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The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down Hardcover – May 7, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 195 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews



"A tremendous reporter . . . and [a] strong, impassioned writer as well."—THE BOSTON GLOBE


"A beautifully considered history . . . Woodard’s admiration for lobster culture is stirring . . . Mainers’ feisty pluck remains undiminished in the face of obstacles."—NEWSDAY

"Woodard''s book explains how this fragile democracy came about, and why the pirates who populated it were actually better suited for such organization than their legends would have us believe."--Alexandria Gazette-Packet (Alexandria Packet-Gazette)

"This breezy, fast-moving book is filled with exciting action and colorful characters. It will provide general readers and those with a special interest in the period much enjoyment." (Booklist)

"[C]hallenges what we think we know about these ruffians, dispelling notions of dictatorial rule aboard ship in favor of an image of egalitarianism."--Boston Magazine (Boston Magazine)

"Using archive material from England, Spain, and the Americas, Woodard tells the real story, brief as it was, of the Caribbean pireates as they fought nature and empire."--Denver Post (Denver Post)

"Disregard Robert Louis Stevenson''s rowdy buccaneers, the Disney factory''s lively rascals and those musical lads from Penzance: Here are the real pirates of the Caribbean, and the facts are as colorful and exciting as fiction." (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

"Fascinating... beyond rip-roaring adventure stories from the distant past, [the book offers] an opportunity to understand pirates as they truly were--and to be grateful that the worst of them, at least, are gone."--New York Times Book Review (New York Times Book Review)

"It''s a rollicking tale, filled with rich details of the lives of men who, for their own personal gain, challenged the spread of empires." (Times-Picayune (New Orleans))

"[C]ontain[s] passages that are absolutely riveting, sometimes for their high-seas action, sometimes for their wicked illumination of life aboard an antiquated vessel at sea for months on end."--Toronto Star (Toronto Star)

"While American piracy extends from the 1600s until almost the end of the 19th century, the real heyday was the brief span 1715 to 1725 that Colin Woodard covers brilliantly in THE REPUBLIC OF PIRATES. This is the first incisive look at the world of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, and their compatriots, and it illuminates as never before one of the most storied yet misunderstood episodes in our past." (Willliam C. Davis, author of The Pirates Laffite)

"Narrative history at its best." (Winston-Salem Journal)

Colin Woodard has produced a rollicking, gangplank-swaying read of a book...This scrupulously researched book strikes a balance of human interest, romance, drama, war, and historical fact--all key ingredients for an excellent read. (Caribbean Beat)

Woodard gives us a wonderful glimpse into the actual lives of pirates. For anyone who wishes to learn more about these forerunners of democracy on the high seas, THE REPUBLIC OF PIRATES is a must read. (Herald Dispatch 2008-09-18)

About the Author

COLIN WOODARD writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education and is the author of The Lobster Coast and Ocean’s End. He lives in Portland, Maine.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (May 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013029
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Colin Woodard has authored a wonderful history of the pirates of the Caribbean in their heyday, with the prime years being 1715-1725. The lives of Jack Sparrow and Long John Silver fascinate us; the real pirates, as depicted by Woodard, are perhaps even more interesting.

He tells the story of the "pirate republic," headquartered in the Bahamas. He uses the term "republic" purposefully. He contends that (and this appears to me to be hyperbole) the pirates fueled (page 1) ". . .the democratic sentiments that would later drive the American revolution." Some fascinating tidbits related to this thesis: pirates shared their spoils relatively equally; rank-and-file pirates elected and deposed ships' captains; decisions were often made in what Woodard calls "open councils"; runaway slaves sometimes came aboard as pirates and were often treated as equals by their fellow pirates. As Woodard notes (page 4): "The pirate gangs of the Bahamas were enormously successful. At their zenith they succeeded in severing Britain, France, and Spain from their New World empires, cutting off trade routes. . . ."

The primary figures covered in this book are three pirate leaders, Samuel ("Black Sam") Bellamy, Edward ("Blackbeard") Thatch, and Charles Vane. Of course, many others are mentioned as well, including "Calico Jack" Rackham, Benjamin Hornigold, Josiah Burgess, Henry Jennings, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. The fourth primary character is the man who devoted himself to destroying the pirate republic--Woodes Rogers. The book tells the story of the pirates and their depredations. It also tells the story of Rogers, who made it his aim to destroy those pirates.

All in all, a rip roaring volume.
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Format: Hardcover
You might think a person interested in pirates would get into the historical records to learn more about those rough wanderers. Colin Woodard came at it from the other direction: he has a fascination with history and "got into" pirates as a vehicle to bring U.S. colonial history to life. "The Republic of Pirates" is the fascinating product of his research.

Woodard focuses on what he calls "the Golden Age of Piracy," a ten-year period from 1715 to 1725. The few thousand men -- and a few women -- who populate this story were a different breed from the government-sanctioned privateers of earlier times. As Woodard describes them, they were " ... engaged in more than simple crime and undertook nothing less than a social and poitical revolt. They were sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves rebelling against their oppressors: captains, ship owners, and the autocrats of the great slave plantations of America and the West Indies." Some of them were set up as a rebel navy by supporters of James Stuart, the half-brother of Queen Anne, exiled after her death in 1714.

Woodard's three main pirate subjects -- Samuel Bellamy, Charles Vane, and Edward "Black Beard" Thatch, grew up in an England made harsh for the lower classes by the waning of feudalism, the enclosure of public grazing land, and the flight from rural regions to London. The fourth focus of the book is Woodes Rogers, a Bahamian governor and former privateer who would eventually be the downfall of the pirates' Golden Age.

Funded in part by the wreck of a great Spanish treasure fleet off Florida in 1715, the pirate bands began to congregate in the Bahamas and to grow in strength and daring.
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Format: Hardcover
It is a subject that I had previously given very little thought to. Even as a kid I never found the subject of pirates to be all that interesting. I don't know why. However, over the past couple of years I have had occasion to read a pair of phenomenal books about the slave trade. I found both Ron Soodalter's "Hanging Captain Gordon" and Charles Rappleye's "Sons of Providence" to be absolutely spellbinding. So when I recently came across Colin Woodward's new book "The Republic of Pirates" I simply could not resist.

There is an old saying that counsels if you want to find out why things happen the way they do then simply "follow the money". This is essentially the route Colin Woodward takes in "The Republic of Pirates". After reading this book it is now clear to me why so many men made the fateful decision to turn away from "legitimate" authority and engage in the act of piracy. For many of these men had very legitimate economic and political issues with those in power in England in the early 18th century and most of these concerns were simply not being addressed. One by one and for very personal reasons men made the decision to rebel against the authorities who were holding them down. Before long a large group of like minded individuals would set up shop at an island known as New Providence in the Bahamas and would begin a period of plunder and terror that would last for nearly a decade. Operating all along the eastern coast of America and in the Carribean these daring men succeeded in wreaking havoc and disrupting trade between the European powers and their various colonies in the New World as well as the very lucrative trade with the Far East.
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