So, before I read this book, I have to apologize. I’m pretty sure that someone (Haddock, perhaps?) recommended this book to me, and I forgot about it, and then I read a review and said “that book sounds sweet,” so I ordered it. But when it arrived, it seemed really familiar, which made me think that someone had told me about it at some point. So if you recommended this book to me, let me know, so I can give you at least partial credit.
This is a book about pirates. It’s also a book about the mythology and legends which surround pirates and piracy. In addition to laying out a bunch of great stuff from the golden age of piracy, ranging from the types of ships used by pirates to the punishments meted out, it also attempts to analyze why we find pirates so captivating and romantic.
Because the pirate mythos is definitely enduring. Even in the golden age of piracy, when pirates were a serious menace to shipping, pirates were romanticized in story and song. Today, with over 90 reported incidents of piracy a year around Southeast Asia (and growing), we are still fascinated by pirates, even though, as Cordingly points out, they are little more than water-borne robbers.
If you are at all interested in the historical reality of pirates, especially New World pirates, you need to check this book out. It’s a really exhaustive survey, backed up with a bunch of solid research. I loved the chapter on female pirates especially, but the discussion of pirate discipline and the pirate lifestyle was also really interesting.
The book profiled a lot of colorful characters without succumbing to the temptation to glorify them (or exaggerate), and it provided all sorts of neat historical context. One might even say (if you can forgive me) that there’s some buried treasure in here.
Under the Black Flag, by David Cordingly. Published 1995, 296 pages. History.