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Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

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This rollicking account of the golden age of piracy is packed with vivid history and high seas adventure. David Cordingly, an acclaimed expert on pirates, reveals the spellbinding truth behind the legends of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Sir Francis Drake, the fierce female brigands Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and others who rode and robbed upon the world's most dangerous waters This rollicking account of the golden age of piracy is packed with vivid history and high seas adventure. David Cordingly, an acclaimed expert on pirates, reveals the spellbinding truth behind the legends of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Sir Francis Drake, the fierce female brigands Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and others who rode and robbed upon the world's most dangerous waters. Here, in thrilling detail, are the weapons they used, the ships they sailed, and the ways they fought - and were defeated. Under the Black Flag also charts the paths of fictional pirates such as Captain Hook and Long John Silver. The definitive resource on the subject, this book is as captivating as it is supremely entertaining.


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This rollicking account of the golden age of piracy is packed with vivid history and high seas adventure. David Cordingly, an acclaimed expert on pirates, reveals the spellbinding truth behind the legends of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Sir Francis Drake, the fierce female brigands Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and others who rode and robbed upon the world's most dangerous waters This rollicking account of the golden age of piracy is packed with vivid history and high seas adventure. David Cordingly, an acclaimed expert on pirates, reveals the spellbinding truth behind the legends of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Sir Francis Drake, the fierce female brigands Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and others who rode and robbed upon the world's most dangerous waters. Here, in thrilling detail, are the weapons they used, the ships they sailed, and the ways they fought - and were defeated. Under the Black Flag also charts the paths of fictional pirates such as Captain Hook and Long John Silver. The definitive resource on the subject, this book is as captivating as it is supremely entertaining.

30 review for Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Ashleigh

    Like a lot of nonfiction, this book tried to cover a lot of material while also attempting to keep the reader engaged. It held my attention most of the time and it did allow me to realize there are pirate books I need to read, Treasure Island being the most notable. Like a lot of nonfiction, this book tried to cover a lot of material while also attempting to keep the reader engaged. It held my attention most of the time and it did allow me to realize there are pirate books I need to read, Treasure Island being the most notable.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Quinn Strange

    Not that Under The Black Flag is really a bad book, I still hated it. I know that many readers will love it, but there were certain elements here that really annoyed me, and distracted from the fact that it’s detailed and well-researched. For the most part I just plain found it very boring. This is for a few reasons, but the largest one is that it fails to really immerse you. It’s honest, well-rounded and as I said detailed, however there’s a lack of heart in there that withholds the opportunity Not that Under The Black Flag is really a bad book, I still hated it. I know that many readers will love it, but there were certain elements here that really annoyed me, and distracted from the fact that it’s detailed and well-researched. For the most part I just plain found it very boring. This is for a few reasons, but the largest one is that it fails to really immerse you. It’s honest, well-rounded and as I said detailed, however there’s a lack of heart in there that withholds the opportunity to make you feel strongly about the pirates or really anyone else. By the end of it I didn’t find myself really liking pirates, being outraged by them, or anything. I didn’t find them particularly interesting in any way. They just were. Even the brutalities of their actions and demises read so matter-of-factly that I couldn’t get very absorbed. Not that I ever really welcome a bias, I do highly appreciate it when books really incorporate the author’s personality, and I’m left wondering if the author himself even really cares. It was like an otherwise skillfully prepared meal lacking in flavor. For such an exciting subject, this is especially disappointing. I think the author really was trying to keep things as exciting as they should be, but given the lack of enthusiasm it falls flat. (“It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care,” comes to mind.) One other particular annoyance contributing to this for me was his assumption that the reader will have a somewhat intimate knowledge of 18th century boats. There is a chapter covering this, but it really didn’t have enough detail to sustain me through the rest of the book with a firm enough understanding to appreciate many of its passages, and as it was he didn’t make me at all interested. To include even more detail would have been incredibly tedious. This ends up creating a lose-lose situation. Another thing I noticed was that the book tends to be disjointed and repetitive in places, even to the point where it feels like you must have read this section already. It’s really confusing the first time you encounter it, and you have to check the page again to make sure you haven’t accidentally gone back. The author tends to break off in the middle of a story only to finish it in another chapter, and this adds to the sense of tedium that I felt. I hate to admit that I ended up skimming pretty quickly over these parts. Battles sometimes return to the foreground a time or two, and you really don’t need to learn all over again what happened. And you don’t much feel like finishing something you already left 50 pages ago, especially since it was so lacking in energy the first time around. It creates a real sense of disorganization, and I just can’t see a method to the madness. The detail works against the book here, and instead of being remotely insightful it ends up being just too confused and drawn out. The knowledge gained here thus feels completely pointless, not very new or sensational, and though no time learning is wasted, this came about as close as you can get.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Corrielle

