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Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes Paperback – March 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Lamborn Wilson is a notorious underground intellectual who has written histories of heretical sufism, spiritual anarchism in Colonial America, hallucinogenic mushroom lore in Irish literature, and other traditions of autonomy in pre-modern and modern times. He lives in upstate New York.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Autonomedia; 2 Rev Sub edition (March 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570271585
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570271588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By The trebuchet on June 6, 2005
Those familiar with this author know his areas of interest and what to expect from him in general, but in this case the particular subject matter imposes some additional constraints. Those who have done any reading on pirates in general know that it's very difficult to find a book that's actually interesting that doesn't wander too far off into wild speculation (or downright fiction). Pirates of any kind were not, for the most part, prolific writers; there are few first-hand accounts of their lives to draw from. In this book Wilson counts on his reader to be understanding of the difficulties he faces in trying to put together the story of the Corsairs and Renegadoes, and for the most part his effort is interesting enough to make you forget its shortcomings.

Wilson's account centers on the corsair republic of Sale, which presents a particular challenge in that there is less documentary evidence for him to work with than the better-known corsair enclaves in Algiers. Nonetheless he leans heavily on the sources he does have, and I thought I was in for a rough read when, about halfway through the book, he included a chapter that was essentially page after page of quoted material, with only a sentence or two of his own writing to break it up.

This does not last for too long, however, as the later portions of the book get more speculative and interesting. The author's usual areas of interest are all in play: Islamic mysticism, egalitarian/anarchist ideals, a sprinkling of vice and pederasty, etc. Some of his speculations are particularly dubious, as when he concludes that the Renegadoes were cannabis users based primarily on a single hand-drawn sketch of three men laughing, but for the most part Wilson is good about not attempting to pass these things off as historic fact.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Kei on September 20, 2010
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Since Milton published his (dubious) speculation that Barbary corsairs carried off a million Westerners to slavery in North African, numerous websites have popped up citing his view as if it were historical truth. The historical record supports up to fifty thousand captives in Barbary, which is far shy of the sensationalistic claims that a modern public--wanting to think that Islam has always had it in for them--is willing to believe. War hawks frequently trot out the Tripolitan Wars as an example of how the United States today ought to treat Muslim opponents today. (Bomb them.) A book like Pirate Utopias, in which Wilson studies a Barbary community with a genuine interest in its people and no political burdens, is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Wilson examines the Sallee Republic, an independent pirate public, or more correctly as he points out three pirate republics, as the three factions were autonomous and even waged war on one another, in order to understand who these people were, what motivated them, and why so many Europeans were willing to turn renegade and join them. The Muslim motivation -- retaliation against European, especially Spanish raids and marauding, religious zeal, and a lust for profit, are actually well documented and understood, although generally ignored by most readers and writers. Wilson covers that, but where he performs a real service is in examining the renegades. By an understanding of the opportunities and freedoms in the Sallee Republic and the oppressions and poverty in Europe, he makes a compelling case why a rational Westerner might choose to throw in his lot with the rovers.

Wilson engages in a fair amount of speculation which he properly identifies as such, but some of his conclusions are not persuasive.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Brent Cain on August 12, 2012
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I ordered this particular book as I was researching my 11th great grandfather....
Murat Reis aka Jan Janszoon van Haarlem (b. abt 1575 d. abt. 1641)a Barbary pirate of re-known originally from the Netherlands, who's son, Anthony Jansen van Salee (b. 1607 ) is also discussed in the book as one of the very early settlers of New Amsterdam (New York) in abt. 1630.
Both were quite colorful and notable was Anthony's wife Greitje Reinjers....

The book was just what I wanted to add to my collection concerning family genealogy.

Some in depth info about a lot o notable pirates.

Delivery was fast, book in great condition and packaging well done.
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