A land of treacherous harbors, steep escarpments and sheltered coves, Madagascar provided the perfect hideout for pirates. First used by French privateers sometime before 1614, Madagascar became a popular choice for pirate settlements later on. Between 1690 and 1723, 1,500 pirates settled down around the island, forming their own colonies, each under the command of a "king."
Madagascar was appealing for many reasons. For starters, it was close to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, two important trading routes. With the Caribbean losing significance as a Spanish trade destination, pirates started looking for a more profitable venue, somewhere "closer to home," where it would be easier to hide their loot.
But perhaps the most important reason for Madagascar's popularity was the fact that it didn't fall under the authority of any European country, making it a lawless land that allowed for excesses and delinquency. Moreover, Madagascar prides itself for its abundance of food and fresh water, and for its far-reaching coastline, perfect for quick embarking and docking.
The most famous place in Madagascar was Libertalia, a small enclave in the south of the island. Many historians doubt that Libertalia ever existed, while others give very specific accounts of how their "society" worked. Libertalia was an equal society, where every pirate had a right to land and cattle, plus an equal share of any acquired treasure. Many pirates settled down on the island, either by taking a trade or starting a family. Others, such as Captain Thomas Tew and William Kidd, used Madagascar as a center of operations, a safe haven to return to after months at sea.
The beginning of the end happened in 1697, when natives attacked Libertalia, killing women and children, and burning everything in their path. Only 45 pirates managed to escape, none of which ever returned there. In 1698, all the remaining pirates in Madagascar were offered pardons, and by 1711, only a handful remained on the island.