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Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates (Harvest Book) Paperback – September 15, 1997

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (September 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005494
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Though literature, films, and folklore have romanticized pirates as gallant seaman who hunted for treasure in exotic locales, David Cordingly, a former curator at the National Maritime Museum in England, reveals the facts behind the legends of such outlaws as Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Calico Jack. Even stories about buried treasure are fictitious, he says, yet still the myth remains. Though pirate captains were often sadistic villains and crews endured barbarous tortures, were constantly threatened with the possibility of death by hanging, drowning in a storm, or surviving a shipwreck on a hostile coast, pirates are still idealized. Cordingly examines why the myth of the romance of piratehood endures and why so few lived out their days in luxury on the riches they had plundered. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Widespread piracy began in the Western world in 1650 and ended abruptly around 1725. Cordingly, formerly on the staff of the National Maritime Museum in England, describes who became pirates (mainly volunteers who joined up when their ships were captured); what they wore (scarves or handkerchiefs around their head, just like in the movies); and how they were armed (literally, to the teeth). Pirates, says the author, were "attracted by the lure of plunder and the desire for an easy life." They were not the clean-cut heroes of the Errol Flynn films either, but cutthroat murderers. Some of the famous pirates are portrayed: Sir Francis Drake made his name by plundering silver on the Spanish Main; Sir Harry Morgan is famous for his ransom of Portobello to the President of Panama for 250,000 pesos; and Captain Kidd remains mysterious because of his buried gold and silver on Gardiners Island, near New York City. Fictitious pirates are also surveyed, such as Long John Silver and Captain Hook, and the allure they still have over us is explored. Even if you don't know a corsair (a Mediterranean-based pirate) from a buccaneer (a Caribbean pirate), this book will delight and inform. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly is a "must have" book for any pirate enthusiast.
Richard Sellati
So much potential but organization is the downfall of this otherwise high information text.
R. Howell
The anecdotes are entertaining, and are well written, so that the book flows along nicely.
Isaac VanDuyn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Maximiliano F Yofre on October 3, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Under the Black Flag" is a real pirate's treasure. For all those who want to know what was "real" and what "romance", here's your book.

Mr. Cordingly has performed a deep research on the subject and presents it in a very readable and interesting form. He has taken diaries, contemporary newspaper articles, personal letters and memoirs as a solid backdrop.

His study is centered mainly in the Caribbean theater, the East coast of North America and the Indian Ocean. He also gives glimpses of the Chinese pirates leaded by Ms. Cheng.

Every main issue is described: weaponry, tactics, vessels, flags, everyday life, treasures, pets and battles.

In its pages you'll find the life and deeds of famous characters as Henry Morgan, "Blackbeard", Captain Kidd, L'Ollonais, Calico Jack and many others not so well known.

A whole chapter is dedicated to women pirates including the adventures and misadventures of Mary Read and Anne Bonny.

Finally "romance" is addressed taking into account mainly movies on the subject.

As a bonus the book includes six maps of the different scenarios of pirate's campaigns; a glossary of sea terms; an extensive bibliography and several appendixes on relevant matters.

So brace yourselves and come aboard!

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By David Stapleton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Probably one of the best overall books on the subject of piracy, myth and reality, that I have read. Cordingly covers the history, the movies, the books, the truths and the untruths. He covers the pirate havens, common practices, origins, the big names and little names. Not just a dry narrative, but a fun read.
If you were to buy one book on the topic of piracy, this should be it (Angus Konstam's History of Pirates would be next in line). It is a must for any budding pirate historian. P-)
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Sebastián Ignacio Donoso B. on January 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Cordingly's "Under the Black Flag, The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates" constitutes the best researhed book on pirate history I have ever read. The information provided about the lives of this notorious anti-heroes, the reality of the life among them and the world of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is amazingly accurate, and backed up with an extensive bibliography and footnotes. For those interested in pirate history throughout the ages, and specially the Golden Age of Piracy, this book constitutes a fundamental tool for understanding the pirate reality. When uncovering how the real people like Edward Teach and Calico Jack were, this book has no equal. Cordingly separates the myths from the real individuals behind them, proving that the reality is much more interesting than the romance, when uncovered. At the same time, the author discusses how the myths surrounding Blackbeard, the Women Pirates or Kidd's treasure, were formed and have survived through the years, becoming important elements of popular culture. Cordingly establishes why in our hearts, pirates were not sadistic villans, but rather "...romantic outlaws living far from civilization on some distant sunny shore," something most of us would dream to be.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Zeta Thompson on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
I liked this one. It is more of an overview of the the history of piracy and of the period than the in depth study for which I hoped, but it is presented in no nonsense manner with many references to resources should you wish to go farther into any of the myriad of topics the David Cordingly inroduces.
His writing style is in the more popular vein (for an historian) and he supplies many anecdotes and popular myths about pirates in general and some specific characters as well. In places he seems to draw heavily on "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious Pirates" by Defoe or Johnson (which ever you prefer). For people not willing to wade through Defoe's (or Johnson's) style - it is a good synopsis of those chapters, even if the common conseptions of the time have been removed.
He over states his point that Hollywood, Stevenson and others have romantisized the pirate life and proceeds to give the reader a quick dose of reality. However, I think for people approaching this book with the idea it is history, it is an overdose. There are too many regressions and comparisons to popular novels and movies. While the title implies such comparisons - they are rather obvious ones.
My main critique of this book is similar to others I have seen here. It was to much and too little. If you want an introduction to the history of piracy and some of the better known pirates - then this book is perfect. If you want an in depth study of the lives or even of the marauding of specific pirates sprinkled with eye witness accounts and embroidered in the telling - read Johnson (or Defoe) instead.
But the book holds many gems of information that may not be found in other histories and analysies. I just wish that some topics had been better developed.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Alan D. Cranford VINE VOICE on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I liked David Cordingly's "Under the Black Flag: the Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates." The sea terms glossary was useful: I didn't know that "pink" and "snow" were types of sailing ships. I like my books to have a bibliography, a table of contents, a list of illustrations, and be indexed so that I can find citations rapidly-Cordingly also put in four appendixes, documents supporting his thesis.

Pirates have been around since before recorded history. Pirates prey on society-they cannot exist without prey. Pirates are still active today-especially in the Far East. Cordingly mentions them (publication date is 1995)-my personal experience is that pirates are still a problem for security professionals.

"Under the Black Flag" explores both fact and fiction. The romantic image is examined through books, plays, and movies. Captain Hook from "Peter Pan" and Long John Silver from "Treasure Island" are said to be the two most famous pirates.

The historical pirates included the Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih, Molly Read, Anne Bonny, Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Sir Frances Drake-to name the most notorious and famous. Some, such as Drake, became national heroes and were made legitimate. Others, such as Captain Kidd, were railroaded. The Blackbeards earned every bit of notoriety.

How did the pirates live-and die? My "day job" is working as a supply technician for the Nevada Army National Guard, and while on active duty I was an Army intelligence analyst-so details on how the pirate ships were kept in good repair and provisioned were right up my alley. Most pirate loot was hardware, food, sail cloth, and other such items that kept their ship afloat and their crews alive (if not healthy).
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