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Any of the British, French, or Dutch sea adventurers who chiefly haunted the Caribbean and the Pacific seaboard of South America during the latter part of the 17th century, preying on Spanish settlements and shipping. Though inspired by such privateers as Englishman Francis Drake, the buccaneers were not legitimate privateers (the commissions they held were seldom valid), but neither were they the outlawed pirates who flourished in the 18th century. Usually escaped servants, former soldiers, or loggers, they ran their ships democratically, divided plunder equitably, and even provided a form of accident insurance. They influenced the founding of the South Sea Co., and stories of their adventures inspired more serious voyages of exploration as well as the tales of writers Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on buccaneer, visit Britannica.com.