Book Tickets

Essential Information

Type Talks and courses
Date and Times Wednesday 9 March | 7pm-8pm
Prices Pay what you can

Free entry for members. Not a member? Join now

Discover more about Zheng Yi Sao: the most successful pirate of all time. Hear about the incredible achievements of this Chinese pirate, from working on a floating brothel to becoming the chief of a massive pirate confederation, which plundered the South China Sea in the early 19th century. 

Known for her expert management skills, she also created a pirate code – a highly effective set of regulations that kept her subordinates obedient to her. Zheng Yi Sao and her pirate fleets were the scourge of the South China Sea, even defeating a significant portion of the Qing Dynasty navy.

How did this woman who was born into poverty in Guangzhou, China, in the late 1700s, go on to command around 1,800 ships and an estimated 70,000 men?

Join Ronald C. Po, Associate Professor at The London School of Economics and Political Science and Dian Murray, Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and Helaine Becker, bestselling author of more than 90 books for children and young adults, including Pirate Queen, as we explore the fascinating life of Zheng Yi Sao, the most powerful pirate in history.

Book tickets

painting of a ship with 2 large sails on sea with a blue cloudy sea in the background

About the speakers 

Dian Murray

Professor Dian Murray

Dian Murray received her B.A. from Cornell College (Mt. Vernon, IA 1971) and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) in 1974 and 1979 respectively.

She was Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, from May 1994 through December 2015 when she retired. She was also Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Arts & Letters, University of Notre Dame from August 1991 to August 2001, and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, September 2006-December 2009.

She is the author of two books: The Origin of the Tiandihui: The Chinese Triads in Legend and History, in collaboration with Qin Baoqi, (Stanford University Press, 1994) and Pirates of the South China Coast, 1790-1810 (Stanford University Press, 1987). This book has been translated into Chinese as: Hua nan hai dao 1790-1810, by Liu Ping and published by the Beijing Press of the Chinese Academy of the Social Sciences in 1997. It was published more recently by the Commercial Press.

She is also the author of numerous articles and book reviews relating to piracy and secret societies.

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Ronald C. Po

Head and shoulders photo of a man standing in front of trees, wearing glasses and a suit

Ronald C. Po is a historian of late imperial China from the fourteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Since completing his doctorate at Universität Heidelberg in 2013, he has taught in Germany, the United States, and Canada, and is currently an associate professor of the Department of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

He is the author of twenty peer-reviewed articles and a prize-winning book entitled The Blue Frontier: Maritime Vision and Power in the Qing Empire, published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. In 2019, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

a book cover - a painting of a chinese fleet on the sea approaching land

Helaine Becker 

a woman, with long, curly brown hair, with a colourful scarf with mountains and trees in the background

Helaine Becker is the bestselling author of more than 90 books for children and young adults, including the international bestseller Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 (Macmillan UK); Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao; Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You Never Heard Of ; and Alice and Gert: An Ant and Grasshopper Story. Most recently, The Fabulous Tale of Fish and Chips (Green Bean Books UK) tells the true(ish) story of how the classic British fish dish came to be.

Helaine is a multi-time winner of the Silver Birch Award and the Lane Anderson Award for science writing for children. Her books have been recipients of the UKLA award, the Picture Book of the Year Award, The Cook Prize, the Giverny Award, Bank Street Best of the Year, Red Cedar Award, Eureka Award and JLG. Her books have been translated into 15 languages.

illustration  with large waves in the background, and an old sailing ship. In the foreground a side view of a woman holding a sword
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Women's History Month

From the exploits of Grace O'Malley – known as Ireland's 'Pirate Queen' – to gender bending in the Navy, discover the events taking place to mark Women's History Month this March.

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