The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down Paperback – Illustrated, June 30, 2008
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"Fascinating . . . beyond rip-roaring adventure stories from the distant past, [the book offers] an opportunity to understand pirates as they truly were."―The 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."―The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
From the Inside Flap
For a brief, glorious period the pirate republic was enormously successful. At its height it cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Britain, France, and Spain from their New World empires. The Royal Navy went from being unable to catch the pirates to being afraid to encounter them at all. Imperial authorities and wealthy shipowners denounced the pirates as the enemies of mankind, but huge numbers of common people saw them as heroes. Finally one man volunteered to pacify the pirate’s Bahaman lair and destroy any who resisted -- Woodes Rogers, a famous privateer himself and scion of a powerful merchant family.
Drawing on extensive research in the archives of Britain and the Americas, Colin Woodard tells the dramatic untold story of the Pirate Republic that shook the very foundations of the British and Spanish Empires and fanned the democratic sentiments that would one day drive the American revolution.
- Publisher : Mariner Books; First edition (June 30, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 015603462X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0156034623
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.77 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #26,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There are many more men (and women) who engage in piracy and the culmination of their demise by the efforts of Woodes Rogers, the Governor of the Bahamas, himself a tragic figure in the long run.
Colin Woodward has gone to great lengths to detail the short careers of these people and their successes as well as failures with their pillages and subsequent 'booty' taken in these raids. What surprised me is most anything was 'treasure' to the pirates. Forget the gold, silver and pieces of eight stories you've heard. Sure that was the stuff to have but cloth, silk, flour, wine, bread, livestock and even barrels of nails and wood were taken as well. Pirate captains were elected by their crews. Do well and manage to raid commerce vessels whose holds contained marketable goods and you kept your position as leader of the crew. Have repeated failures (life Stede Bonnet) and you could find yourself either voted out and back as a regular crew member or worse, contest your ouster and have the crew dump you on the nearest sandbar or uninhabited island as you stood watching your ship and former comrades sail off in the distance. I also never knew that pirates slaughtering crew members of ships they raided was a rarity. Most pirates would attempt to get these sailors to join their ranks (piracy was much more lucrative than being a sailor on a merchant vessel) or some were impressed into it because of a needed skill like a surgeon, carpenter or seasoned deck hand. After cleaning out the hold of a ship sometimes the captain was given a token payment for the cargo or he and his crew were set ashore somewhere desolate. Usually a place they would be found long after the pirates were gone. In most cases their ship was either seized and added to the pirate fleet, burned to the waterline or in many cases kept by the pirates and the captain and crew given a smaller vessels from the pirate fleet that had been seized earlier and sent on their way.
This book is a terrific read and chock full of details. Well worth the money spent.
Through the use of court documents, testimonies, and scribes Collin Woodard strips the eye patch and not only explains the chain of events that spawned the pirate republic but also humanized the people behind the legends. An extraordinary tale about extraordinarily lives. I almost ran out of pages on my notebook and learned more than I expected. Fascinating stuff.
I regard this book with mixed emotions. On one hand I loved the information and was impressed with the level of detail. On the other I couldn't help but think that the book needed a more efficient approach. Reading this book is laborious due in lart to the dry writing style and it also contains unneeded material that's best fitted in the footnote section.
Except from my notes:
This book helped me strip the eye patch and introduced me to the real people behind the legends. Captains like Sam Bellamy (Black Sam) believed that their deeds were justified and even fancied himself a Robin Hood. Edward Thatch aka Blackbeard was the stereotypical pirate. He embraced the rugged appearance to the point of having fire and smoke emanate from his hat in order to scare his rivals into submission.
Sam Bellamy steals the show from his more well-known compatriots, thanks to his fiery speech in defense of piracy, recorded for posterity by one of the captains he kidnapped during Bellamy's year-long capture of the greatest pirate treasure ever amassed. The fate of Bellamy and his treasure is perhaps the most compelling of the many ripping (yet true) yarns in Woodard's narrative.
Woodard goes to the court documents of piracy trials and other original sources to reconstruct the lives of these four men, and their many compatriots, allies, betrayers and foes. Along the way you'll meet the female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, the feckless Calico Jack Rackham, and many more.
Top reviews from other countries
For the most part, Woodard is pretty engaging, and does a good job integrating those historical facts into a larger narrative that paints a thorough picture of the era. Occasionally he seems to get a bit carried away, leading to speculative sections that - while clearly noted as such - feel a little reaching. At most, though, that's a minor quibble.
I was more disappointed with the relatively abrupt end to the book. Unfortunately, in setting out to follow the four men mentioned above, Woodard runs out of steam and detail when they are, for various reasons, taken out of the picture. Bartholemew Roberts, described as taking over 400 ships, barely gets a mention. The female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny also get very little material, despite records of their incarceration. Perhaps it's just that there was not enough historical data for him to draw together an interesting narrative. The only other negative point is that sometimes, in the flurry of names being thrown around and the way the book jumps between multiple perspectives (not to mention the ever-changing allegiances of the various pirate groups), it's easy to lose track of some of the less important players.
I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Caribbean pirates or the era in general, as it also gives a remarkable insight into the slave trade, European wars and rivalries of the time, and early colonies in the Americas.
Overall, not too heavy going, very interesting and exactly what you want when it comes to real pirate stories.