    I am a Pirates of the Caribbean fan. An obsessive fan, even. And so, because every obsession of mine eventually reaches a point where I feel compelled to do research, my Pirates fascination led me to this book. This is a fine resource for anyone interested in the history of piracy. I enjoyed the book immensely. It has information on the Golden Age of piracy, famous pirates, and a comparison of fictional pirates with real ones. The author also explores the origins of various pirate movie standbys I am a Pirates of the Caribbean fan. An obsessive fan, even. And so, because every obsession of mine eventually reaches a point where I feel compelled to do research, my Pirates fascination led me to this book. This is a fine resource for anyone interested in the history of piracy. I enjoyed the book immensely. It has information on the Golden Age of piracy, famous pirates, and a comparison of fictional pirates with real ones. The author also explores the origins of various pirate movie standbys and other little details that made the period come alive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    The Colonial

    Pirates have played a dynamic part of American lore and fascination since their heyday in the 17th century, and their appeal has been dramatized to this day in a swirl of myth, half-truths, and fantasy in order to create both a terror of the seas and an anti-hero alike. Nautical mastermind and historian David Cordingly brings the reader a history of the Golden Age of Piracy, complete with its erroneous misconceptions, as well as insight on the atrocities that were actually performed by these sea Pirates have played a dynamic part of American lore and fascination since their heyday in the 17th century, and their appeal has been dramatized to this day in a swirl of myth, half-truths, and fantasy in order to create both a terror of the seas and an anti-hero alike. Nautical mastermind and historian David Cordingly brings the reader a history of the Golden Age of Piracy, complete with its erroneous misconceptions, as well as insight on the atrocities that were actually performed by these sea rovers and their pursuers. The history discussed involves the exploits of such famous men as Edward Teach (better known by his nom de guerre, “Blackbeard”), Henry Morgan, and William “Captain” Kidd. Cordingly does not downplay the role of women either, as a whole chapter is devoted to their lawbreaking participants as well—including the Irish lass Grace O’Malley, and the former Chinese prostitute turned fleet commander “Mrs. Cheng.” Apart from being a respectable page turner as well as having detailed and well researched concise biographies, the book does have several faults that come about. While it is an interesting and unique approach in bringing modern depictions of pirates through their film and theater portrayals, Cordingly unfortunately puts too much emphasis on this, which comes off as an unnecessary and forced sideshow for an already captivating account: The men who became pirate leaders were not the clean-cut heroes portrayed by Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., in the movies, nor were they the jovial rogues of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. They were tough and ruthless men capable of savage cruelty and murder. They were elected by the votes of the crew and could be replaced as captain if they failed to satisfy the majority of the men under their command. They were expected to be bold and decisive in action, and skilled in navigation and seamanship. It may prove to the reader that these tangents should have been more appropriate for a separate appendix, or pieced into the closing afterward subtlety. As previously mentioned, Cordingly easily keeps the reader’s attention throughout, and does a magnificent job in dispelling falsities and uncovering some of the more factual tendencies of piracy in general with discussions on torture, marooning, trials, weapons, engagements, rank and sharing of loot—just to name a few. Overall, while he misses on creating an epic chronicle on the history of piracy as a whole, Cordingly indeed sticks to and follows his title accordingly in separating the myths, legends, facts and realities of pirates in their Golden Age. Illustrations are provided, with six distinct maps, and four rather unique appendices. Read the Full Review and More

