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The Sack of Panamá: Captain Morgan and the Battle for the Caribbean Hardcover – February 6, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0312361426 ISBN-10: 0312361424 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312361424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312361426
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest vivid and well-researched account of the great era of piracy, historian Earle (The Pirate Wars, etc.) focuses on the greatest achievement of the English corsairs who sailed to Jamaica and their leader Henry Morgan. The capture and sack of Panama in 1671 was the culmination of five years of no-quarter warfare between Spain and Britain in the Caribbean. During that time, one island was captured three times by different people; two cities and three towns were sacked; and Morgan's buccaneers annihilated a Spanish fleet in less than two hours. Earle's extensive use of unexplored Spanish records enables him to avoid the triumphalism of most Anglocentric accounts of these operations. Still, it's clear that Morgan and his followers were willing to accept almost any risk to make profit and harm Spain, and were vicious even by 17th-century standards. The Spaniards appear consistently behind the curve, ascribing their catastrophes to God's will instead of developing their ability to fight back. Ultimately, the English government ended buccaneering's heyday, to preserve a treaty that ended the war with Spain in Europe—but hopes for friendly relations in the Caribbean were destroyed by the flames in Panama on January 28, 1671. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Pirate Captain Henry Morgan's raid was the last in a series of attacks on Spanish possessions in the Caribbean, all of which were authorized by the British government. Earle depicts the five years leading up to the raid, followed by a description of Morgan's capture and sack of the city of Panama. Earle covers four campaigns by the Jamaican privateers, culminating in the expedition to Panama and one successful counterattack by the Spaniards, revealing that "altogether, we have one island captured three times by different people, two cities and three towns captured and sacked, and one of the most extraordinary fleet actions in naval history." The narrative offers nearly as much space to the Spaniards, who were the victims, as to the Jamaican privateers themselves. Earle also chronicles the reaction in Spain and England to the events in the West Indies and examines the attempts made by the Spanish colonists in the Indies to defend themselves from their enemies in Jamaica. The result is an intensely engaging account of adventure. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Very well written.
Grayknight
Classic movies like "Sea Hawk" and "Captain Blood" finally made it to DVD... and Earle's brilliant book, "The Sack of Panama," has finally been re-released.
Scott Chamberlain
Especially interesting was the viewpoint of the Spanish, which includes the politics and infighting that is an important part of the story.
Ian H. Dillon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Scott Chamberlain VINE VOICE on March 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One of the best things about the ongoing popularity of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies is that they have urged other studios and publishers to release treasures from their vaults in order to capitalize on the boom. Classic movies like "Sea Hawk" and "Captain Blood" finally made it to DVD... and Earle's brilliant book, "The Sack of Panama," has finally been re-released.

The book, originally published by a relatively small British press in 1981, is a nod to good ol' fashioned narrative history--unlike the "social" histories of the last half-century, it tells a single story with well-defined characters with a "plot." This isn't even a broader history of piracy, just a single historical moment.

And what a moment! Morgan's attack on Panama City (with its various antecedents) is the stuff of epics: unendurable hardship, audacity, the clash of nations, brilliant strategies made on the fly, heroism and cowardice... its all in there, larger than life. Earle does a fantastic job of chronicling these events, but wraps them around the emotions, scents and tactile sensations of the time that the reader really feels a part of this incredible adventure. I particularly remember the horrifying moment when Morgan's men, having survived an unbelievably harrowing overland march across the Panamanian isthmus where they faced starvation and disease, set upon cattle grazing outside Panama City, desperately eating the meat raw. Moments later, they set their murderous, blood-splattered eyes on on the city for the first time, and I though with a chill, "Oh, ----! This is gonna be ugly!"

But even better, Earle uses this single moment to illuminate the broader history of the era.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Edwin Burgess on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Earle, a much published historian at the University of London, tells the tale of Henry Morgan and the destruction of the Spanish port of Panama. His story is a bit academic in tone but manages to imbue the remarkable events with a considerable degree of immediacy. He dwells little on Morgan's early life and stops with the sack of Panama in 1671, not considering the spectacular destruction of Morgan's home, Port Royal, Jamaica, by earthquake and tsunami. He dwells on the remarkably democratic relationships among the Brethren, in which leaders were elected and shares paid out on the basis of negotiated qualifications (grenadiers were paid extra for each bomb they threw; loss of limb was to be compensated, and physicians were awarded extra shares). Includes some decent sketch maps, notes, and a good bibliography. Well worth it for those interested. Might want to read this at the same time as "Empire of Blue Water," by Stephan Talty, which covers much the same events in more jornalistic fashion, but includes more of Morgan's life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on March 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to imagine that a pirate band would be able to take over and then sack an entire city. Yet it happened. Henry Morgan was, I suppose, technically not a pirate but a privateer operating with a commission from the British Government. He must have been quite a leader as he was able to gather fleets and armies of substantial size - nothing compared to a real navy, but with a couple of thousand men his was a major force in the Caribbean at the time.

This book is the result of exhaustive research. For the first time major Spanish sources of information has been able to be included. This includes the almost unstudied sources in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville.

The result comes out that you don't quite know if Morgan is to be considered a hero or villain. Henry Morgan was knighted and was one of the few pirates to retire, living another 13 years in Jamaica.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DiG on June 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Earl does it again. There have been a few titles on Henry Morgan's exploits on the Spanish Main lately, but this one really stands out from the pack. Earl's excellent bibliography demonstrates his superior scholarship and the maps are an excellent addition, although I do wish there were more. Still, for understanding the privateer mind in the political climate of the mid to late 17th century, I haven't found a better book. It's a great, fun read, and includes details that the military history buff will enjoy and likely not find elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian H. Dillon on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one of those books that you cannot put down after you start reading it. It provides an excellent insight to the 15th century Caribbean world. It is well researched and well documented. Especially interesting was the viewpoint of the Spanish, which includes the politics and infighting that is an important part of the story. This book has reinvigorated my interested in a fascinating time period.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Earle has done a fine scholarly job in presenting the activities of the privateers carrying Letters Of Marque from the British colony of Jamaica from 1666 to 1671. It must be emphasized for the modern reader raised on silly Hollywood treatments of pirates that these letters or commissions were what legalized a privateer and distinguished him from a pirate. One can make the case, however, that many privateers would have done what they did without such commissions as fighting, robbing, drinking and whoring was simply their way of life.

Nonetheless, this work covers a very limited period and my only objection was that it didn't cover more. The author's writing style and scholarly approach were excellent, and he does not apply modern concepts of warfare -- particularly the prohibition of torture and its prescribed good treatment of prisoners and civilians -- that did not apply in the 1660s. The work begins with the privateer recapture of Santa Catalina for England and concludes with the capture, destruction and looting of the city of Panama. Sir Henry Morgan and the Governor of Jamaica, Sir Thomas Modyford, are the principal characters in this drama, although the author develops many other important players in his narrative. And for the uninitiated, Charles II was the King of England at the time of these events, not Elizabeth I.

Author Earle relys on a number of historical sources, but in particular the Spanish letters and reports in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville that cover these events from the Spanish side are the most important. He uses other sources such as Joseph (or Alexander) Esquemeling (or Exquemelin), an eyewitness to many of the events who wrote "The History Of The Bucaniers Of America" originally in Dutch in 1678.
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