A Piracy Primer for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

A Piracy Primer for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is the first time the series has to deal with a period that the public primarily knows through myth. Ubisoft will have to walk a fine line.

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As usual Robert, Critical Intel is a pleasure to read. It's fun to see "historical" games get called out on BS, but it's even neater to so how close to the truth Ubisoft continues to push the AC games. There are a ton of pirate movies and games that tackle one ore two of these topics, but I don't think we've seen anyone else besides Ubisoft manage to weave them together all at once.

The reason way that pirates used shares of profits and elected captains came from the land based mercenaries had been operating since the 1350s. The practice started with Edward III's invasion of France which started the 100 years war. Edward shifted away from the traditional feudal armies to a paid army. This resulted is people being given contracts to raise x number of men in different roles i.e men at arms squires and archers. After the English victoires and the treaty of Bretigny this left a large number of soldiers with out work. The lead to the creation of free companies serving under their own elected officers with shares in the profits. Under of the leadership of Sir John Hawkwood these bands formed into the white company and became a major force in Italy. The White company was not only a a mecrancy force but had its own notaries and lawyers to deal with contractual issues. The is the start of shift of the use of the word company from a purely military context to a commercial one.

I'm going to take issue with the description of the 30 years war as well. The French alliance with the sublime porte dates to the very early days of the Reformation. The Habsburg Emperor Charles V, who was King of Spain as well, was using protestant German troops in his argument with the Pope. The French allied with the Ottomans because their lands was entirely encircled by Habsburg land. That said the two where never more than allies in name only, there was never any coordination and the only cooperation was was Turkish fleet that took over Toulon in the 1540s. The French fear of Habsburg encirclement lead to the French being the driving force behind the Protestant side in the 30 years war. The French, under the leadership of Cardinal Richelieu funded the protestant German Princes and the Dutch. When that force proved insufficient the French then funded the Swedes and then finally entered the war directly. The war was fought to a stalemate was finally settled by the Portuguese revolting against Spanish rule. While all this was going Cardinal Richelieu was busy destroying French protestantism. I think the best way understand the politics of the conflict is the siege of La Rochelle. The French army led by Catholic Cardinal was attacking the French Protestants in La Rochelle. The French Protestants were being blockaded at sea the French Catholic allies, the Dutch Protestants to prevent aid from Catholic Spain reaching the French Protestants. Religion played a major part in the 30 years war but French strategic imperative also played a major role.

An interesting thing about Ac4's Adewale(sorry for spelling and SPOILERS!!!) is he had just as much claim to the ship as Edward but decides to be quartermaster because as Edward says "These men wouldn't take orders from you." and when he presents himself to Benjiman Honigold Ben questions Edward about letting Ade carry a weapon.

So I think it's addressed in the game just not a major focus.

Lurklen:
An interesting thing about Ac4's Adewale(sorry for spelling and SPOILERS!!!) is he had just as much claim to the ship as Edward but decides to be quartermaster because as Edward says "These men wouldn't take orders from you." and when he presents himself to Benjiman Honigold Ben questions Edward about letting Ade carry a weapon.

So I think it's addressed in the game just not a major focus.

I agree. I recall that first moment you mention, as well as later when, as I believe we saw in either trailers or preview videos, Edward asks Adewale if he will return to Africa after making his fortune, showing up his inherent lack of understanding of the situation faced by many former American slaves at this time in history.

wonderful read as always, as said it is brought up a couple of times (so far) in the game about how a crew wouldn't respect a black captain, it'll be interesting to see if anything else is said. Then again ubisoft could have gone down the other route of "everythings peachy"!

albino boo:

I'm going to take issue with the description of the 30 years war as well....Religion played a major part in the 30 years war but French strategic imperative also played a major role.

I totally agree with you, I just had to simplify due to word count! I really hope more people start looking at the 30 Year's War, as it's really fascinating and not a lot of people in the US have even heard of it unless they majored in European History.

TiberiusEsuriens:
There are a ton of pirate movies and games that tackle one ore two of these topics, but I don't think we've seen anyone else besides Ubisoft manage to weave them together all at once.

They do have 40 hours (plus DLC) to do it when most movies have only two - so that helps! But yes, I really enjoy the little historical sprinklings Ubi does. They generally do quite a good job, though there's always room for improvement.

Lurklen:
An interesting thing about Ac4's Adewale(sorry for spelling and SPOILERS!!!) is he had just as much claim to the ship as Edward but decides to be quartermaster because as Edward says "These men wouldn't take orders from you." and when he presents himself to Benjiman Honigold Ben questions Edward about letting Ade carry a weapon.

So I think it's addressed in the game just not a major focus.

Gerishnakov:

Lurklen:
An interesting thing about Ac4's Adewale(sorry for spelling and SPOILERS!!!) is he had just as much claim to the ship as Edward but decides to be quartermaster because as Edward says "These men wouldn't take orders from you." and when he presents himself to Benjiman Honigold Ben questions Edward about letting Ade carry a weapon.

So I think it's addressed in the game just not a major focus.

I agree. I recall that first moment you mention, as well as later when, as I believe we saw in either trailers or preview videos, Edward asks Adewale if he will return to Africa after making his fortune, showing up his inherent lack of understanding of the situation faced by many former American slaves at this time in history.

putowtin:
wonderful read as always, as said it is brought up a couple of times (so far) in the game about how a crew wouldn't respect a black captain, it'll be interesting to see if anything else is said. Then again ubisoft could have gone down the other route of "everythings peachy"!