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    For centuries, people have been drawn to stories of adventure on the high seas and peg-legged pirates in search of buried treasure. In his comprehensive pirate book (focused mainly on 18th century piracy in the Americas and the Caribbean), Cordingly covers everything from women pirates to pirate ships and weapons. Not for the faint of heart, this text exposes some of the hard truths behind piracy: consequences for captives, punishmens for arrested pirates, the hardships of life at sea. This book' For centuries, people have been drawn to stories of adventure on the high seas and peg-legged pirates in search of buried treasure. In his comprehensive pirate book (focused mainly on 18th century piracy in the Americas and the Caribbean), Cordingly covers everything from women pirates to pirate ships and weapons. Not for the faint of heart, this text exposes some of the hard truths behind piracy: consequences for captives, punishmens for arrested pirates, the hardships of life at sea. This book's revelations may surprise you; Cordingly frequently analyzes the books, movies, and plays that helped shape our romantic ideas of piracy. These portions are probably the most interesting sections of the book because at some point in every chapter the reader is nearly drown in a tsunami of facts and dates, making it periodically read more like a text book. While some may be rivited by endless discussion of ship types and repetitive trial transcripts, I appreciated the research, but found it to become rather repetitive. Still, I learned a lot while reading this book and would recommend it to the avid pirate fan. However, if you are looking for an exciting tale of piracy and are not overly hung up on getting every detail historically accurate, you may be better off picking up a copy of "Treasure Island" or "Robinson Crusoe" instead - you will find that sometimes the romance is even more entertaining than the reality.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    A must read for any initiate to maritime or pirate history. Cordingly is an eminent authority in pirates and buccaneers, but his pedagogue does not prevent him from creating a precise, fun, and understandable book to the beginner. Even those who’ve already enjoyed numerous works would still find some new information, or new sources, in this work. If you’ve ever wondered whether pirates really had a parrot keening for doubloons on their shoulder, or what the difference between corsairs, privateer A must read for any initiate to maritime or pirate history. Cordingly is an eminent authority in pirates and buccaneers, but his pedagogue does not prevent him from creating a precise, fun, and understandable book to the beginner. Even those who’ve already enjoyed numerous works would still find some new information, or new sources, in this work. If you’ve ever wondered whether pirates really had a parrot keening for doubloons on their shoulder, or what the difference between corsairs, privateers, pirates, and buccaneers is, then this is the book for you. It will answer all your questions and more. It’s very rarely dry and always informative. This book is appropriate for ages 13 and up. I will say that the romance of pirates will fade away, and the true brutality of the outlaws may be a bit much for more sensitive younger readers. Still I would recommend this for middle-schoolers that show interest in the subject, as well as all adults.

  7. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    "Arrrrrr." Pirates weren't just rapacious psychopaths given over to fits of whimsical violence, they were people, too. Cordingly's excellent volume attends to the romanticized view of pirates and tries to sweep away some of the myth so we can peer at the dirty-crotched reality. He does so in a thematic manner, so while he keeps to somewhat of a chronological history there is some jumping-around. The themes range from female pirates to marooning and torture, what exactly pirates did and the usual "Arrrrrr." Pirates weren't just rapacious psychopaths given over to fits of whimsical violence, they were people, too. Cordingly's excellent volume attends to the romanticized view of pirates and tries to sweep away some of the myth so we can peer at the dirty-crotched reality. He does so in a thematic manner, so while he keeps to somewhat of a chronological history there is some jumping-around. The themes range from female pirates to marooning and torture, what exactly pirates did and the usual mechanisms by which they attacked and robbed others. Some myths are torn down (nobody "walked the plank") and new findings are discussed (there were gay pirates!) and while the former might make no sense and the latter plenty of sense, he doesn't dwell too long on them. A few individuals are discussed, like Henry Morgan and Blackbeard, and our cultural representations of pirates tend to intrude into his discussions, but overall it's a nice head-clearing work.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I'm reading alot of reviews that claim this is more scholarly than entertaining. Rubbish. Only if you have the attention span of a goldfish will you not enjoy this captivating account of the golden age of piracy. Not only does the author stay true to history, but he covers the origins of romanticized pirate life and how much of it is actually reflected by reality. This is a most amazing work by a most amazing expert on pirates. I'm reading alot of reviews that claim this is more scholarly than entertaining. Rubbish. Only if you have the attention span of a goldfish will you not enjoy this captivating account of the golden age of piracy. Not only does the author stay true to history, but he covers the origins of romanticized pirate life and how much of it is actually reflected by reality. This is a most amazing work by a most amazing expert on pirates.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    The editor of this book should be keelhauled. This is one of the most disjointed history books I have ever read. There is lack of narrative flow, one topic changed into another suddenly I felt like reading somebody's Wikipedia's search on pirate life copypasted into a book. Sure, there are lots of fascinating information, but the fascination dies quickly often as well. I also don't like the author giving a big chunk of the book about FICTIONAL pirates. Who cares? I thought the book - seen from t The editor of this book should be keelhauled. This is one of the most disjointed history books I have ever read. There is lack of narrative flow, one topic changed into another suddenly I felt like reading somebody's Wikipedia's search on pirate life copypasted into a book. Sure, there are lots of fascinating information, but the fascination dies quickly often as well. I also don't like the author giving a big chunk of the book about FICTIONAL pirates. Who cares? I thought the book - seen from the title - is about the reality of life of pirates. Brief mentions for the sake of comparisons are fine but I really don't need the whole story of Errol Flynn and his movies, or some plays about Peter Pan in lengthy details. I recommend The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down for a much better read about the real life pirates.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    Engagingly written, thoroughly researched and with plenty of endnotes, this turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in an overview of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries. It's organized both chronologically and topically and has a lot of interesting stories. Cordingly's bibliography led me to such works as Captain Charles Johnson's extremely influential (and contemporary) account A General History of the Pyrates, the works of Peter Earle, and Nicholas Rodger's writings about the Royal Engagingly written, thoroughly researched and with plenty of endnotes, this turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in an overview of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries. It's organized both chronologically and topically and has a lot of interesting stories. Cordingly's bibliography led me to such works as Captain Charles Johnson's extremely influential (and contemporary) account A General History of the Pyrates, the works of Peter Earle, and Nicholas Rodger's writings about the Royal Navy, so I'm indebted to him for that. Cordingly compares the pirates of fiction with the pirates of reality, and this is the weakest part of the book, particularly where he attempts rather awkwardly to explain why we're all so fascinated with the romance of piracy. Since he mostly confines this to the introduction and afterword, it was easy to ignore. It's a fast read, and fun as well as informative.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Haspel

