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The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730 Paperback – January 15, 2007


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The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730 + Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates + A General History of the Pyrates (Dover Maritime)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book on Golden Age piracy is as lively as its subject matter...With considerable gusto and an impressive understanding of the strategies of violence at sea, the author explores the material practices of piracy from the beginning to the end of a voyage."
--Claire Jowitt, Nottingham Trent University, The Historian, Summer 2008


". . . .rich in colourful detail, and displays impressive knowledge of sailing and fighting skills."
--Richard Hill, The Naval Review, August 2007


"Be prepared--after reading only a few pages--to feel the wind in your face and taste the salt air."
--Jack A. Gottschalk, Naval War College Review, Autumn 2006


"[An] author of truly heroic status...a book without precedent--a small tome of combat knowledge as it applies to our pirate forebears. . . . It's one thing for a historian to write about old naval tactics. It's quite another when that historian is a former Navy SEAL. . . . A truly exceptional book."
--Bilgemunky.com, 2006


"[Little's] unique insight gives us a truly practical guide on the strategies and techniques used by the successful pirate or privateer... If I were headed out a-rovin' and were allowed only one book in my sea bag, this would be the one I'd bring."
--Michael MacLeod, No Quarter Given


"Rich in colourful detail, and displays impressive knowledge of sailing and fighting skills."—Naval Review
(Naval Review 2007-09-07)

“This book on Golden Age piracy is as lively as its subject matter…With considerable gusto and an impressive understanding of the strategies of violence at sea, the author explores the material practices of piracy from the beginning to the end of a voyage. Little’s book is particularly strong in its description of the armaments and tactics of warfare at sea…The scholarship is also strong...Little’s achievement in The Sea Rover’s Practice is a considerable one; this well-priced and absorbing book allows the reader to appreciate the terms of engagement, and the stakes, in the much romanticized but little understood phenomena of early modern piracy.”—The Historian
(The Historian 2008-07-10)

"As colorful as a Howard Pyle illustration and as compelling as an Errol Flynn film, The Sea Rover's Practice belongs on anyone’s short list of useful scholarship on the great age of piracy. Based largely on first-person accounts, the book provides a trustworthy description of how pirates, filibusters, buccaneers, and privateers went about their business, from planning and recruiting, through chasing, engaging, and boarding, to dividing the spoils. One of the many intriguing facts to be gleaned, for instance, is the origins of the practice of ‘small plunder by custom’ that continued to be included in the privateering articles of agreement of later eras. The reader, entertained as well as informed, is likely to have nearly as much fun reading this book as the author appears to have had in writing it."—Michael J. Crawford, naval historian and editor of The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution
(Michael J. Crawford)

"A remarkably complete analysis of methods used in piracy, especially in Europe and America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is based on solid research and is especially valuable for understanding the language and literature of the subject. It includes useful notes and bibliographies and is a highly recommended reference work for both general and specialized libraries."—Norman J. W. Thrower, professor emeritus of geography at UCLA, and author of Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society
(Norman J. W. Thrower)

"Benerson Little brings a unique and powerful perspective--that of a scholarly former U.S. Navy SEAL--to a fascinating subject. The result is a remarkable book that casts much new light on the sea rovers of the Age of Sail."—Frank Sherry, author of Raiders and Rebels: The Golden Age of Piracy
(Frank Sherry)

"[The Sea Rover's Practice] will be of high interest to the maritime spectrum, from armchair sailors to admirals. . . . Within the book's well documented twenty-three chapters, Little provides fascinationg material on pirate personalities and their lives both ashore and at sea. . . This is a really good book. Be prepared--after reading only a few pages--to feel the wind in your face and taste the salt air."—Naval War College Review
(Naval War College Review)

From the Publisher

"As colorful as a Howard Pyle illustration and as compelling as an Errol Flynn film."—Michael J. Crawford, naval historian and editor of The Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner: Christopher Prince and the American Revolution

"A remarkable book that casts much new light on the sea rovers of the Age of Sail." — Frank Sherry, author of Raiders and Rebels: The Golden Age of Piracy

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; New edition edition (January 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574889117
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574889116
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Key West, Florida, Benerson Little grew up variously on all three US coasts. Following his graduation from Tulane University, he entered the US Navy and served as an officer for eight years, most of them as a Navy SEAL. Upon completion of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1983 (BUDS Class 121), he was assigned first to SEAL Team THREE, then to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team ONE. After resigning his commission in 1989, he worked variously as a military and special operations analyst, including for the Naval Special Warfare Strategy and Tactics Group, and also as an analyst for a private intelligence collection and analysis firm. He now works as a writer and consultant in several areas, with an emphasis on maritime and naval issues. He has appeared in two television documentaries on piracy and has advised on others. He lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his two daughters, and in his spare time he teaches modern fencing at the Huntsville Fencing Club, researches historical fencing, and works on contemporary and historical novels.

The Great Pirate Legends Debunked (forthcoming October 2011) will describe the truth behind the great pirate myths, legends, and misconceptions, via narrative pirate histories. As with the title below, the book will put readers amidst the action.

How History's Greatest Pirates Pillaged, Plundered, and Got Away With It brings pirate stories and tactics to life for a broad audience. Thoroughly researched, these narrative pirate histories put readers in the middle of the action.

