts his infamous raid on Panama under the knowledge of Sir Thomas Modyford, Governor of Jamaica.  Unbeknownst to Morgan, England had signed the Treaty of Madrid in 1670, in which Spain and England agreed to a delicate peace in the West Indies.  Morgan’s raid on Panama, therefore, violated the treaty; yet, Governor Modyford was recorded to have, “knowledge of the design to attack Panama by a ship sent on purpose, and in the letter 10 days after the arrival of said ship he gave no countermand, so they marched for the city” (Sainsbury, W. Noel, ed. “Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 7: 1699-1674. British History Online. (Institute of Historical Research, 1889). Web.).  This action of Morgan would set into motion years of trials and tribulations that would eventually, and surprisingly, lead to the knighting of Henry Morgan, considering he had  violated a treaty with one of the most powerful nations in the early modern world.

My next step in researching  is to begin reading selected works from a preliminary bibliography I have compiled on Henry Morgan.  Dr. Donoghue has given me a great deal of responsibility in finding sources for his book; my goal is to find sources that bring to light the mysterious origins of Henry Morgan and his life of vice that later led to his emergence as a political power in the West Indies.  I have just begun to read Harry Morgan’s Way: the Biography of Sir Henry Morgan, 1635-1684 by Dudley Pope and Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe the Ended the Outlaws Bloody Reign by Stephan Talty.  Both are proving to be interesting reads, with each giving a different perspective into the life of a man who is proving to be incredibly mysterious.