    Under pirate flags, the buccaneers of the late 17th and early 18th century raided many a ship and took many a cargo, and committed more than a few acts of murder and torture along the way. Yet of all criminals, pirates have arguably the most positive public image. How can this be? David Cordingly, who organized many maritime-history exhibits for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, seeks an answer to that question in his book Under the Black Flag. As Cordingly explains it, the exis Under pirate flags, the buccaneers of the late 17th and early 18th century raided many a ship and took many a cargo, and committed more than a few acts of murder and torture along the way. Yet of all criminals, pirates have arguably the most positive public image. How can this be? David Cordingly, who organized many maritime-history exhibits for the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, seeks an answer to that question in his book Under the Black Flag. As Cordingly explains it, the existence of rich and not-terribly-well-protected stores of treasure in the New World, coupled with competition among European nations for territory and hegemony in the Caribbean, made for an ideal environment for piracy from 1650 to 1725 – “the Golden Age of Piracy.” The frequent naval wars fought by Great Britain, France, Spain, Holland, and other nations meant that, when those wars were over, there were plenty of skilled but out-of-work sailors who might find a new job opportunity on a pirate ship. Many of the stories of pirate raids recounted by Cordingly were already somewhat familiar to me. Having travelled in Panama, I knew the story of Sir Henry Morgan’s January 28, 1671, raid on Panama City, “the principal treasure port on the Pacific coast of Central America for the gold and silver which was brought by ship from Peru” (p. 51). Indeed, it is a story that is still retold to this day, with sadness, by the people of Panama. Morgan’s well-planned raid successfully took Panama City, even if the city council’s president, Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán, had managed to get most of the treasure out of the city before it fell. Morgan reported to Jamaica’s governor, Sir Thomas Modyford, that “Thus was consumed the famous and ancient city of Panama, the greatest mart for silver and gold in the whole world”; but no doubt he left out of his report the fact that “The inhabitants [of Panama City] were savagely tortured to reveal where they had hidden their money” (p. 52). Cordingly is conscientious in reminding his readers that real-life pirates were routinely cruel and brutal in making sure that they got the money they were seeking. One of the paradoxes of life among the pirates is that a seaman could get a better shake, in terms of respect for his rights, as a member of a pirate crew than as a sailor in the British Royal Navy. A certain kind of rough democracy seems to have prevailed among many pirate crews; if a man could do the work, he’d be respected for it, and factors like a man’s cultural or socioeconomic background might not matter as much. Pirate captains even drew up formal articles, as chronicled in the 1724 book A General History of the Pyrates: “III. No person to game at cards or dice for money.” [Really?] "VII. To desert the ship or their quarters in battle, was punished with death or marooning. "IX. No man to talk of breaking up their way of living, till each had shared £1,000. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he was to have 800 dollars, out of the public stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionately.” (pp. 99-100) Cordingly also chronicles how the pirate economy had a formative effect on the life and culture of many Caribbean communities, as in the case of Port Royal, Jamaica. In the period between 1650 and 1670, “The governors of the island actively encouraged [pirates] to use Port Royal as a base, hoping that the presence of heavily armed ships would discourage the Spanish and French from attempting to capture the island”; consequently, “During the 1660s the pirates had a field day” (p. 143), as Port Royal became home to countless bars, taverns, brothels, and other businesses that served the pirates. Yet Morgan’s 1671 raid on Panama City, described above, caused the British government to recall both Morgan and Modyford, and to distance itself from piracy; henceforth, “Port Royal became notorious not as a pirate haven but as a place where pirates were hanged” (p. 145). By the early 18th century, the nations of Europe were no longer willing to wink at piracy as long as a pirate was on one’s own side. The potentially greater profits of peacetime economies demanded an end to the depredations of these seagoing outlaws, and therefore the end of the age of piracy came quickly – as shown in the case of Edward Teach, or “Blackbeard,” who was killed by an expedition led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard at Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, in 1718. Cordingly captures well the drama of that moment, as well as the ways in which Blackbeard has hung on in popular culture – from the 1798 play Blackbeard, or The Captive Princess, to the 1952 film Blackbeard the Pirate with Raoul Walsh, to contemporary Outer Banks tourism: “As for the village of Ocracoke in North Carolina, the story of Blackbeard has proved a useful tourist attraction. Visitors to the island will find an inn called Blackbeard’s Lodge, a pirate souvenir shop called Teach’s Hole, and the Jolly Roger Pub” (201). On the basis of many summertime visits to Ocracoke Village, I can tell you that Cordingly speaks true. A thoughtful afterword, “The Romance of Piracy,” points out that pirates, then as now, were hardened criminals capable of great cruelty toward their victims; consider, for example, the treatment that contemporary merchant captains and crews have received from Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa. Therefore, Cordingly writes, “it is surprising that [piracy] should have acquired a comparatively glamorous image” (242). Cordingly suggests that the reason behind that paradox is that pirates represent a way for people of the modern world to engage in symbolic rebellion against the drabness and routine of modern life: “The pirates escaped from the laws and regulations which govern most of us. They were rebels against authority, free spirits who made up their own rules. They left behind the grey world of rainswept streets and headed for the sun. We imagine them sprawled on sandy beaches with a bottle of rum in one hand and a lovely woman by their side, and a sleek black schooner moored offshore waiting to carry them to distant and exotic islands” (243). Cordingly published Under the Black Flag in 1995, eight years before the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). As the five films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series have grossed $4.5 billion worldwide, it seems clear that Cordingly is correct in his closing verdict regarding the “romance” of piracy. Indeed, he anticipated most of the elements of the screenplays for these films, years before they were written: The fact is that we want to believe in the world of the pirates as it has been portrayed in the adventure stories, the plays, and the films over the years. We want the myths, the treasure maps, the buried treasure, the walking the plank, the resolute pirate captains with their cutlasses and earrings, and the seamen with their wooden legs and parrots. We prefer to forget the barbaric tortures and the hangings, and the desperate plight of men shipwrecked on hostile coasts. For most of us, the pirates will always be romantic outlaws living far from civilization on some distant sunny shore. (p. 244) Well-written and well-illustrated, Under the Black Flag is an authoritative history of the so-called “Golden Age” of piracy; and if the book is not Captain Jack Sparrow-ish enough for you, please recall that, in the book’s subtitle, Cordingly promised to give you the romance and the reality of life among the pirates.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I liked this. It is the 2nd nonfiction pirate book I've read within a few days of each other. I found most of this fascinating. The history of pirating was well researched and presented in an interesting way. There was some repetition, but that didn't bug me so much because I was enjoying most of it. The West Indies was the place not to be if you wanted to avoid pirates. I also like how the author included modern day pirates into this book. I did the audio and I thought the narrator did a great I liked this. It is the 2nd nonfiction pirate book I've read within a few days of each other. I found most of this fascinating. The history of pirating was well researched and presented in an interesting way. There was some repetition, but that didn't bug me so much because I was enjoying most of it. The West Indies was the place not to be if you wanted to avoid pirates. I also like how the author included modern day pirates into this book. I did the audio and I thought the narrator did a great job. That always helps when tons of new info is part of the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    A book examining the pirates of the Spanish Main, and how they did not much resemble their fictional counterparts. The book traces how the image of piracy entered popular culture. Like so much stuff, it was Lord Byron. Then we get Robert Louis Stevenson, and up to the Disney movies. The author makes a point of saying that pirates weren't as good looking as Errol Flynn. I have news for him. The vast majority of movie stars aren't as good looking as Errol Flynn. The section on real pirates was prett A book examining the pirates of the Spanish Main, and how they did not much resemble their fictional counterparts. The book traces how the image of piracy entered popular culture. Like so much stuff, it was Lord Byron. Then we get Robert Louis Stevenson, and up to the Disney movies. The author makes a point of saying that pirates weren't as good looking as Errol Flynn. I have news for him. The vast majority of movie stars aren't as good looking as Errol Flynn. The section on real pirates was pretty good, including biographies of some famous real life pirates. Most of them came to a bad end. A good popular history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Johan