Pirate Hunting was inspired by the need to look at piracy and other forms of sea roving from their earliest record to the present, and in particular at the measures taken to counter them. Besides being an opportunity to look at six millennia of maritime history, the subject has practical appeal today, given the increase in international piracy.

The Buccaneer's Realm was born of an interest in the role of the buccaneer, filibuster, and Spanish pirate in the development of the New World, as well as how these sea rovers influenced and were influenced by the variety of cultures and physical environments of a frontier comprising one third of the entire world.

The Sea Rover's Practice was born of a lifelong interest in pirates and privateers, an interest originally inspired by the sea, by the fiction of Stevenson, Sabatini, and Steinbeck, by the illustrations of Pyle and Wyeth, and by the journals of Exquemelin, Dampier, and Rogers. Originally researched both for personal interest and to support the writing of historical fiction, the author soon turned the material into a book to fill a void in the literature of the sea.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Gareth Thomas on September 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For those who love historical texts, but sometimes have a hard time weeding thru the period language, overly technical jargon and miles of microfiche, this book is a real blessing. The author not only deals with the methods of tracking, chasing and boarding prey, but goes happily in-depth about the people who follow the "sweet trade". He covers the buccaneer lifestyle on land as well as at sea, the events leading up to their rise in influence in the Caribbean, and goes into clothing, food, religion, heirarchy, weapons, flags,choice of ships and cultural relationships.

I picked up this book primarily to confirm or disprove my theories on individual weapons combat during boarding actions and while the techniques are not played up in any great detail,citing the use of powder and grenades over cutlass and knife, the reasonings behind what weapons were used and how unorthodox hand to hand combat could be in closed quarters are sound.

Overall a very enjoyable and informative book!

Gareth Thomas

Director; Historical Maritime Combat Association
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MountainRunner on June 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a great backgrounder on what really was behind the privateers, buccaneers / boucaniers, filibusters / flibustier, and pirates. Focusing on a hundred year period beginning in 1630, the former Navy SEAL draws on contemporary diaries and books to describe everything from the background, motivation, tactics, equipment, and even an appendix on drinks. The reality of the sea rover's tactics are in stark contrast to the image of the Hollywood pirate. The reality were crews and officers operating under very democratic rules and performing complex operations seeking to maximize effort (return on investment).

Appropriate to the modern era of small wars? Little generally leaves it to the reading to connect to the present (absent a rare couple of modern analogies in the book), except for one paragraph at the end:

"Whatever their vices, weaknesses, and moral ambiguities, these buccaneers have in common with most sea rovers several tactical virtues, including innovation, loyalty, perseverance, adaptability, and courage. Collectively, they prove that a loose, uncentralized, and informal network can conduct significant, complex military operations. They show the effect that an irregular force can have on the resources of a powerful state, causing great economic damage and tying down significant forces. And, most importantly, they demonstrate that elements of broadly divergent and disparate cultures, races, nationalities, classes, professions, and personalities can act as one with a common goal."

My brief comments here don't do the book justice. The amount of detail Little puts in this book is sometimes mind boggling, not to say amazing. This is not a book that only looks at the past but has surprising applicability to modernity.

I have found it particularly useful in supporting various arguments about privatization of force as well as insurgent warfare.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By S. Potter on August 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Little, an experienced "rover" himself from his time in the USN SEALs, does this topic justice in his book. Well and exhaustively researched, this book gives a great peek into the reality of the pirate/privateer life that is so often romanticized in book and film.

Every aspect of the sea rovers' life is placed before the reader, from seamanship to boarding tactics, to life on shore after a successful cruise. In the back of the book, you can find statistics for firearms and great guns, several glosseries for ships and people, and even some simple recipies buccaneers would have used.

The only minor quibble I might have is that the style of the writing can seem stilted and list like, but that was not frequent and did not detract from my enjoyment of the work.

This is a must read for anyone with an interest in maratime history or pirates.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Just Another on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ben Little has done an excellent job of writing this book. It is very difficult to maintain a good writing style, while keeping the factual nature of the material clear. The author has maintained this balance superbly.

It is obvious that the author has obtained as much of the facts as possible from first hand accounts written during this time period. It is also nice to see military tactical thinking without the Hollywood overlay of glitz.

I would recommend this book to anyone that would like a factual view of pirate tactics, life style, and weaponry.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dakota on May 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
"The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730" by Benerson Little is a great reference tool for anyone interested in the in-depth details of how buccaneers, privateers, and pirates of the West Indies commanded and conquered.

Do not expect a storyline or biographies in this book. It is solely about tactics, as stated in the subtitle. Each section is filled with detail after fascinating detail about pirate battle strategies. You get a real understanding of why a pirate would, for instance, chose a particular weapon to use during the boarding of a ship, examining everything from the weapon's overall capacity to maim to the sturdiness of the materials used to construct it.

The book's first chapter talks of greed and desperation and the last chapter covers dying by the sword. In between, you learn about pirate ships, recruiting, arms used in close combat, watches, flags, cruising strategies, mutiny, broadsiding, pirate tricks, and many other topics. There are also appendices with items like pirate vocabulary and recipes, as well as illustrations depicting weapons (guns, swords, cannons, etc.) and the best boarding positions.

Altogether, the book is easy to read, thorough, and loaded with information. I definitely recommend it to those who want to learn more about the real pirates of the Caribbean.

For those who prefer biographies (or less strategy and more story), read David Cordingly's "Under the Black Flag" for an engrossing look at piracy throughout the ages.
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