The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love a book title that accurately describes itself. In this case, The Republic of Pirates: Being the True Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard while being a bit long-winded accurately summarizes the tale.
Woodard's journalistic background and natural story-telling style lends well to understanding how a group of seagoing cutthroats got started in the pirate trade and how eventually they wound up founding and losing a pirate republic.
Woodard reintroduces us to many of the pirates we know from sources like Captain Charles Johnson's 1724 book, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates. This rogues gallery includes names like Edward Thatch aka Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Charles Vane, Henry Jennings, Benjamin Hornigold, and Paulsgrave Williams.
He places their deeds in the context of Jacobite sentiment and the events leading up the the Rising of 1715, which was a major rebellion against King George I of Britain and his German house of Hanover in favor of reestablishing the reign of James II of the Scottish house of Stuart.
Along the way, Woodward introduces us to Jamaican governor Lord Archibald Hamilton, the career Royal Navy man and Jacobite conspirator who selected and equipped many of the Golden Age of Piracy's most notorious pirates.
Woodard plots a detailed chronological course for the major pirates, showing how they wound up taking over the weakly-governed islands of the Bahamas. He also introduces us to the flawed but heroic Woodes Rogers, who would eventually drive the pirates out of the Bahamas.
A Bristol merchant, Rogers was one of the few men to have circumnavigated the world in his day, returning with his original ships and most of his crew. On his world-girdling voyage, Rogers rescued the marooned Alexander Selkirk, who would become the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
Involved both as a privateer and a slave-trader, Rogers seems at first blush one who would be voted most likely to be a pirate. Woodard establishes Rogers' motives and tells both the good and the bad about the man who eventually would twice be appointed as royal governor of the Bahamas.
I recommend this book to anyone who would like to get a larger vision for the problem of 18th century piracy in the Caribbean or who simply loves history told well. It is also an excellent source for fiction writers, especially the extensive endnotes.
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