Joshua White / History

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Mead Endowment Dream Ideas program. One of the great pleasures of my job is working closely with students in small, discussion-based seminars, so my first instinct was for my Dream Idea to intersect with my first-year seminar “Pirates of the Mediterranean.” This course, limited to roughly 15 first-year (and sometimes one or two second-year transfer) students, uses the topic of Mediterranean piracy as a vehicle for introducing the philosophy and methods of academic history. We discuss different aspects and periods of Mediterranean piracy, from antiquity to the nineteenth-century “Barbary Wars,” working with a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. Over the course of the semester, the students complete incrementally longer and more complex writing assignments, culminating in a research paper on a topic of their choosing. I have had a great deal of success with this class in the past, and I have derived much satisfaction from teaching it.

Now, if I were to dream really big, I would want to take my students to Malta, the capital of Catholic corsairing in the Mediterranean from 1530 to 1798. But here I will offer a more modest proposal. This year, for the first time, I am planning to incorporate units on piracy and pop culture into “Pirates of the Mediterranean,” examining the portrayal of different periods and practitioners of Mediterranean piracy in art, literature, music, and film. My Dream Idea grows from the latter category: I propose to organize a series of movie and dinner evenings for my students. On each occasion, we will watch a movie centered on Mediterranean piracy (thus, we will NOT be watching Pirates of the Caribbean), followed by a dinner—featuring foods of the Mediterranean—during which we will discuss the movie. The movies I have in mind are Barbary Pirate (1949), Raiders of the Seven Seas (1953), Yankee Pasha (1954), Pirate and the Slave Girl (1961), and The Pirate of the Black Hawk (1961). Dinners would be held at (or catered by) Basil, Bashir’s, Sultan Kebab, and Bella’s. Five dinners for 18 (17 students—I sometimes overload the class—and myself) at roughly $25 a head would come out to $2,250. It may be necessary to purchase copies of some of the films, as the UVA library does not have any of them. This would not, I hope, cost more than $100. That would put the total budget at $2,350.

I believe this will be educational and enjoyable for everyone involved. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to make it happen.