    I feel slightly bad about giving it only two stars, I liked it fine, it had some good stuff in it, but it's soemthing irritating about a book that is fluffed up to be a book when it just should have been a good long article. There are repetitions, stretchings and digressions...I guess the author was under editorial pressure to fill pages. Kindof a shame. Totally decent writing,intereseting subject, just too fluffed up. I feel slightly bad about giving it only two stars, I liked it fine, it had some good stuff in it, but it's soemthing irritating about a book that is fluffed up to be a book when it just should have been a good long article. There are repetitions, stretchings and digressions...I guess the author was under editorial pressure to fill pages. Kindof a shame. Totally decent writing,intereseting subject, just too fluffed up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    Not a bad book if you want to know about Anglo-American pirates in the 1600s and 1700s (no surprise given the author is British). Otherwise it is quite limited. You won't see the Barbary pirates explained. Nor much on piracy in Roman times. Jean Bart is mentioned once and Jean Lafitte not at all. To be fair the book is more about the Pirates we (as in English speaking people) love best, and so it works best when discussing certain famous figures such as Morgan and Kidd. So perhaps it is best Cor Not a bad book if you want to know about Anglo-American pirates in the 1600s and 1700s (no surprise given the author is British). Otherwise it is quite limited. You won't see the Barbary pirates explained. Nor much on piracy in Roman times. Jean Bart is mentioned once and Jean Lafitte not at all. To be fair the book is more about the Pirates we (as in English speaking people) love best, and so it works best when discussing certain famous figures such as Morgan and Kidd. So perhaps it is best Cordingly did not dig much deeper. Strangest part of the book? His discussion of why women like pirates. According to him it is the attraction of flawed but powerful men. It reads like he has a lot of painful experience in this regard!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vaishali

