From Publishers Weekly
Forget the pirates of the Caribbean: their Old World brethren were an altogether more colorful and fearsome lot, according to this swashbuckling study. Historian Tinniswood (The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England) revisits the kleptocratic heyday of the Barbary states--Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, bits of Morocco--which offered fortified harbors to pirates and in turn built their economies around the sale of stolen cargoes and captives. The buccaneers, who kidnapped whole villages as far north as Ireland and Iceland, were denounced as the scourge of Christendom. Yet most of the "Turkish" pirates Tinniswood highlights were British, Dutch, or Italian renegades who sometimes bought pardons and obtained naval commands from their native countries. The million Christians sold into bondage often converted to Islam and became pillars of the North African economy. The author makes this story an entertaining picaresque of crime, combat, and moral compromise; fierce sea battles and daring escapes alternate with corrupt hagglings as European governments vacillate between gunboat diplomacy and offering tribute for the release of their enslaved countrymen. Tinniswood gives us both a rollicking narrative and a rich brew of early modern maritime history. Illus., map. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
For those who think of pirates as one-eyed rogues proclaiming “shiver me timbers” while flying the Jolly Roger, this interesting and exciting work will be full of surprises. Tinniswood has concentrated this account on the seventeenth century, when pirates based on the shores of North Africa consistently plundered European ships and seized captives, either enslaving or holding them for ransom. But these pirates were far from the freewheeling mold of Long John Silver or Jack Sparrow. They operated with the full support of the so-called Barbary States of North Africa—Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers. Those states owed nominal allegiance to the Sultan in Istanbul, and the government there saw piracy as a useful tool against the Christian West. Surprisingly, some of the most prominent pirates were English-born sailors who “turned Turk” and converted to Islam. Tinniswood shows a certain admiration for the dash and raw courage of these men, but he doesn’t minimize their ruthlessness or the suffering of their victims. --Jay Freeman