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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean, Second Edition Paperback – March 1, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0814712368 ISBN-10: 0814712363

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Product Details

  • Series: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (March 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814712363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814712368
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Burg puts historians to shame by raising extremely interesting questions that no one before had asked."

-Christopher Hill,New York Review of Books

"A great . . . very interesting book."

-Johnny Depp,

About the Author

B. R. Burg is Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition.

Customer Reviews

I don't want to be a pirate anymore.
Marcey
If ye be lookin for gripping adventure on the high seas, this be the book for ye.
shoeboy
These chapters hold most of what you're probably reading the book for.
J. P. Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

232 of 284 people found the following review helpful By shoeboy on September 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ahoy me fine salty sailors. If ye be lookin for gripping adventure on the high seas, this be the book for ye. It hoisted me mizzen mast and shivered me timbers, Yar! If you've ever wondered exactly what to do with a drunken sailor, this is the book for you. The author, Barry Richard Burg is a great expert on seamen and it really shows through. I was dissapointed to find that the nautical phrase "a three days blow" didn't mean what I thought it did, but the author's loving descriptions of how these pirates would oil each other up with whale blubber and lash each other with the cat o' nine tails more than made up for it. I'm tempted to go summon my cockswain, rent "The Pirate Movie", then kick back and mourn the passing of the days when burly pirates would start their day by opening the seacock and pumping furiously. Customers who bought titles by Barry Richard Burg also bought titles by J. K. Rowling -- coincidence? I think not.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Anderson on August 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
While there are certainly some interesting tidbits here and there, WAY too much of the book is of the form "since no records survive to show X is false, and those records that do exist are compromised in the following ways ..., we may assume that X is true."
Chapter One is a 40-page example of this; it can safely be skipped, as it is summarized in the first few words of Chapter Two: "Seventeenth-century Englishmen on all status levels were remarkably indulgent with homosexuality."
Those with only a casual interest in the subject should skim Chapters Two and Three and read the last two chapters, Buccaneer Sexuality and The Buccaneer Community. These chapters hold most of what you're probably reading the book for. Here are the bits about pirates and sex. Unfortunately, they are usually only a sentence or two long. Burg uses the little stories to construct an argument, not a narrative.
This last comment is not a criticism; he's clearly not setting out to tell a tale of high-seas adventure. (If you want this, go back to Melville.) A criticism: Burg often seems to overreach in the conclusions he draws from his sources (or lack of sources).
What looks to be a more satisfying read is "Gay Warriors," edited by the same author. This is an anthology of original sources from Homer to the present day, on the topic of "gays in the military."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Klingberg on December 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
This was an excellent scholarly study of the social conditions that led men and boys to become pirates. The previous title was "Sodomy and the Perception of Evil," which is probably more apt. It's rather a shame that such a well-researched, scholarly book may be mistaken for a larkish commentary on gay pirates. The author is aware of this, and in fact many of his fellow researchers refused to be acknowledged by name, unwilling to be associated with a topic that is still controversial. What a shame that respectable historians whose research happens to include the topic of sodomy should remain anonymous, as if they are authors of pornography. This book is anything but prurient. Only one chapter deals directly with buccaneer sexuality, as much as it is possible to do so with so little documentation. The author does manage to unearth some truly obscure references and I don't think any historian could possibly know more about pirate sexuality, a topic which is inherently difficult to research because of the low literacy rates in the 16-18th centuries, and the inherent unwillingness of people to document intimate sexual details, particularly those relating to homosexual acts.

However the rest of the book is more of a history of the economic and social conditions that drove men to piracy, often involuntarily. Military "press gangs" forced men into naval service, and many escaped to pirate ships where they had more freedom and more financial gain than in the navy. Pirates themselves often forced their captives to become pirates at the threat of death. The romantic image of freedom-loving pirates is far from the truth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Earl R. Anderson on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No formal study is needed to realize that 17th-century life on a pirate ship would have included homosexuality; most often in the form of cabin boys raped by their captains and young sailors importuned by seasoned mariners. No evidence of this exists for 17th-century pirates, but a case can by made by analogy to 18th-century maritime cases and to modern prisons. Burg draws a larger picture, of a "pirate community" stocked with lifelong romantic companions, based on analogies and deductions. The lack of empirical evidence is a problem, of course; and there are six others, which Burg fails to address.

First, homophobia is the typical condition of homosocial groups, especially in close quarters. Burg never mentions this problem.

Second, the problem of toleration (pp. 1-41). Anyone who studies Old Bailey records will know that prosecutions for sodomy were scarce before the 1720s, and then gradually increased and erupted into intermittent but virulent anti-sodomy campaigns in London during the 1740s through the 80s. Burg assumes that earlier, in 17th-century England, an air of toleration allowed sodomy to flourish; but there may be other reasons for the dearth of court cases. Maybe the Magistrates discouraged sodomy-prosecutions because they were tawdry and often trumped up, in a culture where the threat of "calling sodomy" was a device in the extortionist's criminal tool-kit. Men who were accused of sodomy were also accused of rape, pederasty, masturbation, exhibitionism, bestiality with a mare or a mule, and political or religious thought-crimes. (Some men, indeed, were accused of all of the above.
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