From Publishers Weekly
Historian and journalist Kritzler brings the political and religious ramifications of Caribbean pirating into a whole new context while explaining how the Jewish diaspora funded piracy to advance their religious (and financial) freedom in the New World. Through a deft combination of factual overview and anecdotes involving some of the more colorful figures of the time, Kritzler paints a unique picture of this perhaps over-exposed period of history. For centuries in Europe, Jews were shunted from country to country, exploited by penurious rulers for their financial acumen and promptly persecuted after the country became solvent (most egregiously in Spain). By financing piracy, the Jews ensured their own survival, as well as monopolizing the most lucrative income sources Europe had seen in centuries. While figures like Henry Morgan and Barbarossa will leap out at readers familiar with pirate lore, the little-known "pirate rabbi" Samuel Palache will excite just as much interest. Though Kritzler tends to leap from topic to topic, he covers an impressive interdisciplinary range-combining politics, economics and religion-that should satisfy fans of religious history and swashbuckling true stories.
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Perhaps this entertaining and surprising book is an example of ethnic-identity chest-thumping gone wild, but, yes, there really were Jewish pirates who ran amok, sort of, on the Spanish Main in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Most of them were Sephardic Jews whose ancestors had been expelled from Spain or Portugal, and revenge was certainly a motivation for some. Their natural allies were England and the Dutch Republic, and the major characters were less freewheeling buccaneers than paid privateers. This is a wide-ranging saga filled with attractive and repellant personalities, including a warrior rabbi, a shady arms dealer, and loathsome Spanish inquisitors. Pirates and their exploits lend themselves to over-the-top romantic fantasies. In fact, the naval warfare in the Caribbean was frequently brutal, with no “hint” of pirate honor. Kritzler captures the spirit of that violent, lawless epoch and combines it with an interesting ethnic perspective. --Jay Freeman
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