Despite increased Atlantic hurricane risk, projected trends in hurricane frequency in the warming climate are still highly uncertain, mainly due to short instrumental record that limits our understanding of hurricane activity and its relationship to climate. Here we extend the record to the last millennium using two independent estimates: a reconstruction from sedimentary paleohurricane records and a statistical model of hurricane activity using sea surface temperatures (SSTs). We find statistically significant agreement between the two estimates and the late 20th century hurricane frequency is within the range seen over the past millennium. Numerical simulations using a hurricane-permitting climate model suggest that hurricane activity was likely driven by endogenous climate variability and linked to anomalous SSTs of warm Atlantic and cold Pacific. Volcanic eruptions can induce peaks in hurricane activity, but such peaks would likely be too weak to be detected in the proxy record due to large endogenous variability.