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A General History of the Pyrates (Dover Maritime) [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Defoe
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Immensely readable history by the author of Robinson Crusoe incorporates the author's celebrated flair for journalistic detail, and represents the major source of information about piracy in the early 18th century. Defoe recounts the daring and bloody deeds of such outlaws as Edward Teach (alias Blackbeard), Captain Kidd, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, many others.

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More About the Author

Daniel Defoe was a Londoner, born in 1660 at St Giles, Cripplegate, and son of James Foe, a tallow-chandler. He changed his name to Defoe from c. 1695. He was educated for the Presbyterian Ministry at Morton's Academy for Dissenters at Newington Green, but in 1682 he abandoned this plan and became a hosiery merchant in Cornhill. After serving briefly as a soldier in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, he became well established as a merchant and travelled widely in England, as well as on the Continent.

Between 1697 and 1701 he served as a secret agent for William III in England and Scotland, and between 1703 and 1714 for Harley and other ministers. During the latter period he also, single-handed, produced the Review, a pro-government newspaper. A prolific and versatile writer he produced some 500 books on a wide variety of topics, including politics, geography, crime, religion, economics, marriage, psychology and superstition. He delighted in role-playing and disguise, a skill he used to great effect as a secret agent, and in his writing he often adopted a pseudonym or another personality for rhetorical impact.

His first extant political tract (against James II) was published in 1688, and in 1701 appeared his satirical poem The True-Born Englishman, which was a bestseller. Two years later he was arrested for The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters, an ironical satire on High Church extremism, committed to Newgate and pilloried. He turned to fiction relatively late in life and in 1719 published his great imaginative work, Robinson Crusoe. This was followed in 1722 by Moll Flanders and A Journal of the Plague Year, and in 1724 by his last novel, Roxana.

His other works include A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, a guide-book in three volumes (1724-6; abridged Penguin edition, 1965), The Complete English Tradesman (1726), Augusta Triumphans, (1728), A Plan of the English Commerce (1728) and The Complete English Gentleman (not published until 1890). He died on 24 April 1731. Defoe had a great influence on the development of the English novel and many consider him to be the first true novelist.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE classic 9 April 2009
So, there are TONS of editions of Defoe/Johnson "History of Pirates". I think this is the most accurate. First of all, ALL biographies are included, and every biography is enriched with all the further details added along the three editions of the original Johnson's book: 1722-3-4. So, just this is definitively an added value.
Then the language. The original language is completely preserved. Even if it is now as easy to read as other editions are, it is definitively the most accurate edition.
This is the book that you have to use if you are using Defoe/Johnson in academic or you need the most authoritative edition among the others.
Highly recommended to all those are working in academy or simply want to be accurate in their writings.
If you are looking for something that it is a pleasure to read, just a stories and not a history book, it is better for you to look over some other simplified editions. If you want to face some 18th century's English, and you want to enjoy the book as it was published, this is definitively your book.

Salvatore Poier, PhD
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attributation Controversy 30 Nov. 2004
By Frogus
Although this book was attributed to Daniel Defoe in 1932, editions published since 1988 have restored the unknown character Captain Charles Johnson as author, in light of a comprehensive refutation of the 1932 case for Defoe's authorship.
This issue is raised briefly by David Cordingly in his introduction to the more recent editions of 'The Murders and Robberies of the most Notorious Pyrates', and in his introduction to 'The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates'...
Of course this should not stop you buying it, and in fact every honest buccaneer really ought to own at least two editions. It is a fearsome and thrilling read from beginning to end, peppered with amusing pirate dialogue and some historically dubious anecdotes, but generally a hearty and fair portrait of the glamorous side of pirate life, especially commendable for its accurate nautical terminology and detailed description of seafaring practices.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into 18th Century Pirate life 16 Sept. 2009
I bought this originally for a research project, yet the stories are of such entertainment that it makes a great read at your leisure.
Factually, some of it appears somewhat far fetched yet as there is not much to compare it to, it is the closest thing to fact we have. Moreover, what with great events within other periods of history such as that of the Roman Emperors, I found it believable enough.
So overall I would recommend this book wholeheartedly for all who have an interest in the history of pirates and a must have for educational/research purposes.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saved by Captain Johnson? 3 May 2006
If you are a fan of Defoe and want to read about pirates in their heyday then this is the book you need. It was published under the name of Captain Charles Johnson, presumably to protect its author from the retaliation of ones such as Captain Avery - then in England - whose case the book deals with first. Avery had had a play written about or by him called The Successful Pirate, and a book called The King of the Pirates, and this A General History of the Pyrates is a scathing attack against their pretentions. Because of his history as a pirate Avery would not have been able to visit the naval records office to check up on his adversary, hence the security and reason presumably for the name. Subsequent research in the naval records have shown that no such fish as Captain Charles Johnson had existed. His name is fictional.

A possible explanation for why this book was published under that name is that at the time there was a hack playwright named Charles Johnson who is suspected of having written Avery's play and possibly also his book The King of The Pirates. If so, the name Captain Charles Johnson here would have been to mock this author and subvert any such pretence.

The American Defoe scholar John Robert Moore identified A General History of the Pyrates as being Defoe's and it certainly adds to his tally of great works.

In 1988 a couple of so-called scholars dismissed Moore's attribution on the grounds that the style was not the same as in The Pirate Gow or The King Of Pirates, both of which have been attributed to Defoe. However neither of these books are alike in style (The Pirate Gow is at least good journalism) and certainly the King of Pirates doesn't resemble Defoe's style or his character either, while this one (Volume One anyway) does. Moore was a fan and an expert and he has to be right.
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