    Dr. Cordingly is one of the world's most recognized authorities on historic piracy... so, great book! Some interesting factoids: ----------------------- * Captain Morgan sued publishers of a tell-all book, written by a former buccaneer portraying him as a bloodthirsty murderer. * Ching Shih, China's female pirate, commandeered a confederation of 50,000 ships - larger than most countries’ navies. * Black Beard raided Charlestown, and had it under siege for 5 days. He then marooned his own men on an is Dr. Cordingly is one of the world's most recognized authorities on historic piracy... so, great book! Some interesting factoids: ----------------------- * Captain Morgan sued publishers of a tell-all book, written by a former buccaneer portraying him as a bloodthirsty murderer. * Ching Shih, China's female pirate, commandeered a confederation of 50,000 ships - larger than most countries’ navies. * Black Beard raided Charlestown, and had it under siege for 5 days. He then marooned his own men on an island to keep the booty himself. * Two men were rich, well-educated noblemen who turned to piracy : Sir Francis Varney and Henry Mainwaring * Captain Kidd is responsible for the "buried treasure" myths associated with pirates. Incredulously, he never even intended to become one. * Pirate Will Duell was hanged in 1740, but the autopsy surgeon discovered him still breathing. In 2 hours he was sitting upright... and freed by authorities. * Piracy was the direct result of conquistador plundering. Between 1596-1600 alone, Spain shipped in $774 million of indigenous gold * Panama was a pirate haven in the 1600's, inhabited mostly by black slaves * About 4% of pirates were married, and many brought significant others aboard. * Laws aboard pirate ships were democratic. Captains were elected by their crew. * On-board robbery was punished by slicing off ears/nose, or desertion on an island to starve * London's execution dock near the Tower saw pirate hangings for 400 years * Speeches of convicted pirates were printed, published and sold very well days after the execution * Many pirates were defiant as they were hanged. "Better to die free on the seas than be chained by the state" was the pirate creed. * Non-violent ship seizure was preferred. If a merchant ship surrendered to pirates peacefully, the latter would stave off all violence and even reward the crew. * Ship carpenters were forced to join pirate brigades, as all ships faced rotting and worm infestation. * Pirates reached their peak in 1720, with 2000 roaming the seas. Three years later, that number was halved. * King George I pardoned all pirates in 1717 with a proclamation so successful, 300 pirates voluntarily surrendered in Jamaica alone. * British navy squadrons converted many defeated pirate vessels into warships * "The horrors of the slave trade are well-known, but what is not so well-known is that white seamen died in the same proportion as black slaves. One white in three died in his first 4 months in Africa." * Pirates were captured via word of mouth. With thousands of inlets along American, African, and Caribbean coasts, news of hide-outs would spread amongst ships or small craft plying trade. A colony governor or East India/Royal African Company agent reported this to the crown, and a warship was dispatched.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Thanks to Treasure Island and Peter Pan when someone mentions "pirate" a certain swashbuckling image is conjured up, perhaps Errol Flynn rescuing some handsome maiden. Unfortunately most of that mythology has little basis in fact. Walking the plank, for example has no historical basis according to David Cordingly in Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Pirates rarely had the time; anyone who resisted was hacked to pieces and thrown overboard. Extreme violence Thanks to Treasure Island and Peter Pan when someone mentions "pirate" a certain swashbuckling image is conjured up, perhaps Errol Flynn rescuing some handsome maiden. Unfortunately most of that mythology has little basis in fact. Walking the plank, for example has no historical basis according to David Cordingly in Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates. Pirates rarely had the time; anyone who resisted was hacked to pieces and thrown overboard. Extreme violence was common. Chinese pirates, in particular, had a reputation for cruelty, but survivors of pirate attacks in the Caribbean reported little chivalry on the part of their captors. Pirates have existed for centuries. There are numerous reports of Greek and Roman pirates and in South American ports today it is not uncommon for slow merchant vessels with containers to be boarded by crew from fast small river boats who seem to know precisely which containers contain the most salable merchandise, break into them, take what they want and are long gone. The crews of today's ships are so small, and the vessels so large, and the risks so great that usually little resistance is offered. (See John McPhee's Looking for a Ship for a contemporary account.) Countries at war would issue " of marque" that authorized ship captains and their crews to prey on the enemy's shipping/ In theory, anything taken was supposed to be turned over to the issuing sovereign who then returned a share to captain and crew. It could be very profitable for an enterprising captain sovereign who then returned a share to captain and crew. It could be very profitable for an enterprising captain. Pirates were about 90% ex-seamen, most coming from ships that had been attacked. They elected their own captains who could be deposed if they were not daring or decisive enough to suit the crew. None of them was particularly humane and could honestly be called "lazy" by nature, given to bouts of heavy drinking. The crew often was racially mixed but blacks were given the hardest and most menial jobs and slaves were stolen and sold with the rest of the booty. One interesting tidbit from Cordingly's most interesting book is the derivation of the dollar sign. Pieces-of-eight, or pesos, had twin towers representing the pillars of Hercules stamped on them. At one time pesos were the most common currency in the Americas and the twin towers soon evolved into $

