Johnny Depp and a parrot

Pirates are not just peg-legs, parrots and pistols. In this three part series, Nick Rankin finds out how they have adapted to changing times.

From Black Beard to bandits who trail the coasts of Somalia, he takes a journey through history looking at pirates of the past, present and future.

He also looks at the issue of modern-day piracy, from illegal downloads of music and software to counterfeit DVDs.

You could even be a pirate without realising.

Part One - Swashbucklers of the past

Pirates are probably one of the most famous 'baddies' of popular literature and screen.

In the first part of this series, Nick Rankin takes a treacherous journey through history, deconstructing the popular modern image of pirates as we know.

He plunges straight into the violent and dramatic lives of the corsairs and privateers.

The golden age of piracy was between 1680 and 1730, where many sailors were out of work and took over the seas as pirates.

Some were even licensed by their own governments to plunder foreign ships. They were seen as agents of their Empire.

Sir Francis Drake was regarded by the Spanish as one of the most infamous.

We also learn how China dealt with piracy by forcefully depopulating its coastline and moving it back 16 kilometres inland.

From reality to myth

Pirates made their way into popular literature in the late 17th century where they were transformed into mythical figures.

One of the most significant and widely read books was 'Chronicles of Pirate Life' by Daniel Defoe.

Books had huge popular appeal, providing escapism, excitement and adventure.

However, it was Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' that gave us our modern-day image of a pirate.

Long John Silver with his bandana, eye patch and sword is probably one of the most favoured costumes at Halloween.

Although pirates may seem like mystical characters, many popular myths like parrots on shoulders and peg-legs are not as fanciful as they might appear.

From pirates to piracy, these documentaries separate myth from reality.

Please note, due to copyright restrictions, a download of this documentary is unavailable.