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The Republic of Pirates: Being the true and surprising story of the Caribbean pirates and the man who brought them down Paperback – Unabridged, 16 Jan 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (16 Jan 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1447243935
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447243939
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Fascinating... beyond rip-roaring adventure stories from the distant past, [the book offers] an opportunity to understand pirates as they truly were--and to be grateful that the worst of them, at least, are gone.' New York Times Book Review

'This breezy, fast-moving book is filled with exciting action and colorful characters. It will provide general readers and those with a special interest in the period much enjoyment.' Booklist

'Disregard Robert Louis Stevenson's rowdy buccaneers, the Disney factory's lively rascals and those musical lads from Penzance: Here are the real pirates of the Caribbean, and the facts are as colorful and exciting as fiction.' Kirkus Reviews

'It's a rollicking tale, filled with rich details of the lives of men who, for their own personal gain, challenged the spread of empires.' Times-Picayune

'The first incisive look at the world of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Anne Bonny, and their compatriots, and it illuminates as never before one of the most storied yet misunderstood episodes in our past.' Willliam C. Davis, author of The Pirates Laffite

'A rollicking, gangplank-swaying read of a book ...This scrupulously researched book strikes a balance of human interest, romance, drama, war, and historical fact--all key ingredients for an excellent read.' Caribbean Beat

About the Author

Colin Woodard, an award-winning author and journalist, is State & National Affairs Writer for The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, and a longtime correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His work has appeared in The Economist, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Smithsonian, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Bloomberg View, Washington Monthly and dozens of other national and international publications. A native of Maine, he has reported from more than fifty foreign countries and six continents, and lived for more than four years in Eastern Europe during and after the collapse of communism. His investigative reporting for the Telegram won a 2012 George Polk Award. His most recent book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, was named a Best Book of 2011 by the editors of The New Republic and the Globalist and won the 2012 Maine Literary Award for Non-Fiction. A graduate of Tufts University and the University of Chicago, he lives in Midcoast Maine.

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First Sentence
THE SLOOP ARRIVED in the afternoon of April Fool's Day 1696, swinging around the low, sandy expanse of Hog Island and into Nassau's wide, dazzlingly blue harbor. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Korlis on 5 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Woodard states in his introduction that he intends to paint a picture of the Golden Age of Piracy, the early portion of the 18th Century, by focussing on four key figures: Edward "Blackbeard" Thatch (or Teach, or Thache...), Benjamin Hornigold, Charles Vane, and their nemesis, a prominent Bristol merchant's son-turned-pirate hunter, Woodes Rogers. That's exactly the book he produces, weaving four biographies together to explain the circumstances that allowed the Golden Age to begin, and that would eventually lead to its end. Woodard draws heavily on contemporary sources like court records, ships' logs, a Boston newspaper, and bits and pieces from "A General History of the Pyrates", published in the early 1700s, though he frequently stresses that much within that book was apparently historically inaccurate when compared to his other, more legalistic sources.

For the most part, Woodard is pretty engaging, and does a good job integrating those historical facts into a larger narrative that paints a thorough picture of the era. Occasionally he seems to get a bit carried away, leading to speculative sections that - while clearly noted as such - feel a little reaching. At most, though, that's a minor quibble.

I was more disappointed with the relatively abrupt end to the book. Unfortunately, in setting out to follow the four men mentioned above, Woodard runs out of steam and detail when they are, for various reasons, taken out of the picture. Bartholemew Roberts, described as taking over 400 ships, barely gets a mention. The female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny also get very little material, despite records of their incarceration. Perhaps it's just that there was not enough historical data for him to draw together an interesting narrative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William on 17 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've always been interested in the stories of famous pirates and thanks to this book I've found out the real stories are much more interesting than the legends. Woodard doesn't focus wholly on them though, he also includes a lot of information on life in early 18th century Britain for context which I found just as interesting, Information seems to be well researched and if there is any doubt Woodard states it.
Overall, not too heavy going, very interesting and exactly what you want when it comes to real pirate stories.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good book, but very heavy going with small print and densely written pages - not for an exciting quick read!
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. I. Hicks on 27 May 2011
Format: Paperback
I thought I knew a little about pirates in the Caribbean but this is mind blowing. I had no idea they were so effective, so ruthless, so destructive, so powerful and so real. It took some determined and single minded people to put a stop to their chaos.

History repeats itself. Today, governments are sitting on their stupid hands, allowing evil to flourish.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 108 reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Rousing story of the Caribbean pirates 5 May 2007
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Colin Woodard has authored a wonderful history of the pirates of the Caribbean in their heyday, with the prime years being 1715-1725. The lives of Jack Sparrow and Long John Silver fascinate us; the real pirates, as depicted by Woodard, are perhaps even more interesting.

He tells the story of the "pirate republic," headquartered in the Bahamas. He uses the term "republic" purposefully. He contends that (and this appears to me to be hyperbole) the pirates fueled (page 1) ". . .the democratic sentiments that would later drive the American revolution." Some fascinating tidbits related to this thesis: pirates shared their spoils relatively equally; rank-and-file pirates elected and deposed ships' captains; decisions were often made in what Woodard calls "open councils"; runaway slaves sometimes came aboard as pirates and were often treated as equals by their fellow pirates. As Woodard notes (page 4): "The pirate gangs of the Bahamas were enormously successful. At their zenith they succeeded in severing Britain, France, and Spain from their New World empires, cutting off trade routes. . . ."

The primary figures covered in this book are three pirate leaders, Samuel ("Black Sam") Bellamy, Edward ("Blackbeard") Thatch, and Charles Vane. Of course, many others are mentioned as well, including "Calico Jack" Rackham, Benjamin Hornigold, Josiah Burgess, Henry Jennings, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read. The fourth primary character is the man who devoted himself to destroying the pirate republic--Woodes Rogers. The book tells the story of the pirates and their depredations. It also tells the story of Rogers, who made it his aim to destroy those pirates.

