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Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 17, 2006
Where many books on pirates and piracy paint with a broad stroke, covering everything from the Greeks through the Elizabethan Sea Dogs to the last throes of the Golden Age, Marcus Rediker has focused in tightly on that last era or more precisely 1716-1726. Covering a variety of aspects, the author, guides us through the how and why of these last remnants of generations of piracy.

While the prose is readable and often entertaining, it is undoubtedly a scholarly work based upon extensive research (as witnessed by the numerous endnotes). I do not agree with all of Rediker's conclusions, but he has done a wonderful job of explaining how he arrived at those conclusions. The favorites are here, Blackbeard, Roberts, Bonny, Read among others. The author presents a certain admiration and sympathy for the majority of pirates while detesting the cruelties of the few.

The depth of the research will provide a few eye-openers for even the reasonably well versed hobby historian and a decent base for any budding pirate historian. The subject matter is also well indexed for future referencing. All in all a good read and resource.

P-)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2006
Marcus Rediker wonderfully recreates the world of the late 17th- and early 18th-century pirates through a variety of historical sources and documents. He attempts to explain what a pirate was, who tended to be pirates, and why someone would go "on the account" (turn pirate) in the first place. Rediker explores the role of gender in piracy. Most pirates tended to be men, yet Rediker devotes an entire chapter to Anne Bonny and Mary Read, two of the few known women pirates. Race was likely not as important an issue to pirates as class, working conditions at sea, and respect for the labor force of professional sailors. Rediker also investigates the surprisingly advanced systems of government aboard successful pirate ships.

Rediker's style is relaxed and not at all pedantic. He has a great command of the topic and steers it expertly. Some readers may detect that the author sympathizes with the pirates too often. Yet Rediker is careful to explain that many pirates were indeed bad men while others were once state workers, and when they were no longer needed, they were dubbed pirates and villains of all nations. I recommend this book to those interested in the period and in the history of piracy. Rediker's other books are great as well, and you may want to look into Peter Linebaugh who sometimes collaborates with Rediker.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 9, 2006
"Villains of All Nations" by Marcus Rediker is an outstanding historical analysis of the Golden Age of piracy (1716 to 1726). Mr. Rediker presents his well-researched narrative in an accessible writing style that should appeal to a wide audience. The reader gains insight into the turbulent economic and social conditions of the 18th century Atlantic that gave rise to popular resistance and to the state-sponsored violent repression that all but eliminated piracy as a threat to continued capitalist accumulation. The author's vivid and intelligent text succeeds in helping us recognize that piracy was a far more complex and interesting phenomenon when one compares the reality with the simplistic and manufactured images that are often presented by the purveyors of popular culture.

Mr. Rediker does an excellent job of engaging the reader by using individual case studies to illustrate key points. For example, the author introduces us to Walter Kennedy who was one of thousands of poor, young and unmarried men who fled the brutal labor conditions onboard navy and merchant ships. As a pirate, Kennedy embraced a culture that was antithetical to the extreme privilege, hierarchy and discipline of the nation state; rather, Kennedy reveled in a multinational and egalitarian social order that sought unrestrained gratification as compensation for a lifetime of privation and misery. And like most, his taste of freedom as a pirate was short-lived but not regretted.

Mr. Rediker discusses the famous women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who became legendary for their courageous displays of independence, sexual freedom and class consciousness. Interestingly, the author compares a woodcut from 1725 depicting a female pirate inspired by the adventures of Bonny and Read with Eugene Delacroix's iconic 'Liberty Leading the People' of 1830. Building a credible circumstantial case that Delacroix's painting was almost certainly influenced by the woodcut, Mr. Rediker helps us see how the pirates' quest for freedom can be seen as part of a larger liberation movement that would eventually lead to revolutionary struggle.

We learn that the pirates' success in disrupting the slave trade all but assured a decisive response from the capitalist state. But while the spectacle of the gallows may have served as a public deterrant, Mr. Rediker reports that many pirates who reveled in their status as social outcasts remained unrepentant to the end. Mocking their unfair treatment at the hands of a social and legal system that was controlled by a wealthy elite, it was not uncommon for pirates to defy church and state at public hangings. Indeed, by bringing such remarkable and dramatic stories of pirate culture to life, Mr. Rediker's book succeeds in showing us how these rebels who challenged class, race, gender and nation remain relevant to us today.

I highly recommend this engaging and informative book to everyone.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2008
Marcus Rediker has written what is easily the most fascinating account of piracy to date. Approaching piracy from the perspective of what can only be described as an ethnographer-historian, Dr. Rediker presents us with several mind-blowing proposals:
- Pirates had set up egalitarian societies, racially and sexually
- Pirates were, for all the bad rap they get, rather reluctant killers
- Pirates challenged a status quo that was fundamentally unjust

At first glance, it would appear that Rediker had a difficult job ahead of him. However, through careful research, he begins unraveling the mythology of piracy we receive through popular culture, and challenges our beliefs on each of those points in turn.

I literally cannot recommend this book enough. If you are interested in pirates in any academic sense, I refer you to this book.

Put down Defoe, before it's too late, and pick this one up. You'll thank me later.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book is an excellent review on the Golden Age of Piracy in the 1700's. The author has many firsthand accounts of pirates and their victims and also describes why piracy developed into such a lucrative business. A very enjoyable read for anyone interested in maritime studies.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2005
As the other reviewers have mentioned, this book is more an analysis of the last period of Atlantic Piracy rather than a narrative by pirates themselves. It is repetitive in some areas, repeating text verbatim from earlier parts of the book, etc. However, there is enough interesting material here to make it an enlightening read. This book also suffers from a post 9/11 myopic use of the word "terrorist" and "terror." That notwithstanding, Marcus Rediker's analysis of piracy in their grandest hour and their dying throes is provocative.
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on January 24, 2014
Marcus Rediker describes his book as a "social and cultural history of early-eighteenth century pirates, those outlaws who made the last great moment in the golden age of piracy" (16). That "golden age" was 1716-26, a time when pirates terrorized the Atlantic and generated those enduring cultural images like the Jolly Roger, the black flag with skull and bones. Rediker is one fine researcher and historian. He also writes well. All that makes for interesting, pleasurable reading. It's true that Rediker's politics seem somewhere to the left of center and that this shows up in his interpretation of and sympathies with pirates. Were they simply thugs on boats? Or is it more accurate to say with the author that pirates of the golden age were really an alternative, collectivist political system that maintained a coherent outlook? I read "Villains of All Nations" with some doubts about Rediker's thesis. Even with my questions, I still like and appreciate this book with its many great stories.
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on February 6, 2013
Overall I think this is a good book. I bought it for class and read the whole thing. There is a lot of good information that I had no idea about before, but sometimes the information is a bit overwhelming and boring. If your into informational books you would like this book.
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on March 31, 2015
It was interesting, enjoyable, and informative. We all grow up with such romantic ideas of pirates that it was refreshing to understand the facts around piracy of this age came about, grew, and finally declined.
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on January 3, 2015
Great book. Great service. Book arrived in excellent condition.
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