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Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality [Paperback]

David Cordingly
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: £10.99
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Book Description

16 May 1996

What were pirates really like? How much, if any, of the piratical stereotype - of a dashingly handsome man with an eye-patch, peg-leg and a parrot on his shoulder - is based on the documented fact.

In this revealing and highly original study David Cordingly sets out to discover the truth behind the piracy myth, exploring its enduring and extraordinary appeal, and answering such questions as: why did men become pirates? Were there any women pirates? How much money did they make from plundering and looting? And were pirates really dashing highwaymen of the Seven Seas or just vicious cut-throats and robbers?

From Long John Silver to Henry Morgan, Robert Louis Stevenson to J.M. Barrie, LIFE AMONG THE PIRATES examines all the heavyweights of history and literature and presents the essential survey of this fascinating phenomenon.

Frequently Bought Together

Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality + Pirates: A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates + Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates
Price For All Three: £23.96

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (16 May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349113149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349113142
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A comprehensive and colourful account of seafaring life. (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS)

Readable, wideranging and entertaining (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Fascinating (GUARDIAN)

Entertaining and popular but also serious in its intent (TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT)

Splendidly illuminates the blurred distinctions between pirates, privateers and those who attacked ships in the name of their sovereigns (EVENING STANDARD)


Cordingly knows all there is to know about his subject (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

There is much to entertain and fascinate in all sections of Cordingly's readable book (GLASGOW HERALD)

Book Description

* Entertaining, popular but also serious account of pirates and pirate life by the acknowledged expert on the subject.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
124 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book but ... WARNING 19 Aug 2003
This is indeed an excellent book, probably as close to definitive in its subject matter as can be got. However, although the following is NOT a critique of the quality of either book's contents, am afraid I cannot wax lyrical further as LIFE AMONG THE PIRATES is ... exactly the SAME book as UNDER THE BLACK FLAG.
Neither book's flysheet mentions any "Originally published as" statements, so I think the work was published as LIFE AMONG THE PIRATES (Little, Brown & Co. 1995; reprint by Abacus 2000/2002) in the UK, but for the United States market as UNDER THE BLACK FLAG (Harvest/Harcourt Brace & Co. 1997). Am not exaggerating: Introduction, Chapter Titles, Maps, Illustrations, Appendices, Glossary, and Bibliography are the same - word-perfect. I do feel rather 'slapped in the face' (and with egg on it, too!). Whilst I accept that Amazon are not to blame for this embarrassing échec, I hope Amazon will list my review/comment so that others will not make the same mistake ...!!!
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars rollover errol flynn 19 April 2004
David Cordingly appears to live and breathe life on the high seas and it shows in his writing. Formerly head of exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum and time spent in Jamaica, the 18th century hot bed of a key Carribean pirate island, he brings an authoritative and thoroughly entertaining romp.
"Life among the pirates" is an exhilarating dip into the history of the seas' highwaymen, and highwaywomen, adroitly separating the fiction from the fact and as the subtitle says, the romance from the reality. Cordingly lays bare the skulduggery, the malice, the terror and the opportunism, in unearthing the true pirates.
There is a lot of history and seafaring wherefores to cover. The war with Spain, and France, the fight to claim the American continent, the privateers, buccaneers and corsairs, the difference between sloops, schooners, snows, ships and Royal Navy rated vessels. And whilst Cordingly often skips and races through passages of big history, there's enough to place his story in context. It leaves one enticed and signposted to search for the bigger picture elsewhere.
"Life among the pirates" delights in attacking Hollywood, a la twinkle eyed Errol Flynn, for upping the ante on the romance at the neglect of the depravity and forelorn short lived life of the renegades they ape to depict.
The latest movie incarnation in "Pirates of the Carribean", proves it was a little more well researched with a half glance to Cordingly's account yet it is still mixed with a heady dose of the loveable rogues. So he might be a little more forgiving of this latest blockbuster as there are elements brought to life from the book such as the pirates' island bases, the battle with the British Navy, the executions, and yes that inevitable enviable charm.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's rated aaar! 24 Sep 2008
Life Among the Pirates is a tremendously well written, engaging, and thoroughly scholarly overview of the subject of Pirates and Piracy. While the focus is primarily on piracy in the Caribbean during the golden age of Piracy (1650-1725), it does touch upon piracy in other times and other regions.

It reads beautifully - Cordingly manages to combine a mastery of the subject matter with the execution of a skilled storyteller, and the result is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the truth behind the myths.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a marvellous book 5 April 2010
This is a very well written book primarily covering the "Golden Age" of piracy in Carribean the 18th century but touching on piracy across the world and the ages.
Cordingly explores the subject with a great deal of aplomb, comparing the myths of piracy and the romanticism of books, films and plays with the harsh realities of the cut throat, piratical activities of the day.
The book makes a good deal of reference to Captain Johnson's revered volume on piratical history and also makes good use of a range of a number of other sources.
This is an accessible book which offers a fascinating insight into the world of the pirates, from the mundane (looking at living quarters and the need for maitaining their ships) to the criminal acts for which they gained notoriety.
Cordingly also gives us brief over views of the lives of some of the most famous and notorious pirates (Blackbeard, Morgan, Black Bart and so on)and works these life stories superbly into the narrative.
A wonderful book and a great companion to the aforementioned volume by Captain Johnson.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars cordingley's pirates 27 Sep 2005
By A Customer
A fantastic read by a true master of the subject. What one would superficially expect when considering a history of seventeenth and eighteenth century piracy would be chapters on ships and guns, flags and punishments. This is all here, of course, but arranged in a much more interesting way. There are chapters on our own perceptions of piracy such as its portrayal in film, and Cordingley's pirates are not camp and brightly coloured, endlessly dancing hornpipes and the like; they are set in their social context. Read this book, then give it to one of the endless masses of military history enthusiasts as proof that the guns and tactics they natter on about at length are much less fascinating than the full spectrum of piracy's social impact. Great stuff
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality
This is a really great read; I was completely engrossed start to finish. A few digressions on films and the like but other than that a well thought out and well put together... Read more
Published 9 months ago by TpW
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value
My husband was first told about this book in 1997 and we've tried various avenues and had a light bulb moment a few weeks ago and hey presto amazon came to the rescue brilliant... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tracy nails
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirates
Good for a pleasure read or filled with follow on reference links. I bought Johnsons History of Pirates after reading
this enjoyable navel history book.
Published 14 months ago by blackadder
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Study
Most of the historiography on the golden age of piracy deals with the subject chronologically. Cordingly noticed this and created a subject index of chapter headings to write his... Read more
Published 23 months ago by S. W. Trinder
3.0 out of 5 stars The mixture as before
If you've read any of the serious books written about piracy in the past twenty years then you've read this one. Read more
Published on 12 Mar 2012 by W. Black
5.0 out of 5 stars Life among the Pirates
Currently reading this and it is a very interesting and informative read. It dashes the mythology surrounding pirates where they all behaved like Errol Flynn and flew the skull and... Read more
Published on 1 Sep 2011 by Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars just great!
the book's condition is not excellent but it must be because of a lot of reading and I'm not surprised because it is just a fantastic book! Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2011 by jusis
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent informative read
This book really tells you how it was if you lived on a pirate ship in the 18th century. Cordingly, an expert in martime history, tells us that it was not all it cracked up to be... Read more
Published on 11 April 2002 by Mr. Paul D. Evans
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