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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean, Second Edition [Paperback]

by Barry R. Burg
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 1995 0814712363 978-0814712368

Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children's tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride.

In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice.

In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed.

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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean, Second Edition + Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates
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Editorial Reviews


"A great . . . very interesting book."

-Johnny Depp,

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

-Christopher Hill,New York Review of Books

About the Author

B.R. Burg is Professor of History at Arizona State University and the author of Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, also available from NYU Press.

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: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
229 of 278 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arrgh mateys September 8, 2000
By shoeboy
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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46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry and speculative August 2, 2002
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, it did happen, so there!! December 6, 1998
By A Customer
One needs to take their hat off to Mr. Burg for an excellent book of the life and times of English family life in the 17th and 18th Centuries. He certainly searched through qiute a lot of archival material to find many of the accounts contained within this unique book. Cats who are abandoned are known as feral cats and are not, as rule very sociable. So who would have believed that children (both boys and girls) would be asked to leave their homes at a very young age and fend for themselves? Who would have believed that society would have turned a blind eye to sodomy, or in many cases, pederasty? It is worth noting that since these "feral" boys had probably never seen or had known about heterosexual sex between two consenting adults, sex to these boys was probably considered a rite of initiation, or at other times, a recreational pastime at best. There were two entries within Burg's book which I found to be of special note. When a pirate ship seized a merchant ship in the Indian Ocean, the ship was borded, the crew was murdered and the only woman on the ship was tossed into the ocean. She was probably seen as a piece of worthless baggage in the pirate's eyes. In another instance, a sixteen year old from England (John Durrant) was engaged in sexual activity with a Hindu man (Abdul Rhyme). The incident happened in plain view of the other pirates and was considered normal behavior. But since John Durrant should have realized that a Christian should not have intimate relationships with heathens, both he and his "lover" were punished for his indiscretion upon the ship's arrival in England. They were sentenced to 40 lashes, with an administration of water and salt applied to their wounds. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars not as interesting as I hoped
I was looking for more about the pirate society in the Caribbean more time was devoted in the contemporary English. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Randall Knol
2.0 out of 5 stars Six Problems with "Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition"
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... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Earl R. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Important and essential reading, even it imperfect.
Overall, this book is an excellent assimilation of data that provides a compelling, if sometimes circumstantial, argument that homosexual activity or homosexuality itself was an... Read more
Published 8 months ago by PS
2.0 out of 5 stars Reconstitute - just add water.
This is purely a scholarly tome, which is absolutely fine - if one is a scholar. Hollywood taught me that pirates either ravaged women captives or, in courtly fashion, released... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Punychick
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry academic read.
Not what I expected. Too much time spent on things other than the topic suggested by the title. I bought to earn learn more about the everyday life of the pirate, sadly... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Orville Lunk
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful gift
Classic Novel. Wonderful History of Piracy. Don"t let the title put you off. Great For fans of Tails of the Sea.
Published 16 months ago by James
1.0 out of 5 stars Johnny Depp read this before he starred in "Pirates of the Carribean"
If Johnny Depp read it, I thought it must be good. Great picture of Blackbeard on the cover. I don't know what I expected, (besides exciting pirate sex secrets) but it was almost... Read more
Published on March 11, 2011 by Marcey
4.0 out of 5 stars good
The person stating there are no sources is quite wrong. There are several sources that support much of the activity Burg writes about. Read more
Published on October 10, 2007 by Senna777
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is a terrifically readable book which should fascinate anyone even remotely interested in its subject. Read more
Published on October 15, 2006 by Phaeton
1.0 out of 5 stars Bullwaste and the Pirate Tradition

As a member of the gay minority in a rather ultra-conservative, down-home town in northeastern Ohio, it was at first quite a pick-me-up and a treat to read... Read more
Published on July 17, 2006 by sad pirate
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