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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean [Hardcover]

B.R. Burg
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 47.00
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Book Description

31 Jan 1995
A great . . . very interesting book. -Johnny Depp Burg puts historians to shame by raising extremely interesting questions that no one before had asked. -Christopher Hill in New York Review of Books Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children's tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride. In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice. In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed. B. R. Burg is professor of history at Arizona State University, Tempe.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 215 pages
  • Publisher: New York University Press; Rev Ed edition (31 Jan 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814712355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814712351
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,758,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"A great ... very interesting book." --Johnny Depp "Burg puts historians to shame by raising extremely interesting questions that no one before had asked." --Christopher Hill in New York Review of Books

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing history lesson 18 Jun 2008
Running somewhat contrary to modern beliefs about how pirates behaved during their spare time, this book reveals some remarkable truths about an exceedingly Bohemian era. In fairness, the author does go a little 'overboard' with the seamen jokes, but who could really blame him for wanting to squeeze out every last drop? Anyhow, don't be misled by Burg's penchant for bawdy innuendo, for behind all the predictable gags about 'emptying the cannons' or 'entering the poop deck' etc. one finds an extremely engaging history of a rather ill-understood era. Judging from the first-hand sources presented within, you can forget what you saw in Pirates of the Caribbean! I doubt whether Johnny Depp would be quite so popular among teenage girls, had the makers demonstrated what a real-life pirate might have got up to beneath the deck- especially if the film had recreated the tale of some three-way action between one galleon's first-mate and cabin boy, as well as their peg-legged eunuch of a captain (who apparently triumphed over adversity, by uncovering new possibilities where others would merely spy limitations).

Anyway, I learned an enormous amount from this book, not least the etymological origins of the term 'buttpirate'. Incidentally, I understand that Burg is soon to publish a volume about the equally freewheeling behaviour that was rife among workers from the packing departments of Victorian factories (particularly within those that specialised in the production of sugar and butter based confectionary).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captures the interest 14 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book after a random recommendation on QI, of all things, and haven't been disappointed. Although the book does focus primarily on pirates, there are other chapters which cover general society which does give a good context before moving onto the piratical aspects. The length of biblography is better than I was expecting for a book of this nature, although to be honest I took most things with a pinch of salt. However, the book does give you food for thought on the subject and possibly even approach it from a completely new viewpoint. You could quite happily read this book for entertainment only rather than educational study, and it does make an interesting addition to your coffee table. Just remember to hide it when the mother in law comes over for tea ;)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a rare insight into history 10 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has been quoted by Alan Bennett in a context that provoked my interest. I find it refreshing in its approach to aspects of social history that were unknown to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Overall, this book is an excellent assimilation of data that provides a compelling, if sometimes circumstantial, argument that homosexual activity or homosexuality itself was an integral, known and most probably welcome aspect of pirate life in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Taken in the context of its initial date of publication (1983) and subsequent reprint (1995) the message of this book will have initially been perhaps more profound than it is today in western society in 2013 where homosexual lifestyle has in many parts of society become mainstream and often legally protected. There are, however, a few drawbacks that detract from this work without, in my view, undermining its message or significance.

In the extensive discussion on historical context, there seems a degree of selective use of example in articulating the attitudes of society toward homosexuality and homosexual behaviour. At times it feels a bit like the author is bending history to his message rather than concluding his message from an unbiased assessment of history. There are two examples worth noting. In the discussion of Mervin Touchet, Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, his conviction and execution, the author does not extend the discussion to the others involved in the case or point out that they too were executed, perhaps as with Castlehaven not simply for sodomy but this point is left unclear since unaddressed. A second example is the discussion of a pamphlet entitled A Full and True Account of a Dreadful Fire that Lately Broke Out in the Popes Breeches. This the author identifies as anti-clerical rather than anti-homosexual, but nowhere in the discussion is the definition extended to clarify that it in fact relates to a rumoured affair between the well-known wife of the British consul to Venice and the Pope.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Being an avid watcher of QI, I was intrigued by this publication mentioned by Stephen Fry and I have to confess, I felt compelled to buy it and read it. I was very pleased to read what can only be described as an informative insight to the ways of the pirate classes above and below decks. Its a brilliant book and everyone should read it before prejudging homosexual behaviour.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Yes it's true, you won't see Pirates of the Caribbean in the same way ever again if you read this. What I especially found interesting was the cultural background information. It would appear that homosexuality then was rarely held in the contempt to which it became accustomed more 'recently'. I must confess I did not read about 33% of this book, that's because I discovered that the last part of the book was given over to the academic bit where resources are quoted and explained. I recognise that sodomy did not take up the whole of pirates lives, it' was just one part. Having just read a few reviews by others made me realise I'd forgotten one important fact, I too first heard about this book from the TV programme QI. Well done Mr Fry!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Anchors away!
I bought this book after hearing it mentioned on the TV programme QI. The book is well written and covers very interesting subject matter, with some good scene setting to show... Read more
Published 19 months ago by BJShalts
4.0 out of 5 stars Good so far
Interesting so far, but the new introduction contains a glaring error - the founder of the Scout Movement was ROBERT Baden Powell, not RICHARD as asserted by the author three... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Theexonian
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring read
Why does the author use the first 60 odd pages to try to justify sodomy and give constant examples of it not being "a great deal" in 17th century England? Read more
Published 20 months ago by Musab
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
I had high hopes for this book, but i've been sorely disappointed. The topic of scial life in London and the colonis is covered well, and indeed takes up most of the book, but Burg... Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2011 by scarlettruin
5.0 out of 5 stars Sodomy for me
This is a great book about pirates and how they enjoyed sleeping naked in threes and buggering each other. Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2003 by Jason.Scott-Lewis
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a second look (Or double take)
Yes, most folks give a double take when they see the title to this volume. But really, it is quite informative about the life of a rover, and as the title suggests, it pulls no... Read more
Published on 30 Mar 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Missing the point
I don't see how overexposing a subject like sodomy between pirates has much to do with their time. Sure, that was a part of their lives, but did it really have any part in... Read more
Published on 8 Jan 1999
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