All in all, a rip roaring volume. The book tells of the poor living conditions in ships, the collaboration of some political leaders with the pirates, the role of the pirates in American waters, and so on. Basically, this is a nice volume to introduce one to the real Caribbean pirates, not just the film versions thereof.
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
The politics of piracy. 24 May 2007
By Paul Tognetti - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is a subject that I had previously given very little thought to. Even as a kid I never found the subject of pirates to be all that interesting. I don't know why. However, over the past couple of years I have had occasion to read a pair of phenomenal books about the slave trade. I found both Ron Soodalter's "Hanging Captain Gordon" and Charles Rappleye's "Sons of Providence" to be absolutely spellbinding. So when I recently came across Colin Woodward's new book "The Republic of Pirates" I simply could not resist.

There is an old saying that counsels if you want to find out why things happen the way they do then simply "follow the money". This is essentially the route Colin Woodward takes in "The Republic of Pirates". After reading this book it is now clear to me why so many men made the fateful decision to turn away from "legitimate" authority and engage in the act of piracy. For many of these men had very legitimate economic and political issues with those in power in England in the early 18th century and most of these concerns were simply not being addressed. One by one and for very personal reasons men made the decision to rebel against the authorities who were holding them down. Before long a large group of like minded individuals would set up shop at an island known as New Providence in the Bahamas and would begin a period of plunder and terror that would last for nearly a decade. Operating all along the eastern coast of America and in the Carribean these daring men succeeded in wreaking havoc and disrupting trade between the European powers and their various colonies in the New World as well as the very lucrative trade with the Far East. In the pages of "The Republic of Pirates" you will read the fascinating stories of dozens of the men who made names for themselves during this period. Colin Woodward devotes a considerable amount of time tracking the careers of three of these men. Charles Vane, Sam Bellamy and Edward Thatch, better known as "Blackbeard" were among the most feared and successful of the pirate leaders. You will also meet one Woodes Rogers, the man King George would eventually tap to quell the uprising and restore order to the high seas.

For the most part I did enjoy reading "The Republic of Pirates". Having said that I must admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at times trying to keep up with the comings and goings of all of the players in this drama. Drawing from the epic 1724 book "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates" and a great many other documents from the period that survive to this day "The Republic of Pirates" is an extremely thoughtful, well-researched and scholarly work. Recommended.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
What you didn't know about pirates 23 Feb 2008
By Linda Bulger - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You might think a person interested in pirates would get into the historical records to learn more about those rough wanderers. Colin Woodard came at it from the other direction: he has a fascination with history and "got into" pirates as a vehicle to bring U.S. colonial history to life. "The Republic of Pirates" is the fascinating product of his research.

Woodard focuses on what he calls "the Golden Age of Piracy," a ten-year period from 1715 to 1725. The few thousand men -- and a few women -- who populate this story were a different breed from the government-sanctioned privateers of earlier times. As Woodard describes them, they were " ... engaged in more than simple crime and undertook nothing less than a social and poitical revolt. They were sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves rebelling against their oppressors: captains, ship owners, and the autocrats of the great slave plantations of America and the West Indies." Some of them were set up as a rebel navy by supporters of James Stuart, the half-brother of Queen Anne, exiled after her death in 1714.

Woodard's three main pirate subjects -- Samuel Bellamy, Charles Vane, and Edward "Black Beard" Thatch, grew up in an England made harsh for the lower classes by the waning of feudalism, the enclosure of public grazing land, and the flight from rural regions to London. The fourth focus of the book is Woodes Rogers, a Bahamian governor and former privateer who would eventually be the downfall of the pirates' Golden Age.

Funded in part by the wreck of a great Spanish treasure fleet off Florida in 1715, the pirate bands began to congregate in the Bahamas and to grow in strength and daring. They roamed up and down the coast, finding safe harbor in Virginia, Long Island, Cape Cod, and the islands off the coast of Woodard's native Maine.

While the pirate bands were based on a model of democratic decision-making and equal sharing of booty, Woodard leaves us with no doubt that life on the main was harsh and dangerous. "The Republic of Pirates" is a lively look at the realities of life in England and America in the eighteenth century, and is a great example of dry records and correspondence giving up their treasure to one who knows how to search them out.

Colin Woodard is a native of the tiny Maine town where I live now and he spoke last year at the local library, a rare and precious event for the town. He lit the room up with his passion for those old days, both the wild adventures and the mundane relationships. Three hundred years ago -- but as real as yesterday in this wonderful book. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys seeing history brought to life.

Linda Bulger, 2008
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Great if you love History... 31 May 2007
By jack o clubs - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, but then again I'm a serious history buff. Lot's of really interesting information about the real pirates of the Caribbean: their origins, their relationships to one another, and their rise and fall during the so called golden age. As pure entertainment however, it could get a bit tedious. I don't really need to know the name of every ship captured and the name of the captain. Some of the detail could have been left out in favor of good storytelling...
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I love this book! 17 Jun 2007
By S - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There is currently a glut of books on the history of pirates, due to the new movie and so on. I can't speak for the others, since I haven't read them (yet!), but this book is worth your time. Woodard, instead of trying to talk about all of pirate history, creates a very detailed, interesting narrative on a particular moment in time. People who don't love history may find some parts a little dry, but there are plenty of direct quotes from famous pirates themselves to keep it lively. You will learn a lot about famous pirates like Edward Teach (Blackbeard), the history of the Bahamas and how pirate ships were run. A very entertaining read.
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