I'll be interested to see how they do this. I've not had a chance to pick the game up yet but will soon. It's interesting that they acknowledge it. Historical fiction protagonists have a tendency to be far more open-minded about this sort of thing than their peers - mostly because authors worry that a heavily bigoted protagonist will turn the audience off. There are exceptions to this, of course. Namely Harry Flashman and pretty much any protagonist from a James Ellroy novel.

Having an Afro-Caribbean boatswain or quartermaster is a recurring trope in pirate movies starting in the '40s and even appearing in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It's one of those things where both sides have their pros and cons. If you portray a black character working as a warrant officer on a non-discriminatory pirate ship, it's perpetuating a myth that whitewashes part of the history of slavery. On the other hand, it creates a good role for a black actor and a positive role model for any non-white kids watching the movie/playing the game (and frankly, our pool of heroes in games is pretty whitebread and could really do with some diversity). Ubi seems like they're knowingly using the trope but pointing out that it would be uncommon, which seems like a fair way to split the difference. I'll be interested to see how they handle it, especially in the DLC.

Robert Rath:

albino boo:

I'm going to take issue with the description of the 30 years war as well....Religion played a major part in the 30 years war but French strategic imperative also played a major role.

I totally agree with you, I just had to simplify due to word count! I really hope more people start looking at the 30 Year's War, as it's really fascinating and not a lot of people in the US have even heard of it unless they majored in European History.

Its not one that is taught British schools either. The first time I heard of the 30 years war in work of fantasy by Michael Moorcock I read when I was about 14. That book and a dreadful film made in the 70s with Michael Cain, in his glug glug years, is about the only English language media presence. I should imagine it's taught in German and Dutch schools maybe not Swedish ones. The whole Swedes launch an invasion involving mass murder, rape and pillage is pretty much Swedish foreign policy between the 7th and 18th century.

Robert Rath:

I'll be interested to see how they do this. I've not had a chance to pick the game up yet but will soon. It's interesting that they acknowledge it. Historical fiction protagonists have a tendency to be far more open-minded about this sort of thing than their peers - mostly because authors worry that a heavily bigoted protagonist will turn the audience off. There are exceptions to this, of course. Namely Harry Flashman and pretty much any protagonist from a James Ellroy novel.

Having an Afro-Caribbean boatswain or quartermaster is a recurring trope in pirate movies starting in the '40s and even appearing in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It's one of those things where both sides have their pros and cons. If you portray a black character working as a warrant officer on a non-discriminatory pirate ship, it's perpetuating a myth that whitewashes part of the history of slavery. On the other hand, it creates a good role for a black actor and a positive role model for any non-white kids watching the movie/playing the game (and frankly, our pool of heroes in games is pretty whitebread and could really do with some diversity). Ubi seems like they're knowingly using the trope but pointing out that it would be uncommon, which seems like a fair way to split the difference. I'll be interested to see how they handle it, especially in the DLC.

The Royal Navy had a mixed race admiral in the early 1700s and I think something like 100 black sailors fought at the battle of Trafalgar. A lot of the slave ships operating out of Bristol in the 18 century had black crewmen as well. Black officers disappeared in the Royal Navy with the professionalisation but merchant crews continued to have black, Chinese and Indian sailors. Most of the crew of square rigged ship are there just pull ropes and keep the ship clean, this unskilled labour was generally referred to as landsmen. The number skilled sailors with knowledge of how to read the wind and set the amount of sail was very small. Its not unlikely that pirate ships could contain black warrant officers because of the merchant crews that the skilled manpower was drawn from did contain black boatswains. I would imagine that black warrant officers would be more common on Spanish and French speaking pirate ships rather than English ones due to the shortage of skilled manpower amongst the latin nations.

My dear Mr. Ryan, can you tell me when the Treasure Fleet is due in Caracas in 1660?

I couldn't give a tinker's about AssCreed but I do love pirates, especially Pirates! of the Sid Meier variety.

Interested to see how they handle the whole black slave issue: so far I heard that Adewale is treated fairly well as a person by Edward, but also heard that the whole slavery issue does come up. Have to see how this turns out...

It is interesting that I did know most of what was written in here even if I prefer as pirate stories the tale of Störtebeker. While he probably wasn't real the story around the danish and swedish war out of the perspective of one of the privateers is really interesting.

Do other countries up in the north have their own personal pirate stories too? I imagine yes but I never did come across something like that

Robert Rath:
Previous installments dropped players into well-known historical periods like the Renaissance, Crusades, and American Revolution, but AC4 is the first time the series has to deal with a period that the public primarily knows through myth.

It really isn't. The general public's knowledge of pretty much any historical period is just as much myth as any other. Most Americans seem to think "Paul Revere's Ride" is accurate, despite it being deliberately written as fiction. Richard the Lionheart gets his good reputation largely from stories about Robin Hood, despite having been one of the worst kings England ever had. If anything, pirates are probably in a better position because most people are at least aware that the stories are heavily romanticised, whereas for many periods most have no idea that what they think they know is largely fiction.

when will critical intel come back

meant to put a question mark there, sorry.

 

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