Osprey's The Pirate World
336 pages, Hardbound
For as long as there has been waterbound commerce, there have been pirate. Sometimes these people have been state sponsored, in which case they are called privateers, but that is a rather recent thing and for the most part, they are little more than thieves.
The first really big problems with piracy came about in the Mediterranean as seabound trade started to flourish. As often as not, pirates of the day were standard cargo ship captains that decided it would be easier to steal from others. Of course, their trade could not flourish if there wasn't a place to sell their ill gotten gains and for much of history, these places have been fairly easy to find.
Much of the reason piracy was able to do well was the lack of proper control of the trade routes by navies of the bordering nations. Where there was a strong naval presence, there was often little or no piracy. Then there were the cases of nationally approved piracy. This was often the case in times of conflict where a nation's navy wasn't large enough or strong enough and so hiring civilians to capture/destroy enemy ships became commonplace. We all think that this only happened in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Golden Age of piracy, but it had a long historical career.
Speaking of the Golden Age, this is the period of time of which most laymen are aware and the time that is so prevalent in fiction. This period of time actually lasted only about 20-30 years during the late 1600s and very early 1700s. It was also concentrated more in the Americas than other places, but was pretty much world wide. There were pirates in Africa, pirates in the middle east and pirates off the coasts of China and Japan. Even today, parts of Africa and the area around Malaysia and Indonesia are a hotbed of piracy.
Probably the 'charm' of pirates comes to us via various media. Much of this can be traced back to Robert Lewis Stevenson and his book Treasure Island. Also the art work of Howard Pyle has painted a much more glamorous picture of these people. Pirate were not nice people at all and cared little about anyone but themselves. Pirates, for the most part did not look or talk like Long John Silver. There was no walking the plank, except for a single case, they did not bury their treasure, nor did they always wear an eyepatch, or have a parrot on their shoulder. Pirate flags were all different and X never marked the spot.
The author of this book is a well respected expert on the subject and has provided a book that is both eye-opening and well researched. In it we get to see how piracy has changed over the centuries and what places were prominent in piracy. We also get to understand the rather convoluted times where one could be a state sponsored privateer one day, and a pirate the next as a war comes to an end. It means that the actions of yesterday would gain praise while those of today gets one the gallows. A fascinating look into an equally fascinating subject that I am sure you will enjoy.
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