  18. 5 out of 5

    =====D

    nothing but nonsense and mundane trivia here: the thesis of this book seems to be that, get this, pirates were not the cool characters they have been portrayed as by literature, art, and media. No shit! Not discussed is much of anything of actual interest about the pirates lifestyles, motives, social organization, etc., which, when contextualized by the parallel institutions in society at large, is nothing short of fascinating. Perhaps try the new book about how pirates were both mere merchants, nothing but nonsense and mundane trivia here: the thesis of this book seems to be that, get this, pirates were not the cool characters they have been portrayed as by literature, art, and media. No shit! Not discussed is much of anything of actual interest about the pirates lifestyles, motives, social organization, etc., which, when contextualized by the parallel institutions in society at large, is nothing short of fascinating. Perhaps try the new book about how pirates were both mere merchants, as well as forerunners of democracies to come in their means of organizing the ships' chain of command... i don't have the title at hand but it should be easy to find, the review seemed promising.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pearl

    Ah matey,I wanted to like this SO MUCH, but alas, it just goes over the plain ship biscuit facts that anyone with any interest in Golden Age Piracy (I.e ME, your girl) has ready absorbed over podcasts and other books and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I don’t know what I’m looking for in a pirate history book anymore honestly. Something like a spiritual history of Pirates and Buccaneers? Like Maria Negroni’s ‘Dark Museum’ which was a little DELIGHTFUL slice of life on the Gothic, informed but not Ah matey,I wanted to like this SO MUCH, but alas, it just goes over the plain ship biscuit facts that anyone with any interest in Golden Age Piracy (I.e ME, your girl) has ready absorbed over podcasts and other books and Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I don’t know what I’m looking for in a pirate history book anymore honestly. Something like a spiritual history of Pirates and Buccaneers? Like Maria Negroni’s ‘Dark Museum’ which was a little DELIGHTFUL slice of life on the Gothic, informed but not limited by the facts? It’s a tall and specific order I know. It’s just that this thing reads like a university paper written by a first year. Subject, cause, effect- again and again - only loosely grouped by very basic themes. There’s more to it and I know it. There was a reason for the romance of pirates, the call of the ocean and gently swaying palm fronds. It’s all there- if only I could find another piece of media that has understood that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jen

    read for class, but a surprisingly readable book — at least compared to some of the other academic texts out there that i’ve read. this would be a great start for anyone looking to get into the academic side of the history piracy. i didn’t agree with all his points and arguments, but the research is solid

