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Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality
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127 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 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 33 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 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. It can certainly do no harm in promoting this book and the real life behind the screen.

Writers such as Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson and J M Barrie are covered too, as is the contemporary art some of which is illustrated. All told, Cordingly has written an incisive and readable account.
Beware the romance, there are some shocking passages of torture and battle to make even those stern of heart, wince. And lest not forget that pirates are still operating in the seas albeit without the eye patches, wooden legs and shouldered parrots.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 September 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
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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
on 27 September 2005
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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on 16 October 2012
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 book around.This was a brilliantly simple idea.The result is one of the most important books on piracy written in English. If I had to recommend a single work to a stranger to this subject this is the book I would put first on my list. I would also put it first on any bibliography for undergraduates studying this subject.
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on 1 September 2011
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 crossbones. Myths such as the Jolly Roger and walking the plank are also debunked. Well worth a read if you are interested in seafaring history and find out the truth in this well researched book. Lots of information but also an easy read.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2002
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 being a pirate, it was a dangerous and short-lived life for the majority of them. The conditions were squalid and scurvy was widespread and it was certainly not the romantic and exciting exsistence as portayed in the 1930 silver screen. Cordingly tries destroy our image of pirate describing them as blood thrisy varmin only in it for the loot. And if the captain dod not deliver then they would certainly meet a watery grave. Cordingly determines the different pirates/buccaneers during the time and does an excellent job.
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on 2 September 2013
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 thrilled he is still reading it at the moment, and is enjoying the read so far
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on 28 November 2013
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 history of pirates.
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