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rory

    Mostly engaging narrative history peppered with occasional deathly-dull catalogues of trivia. I’m sure someone out there is grateful for the half a chapter illuminating the differences between sloops, schooners etc. but it’s not me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    If you're interested in the difference between corsairs (Mediterranean pirates) and buccaneers (Caribbean pirates), or stealth gaming 17th century style, then this is definitely the book for you. It's a dry read, but filled with valuable, concisely written information that disproves most of the beliefs one might have regarding a swashbuckling, romantic life on the seas. "Pirates of the Caribbean" only existed in the movies :) If you're interested in the difference between corsairs (Mediterranean pirates) and buccaneers (Caribbean pirates), or stealth gaming 17th century style, then this is definitely the book for you. It's a dry read, but filled with valuable, concisely written information that disproves most of the beliefs one might have regarding a swashbuckling, romantic life on the seas. "Pirates of the Caribbean" only existed in the movies :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy the book-bat

    The book was interesting, but after a while it started to become monotonous. I liked the literary analysis and how literature and history came together on some aspects.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paige McLoughlin

    I saw the author talking about this book on C-span Book TV in 1997 back in the days of cable and picked up the book soon after. It is an entertaining history of the romance of pirates during the Golden age of piracy around 1690 to 1730 in the Caribbean. It has an interesting women's study twist. It seems although the world of sailors mostly excluded women pirates had some notable exceptions. Characters like Anne Bonney and Mary Read carried guns so they weren't Molls along for the ride but real I saw the author talking about this book on C-span Book TV in 1997 back in the days of cable and picked up the book soon after. It is an entertaining history of the romance of pirates during the Golden age of piracy around 1690 to 1730 in the Caribbean. It has an interesting women's study twist. It seems although the world of sailors mostly excluded women pirates had some notable exceptions. Characters like Anne Bonney and Mary Read carried guns so they weren't Molls along for the ride but real pirates. It covers the reality and brutal actions and lives of Pirates or Privateers (pirates who went after foreign ships for their government) the lawlessness of the seas which is a perennial problem but hit its stride in the era discussed and horrible conditions one experience as a pirate lifestyle that had an average life expectancy of two or three years after recruitment voluntary or otherwise. Really good book on this subject.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lucio A. Bianchi

    I finished this book in one night and do not reject the possibility of reading it again sometime in the future. As a historian I am a sucker for Naval/Maritime history but I had never read a book quite like this yet. It is a concise and clear account of the history and life of pirates which includes everything from their clothing to references in pop culture. All and all, 5 star rating. Really, really a great book!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sparrow

    I remember buying this book in high school at the start of my obsession. But I never got around to reading it; I picked it up and gave it a scan while I was cleaning out my shelves and decided to let it go. Enter audiobooks. Decided to give it another shot. The audiobook narrator was decent, but I do think some of the drier chapters really suffered. I was more interested in some topics than others, such as the women pirates (I never heard of the Irish and Danish pirates!) and debunked myths. Overa I remember buying this book in high school at the start of my obsession. But I never got around to reading it; I picked it up and gave it a scan while I was cleaning out my shelves and decided to let it go. Enter audiobooks. Decided to give it another shot. The audiobook narrator was decent, but I do think some of the drier chapters really suffered. I was more interested in some topics than others, such as the women pirates (I never heard of the Irish and Danish pirates!) and debunked myths. Overall, a worthy, well-written book that really focused on its thesis.

  27. 4 out of 5

    catechism

    Probably closer to 3.5 stars, but whatever. This is a good survey/intro to the Fact vs Fiction of piracy. "Here is a myth about pirates, and here are two places it might have come from but basically it's crap." It's not particularly deep and it has no narrative, but it's well-researched and would make a good starting point for people who, just saying, might be writing fanfiction about pirates. Probably closer to 3.5 stars, but whatever. This is a good survey/intro to the Fact vs Fiction of piracy. "Here is a myth about pirates, and here are two places it might have come from but basically it's crap." It's not particularly deep and it has no narrative, but it's well-researched and would make a good starting point for people who, just saying, might be writing fanfiction about pirates.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Constantly looking through this book for references for my wip

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    DNF @ 50%. I really wanted to like this but it was just so boring

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    This covers a lot of the same information as Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates but is more lackluster. A fine book, but ultimately a forgettable one for me, probably. This covers a lot of the same information as Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates but is more lackluster. A fine book, but ultimately a forgettable one for me, probably.

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