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The Pirate Wars: Pirates vs. the Legitimate Navies of the World
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2008
A really well written book which explores the reality & myths surrounding piracy. This book concentrates on the piracy from the late 16th century onwards (for a period up to & including the early part of the 19th century).Inside, chapters entitled "A Nation Of Pirates", "The Buccaneers" , "War Against The Pirates" & "The Golden Age Of Pirates" (to name but a few) explore the different types of piracy (state sanctioned & outright criminal) perpetrated by a variety of nations & their subjects.
The link between piracy & imperialist ambition is well explained & the role of the great navies of the world in first encouraging (or at least turning a blind eye to pirate activity) & then hunting down & attacking the pirates, as views on piracy (particularly amongst the establishment) changed is fascinating.
This book is not a romantic vision of piracy, the author himself admits to siding with the forces of "law & order" but even so, this distinction was at times blurred, as privateers wreaked havoc with the blessing of those same legitimate forces & institutions.
From the Barbary pirates to those of Northern Europe, featuring the likes of Captain Kidd & Henry Morgan, this is a journey through history on the high seas.
A well written attempt to go beyond the fables & tall tales, in order to look at the real history behind this period of piracy. The author has made good use of historical sources (particularly Admiralty records of the time) to produce an entertaining & yet very illuminating book.
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on 18 October 2013
Peter Earle has written a superb and concise history of pirates, ranging from England in the late-Tudor period through to the Greek War of Independence. Although a slim volume, it covers a wide expanse of time and an even wider expanse of ocean in telling the familiar and not so familiar stories of the age of piracy.

Having grown up in the West Country, I've always had a keen interest in pirates, and I can still vividly recall the term we 'studied' them at primary school when I was 7 or 8. Ever since, I have absorbed all sorts of legends, tales and stereotypes that are forever linked with pirates in popular culture, and my greatest delight in reading this book has been discovering and/or remembering that virtually all of them are rooted in real life.

That's not to say it hasn't been an educational experience too. I never previously appreciated quite how global the threat of piracy was, how widely the pirates roamed, and how inextricably linked to naval war and privateering piracy really was. Indeed, I hadn't ever realised how instrumental to the expansion of international trade and colonial security the pirates were.

Fascinating trivia abounds throughout the book: walking the plank was invented in the 19th century by Cuban pirates; seventeenth-century pirates were routinely pardoned by small states to act as instant navies; the word buccaneer derives from the way French exiles made beef jerky. Pirates were sometimes compensated for injuries sustained in action, and wooden legs and hooks for hands were treated 'as if they were his original limbs' in this respect.

The book isn't perfect and in places the writing style is a bit wooden. The chronology suffers occasionally as a result of Earle's deliberate attempt to structure the book into thematic chapters, and his habit of very neatly summarising each chapter in the final paragraph is reminiscent of a school textbook, but overall these minor quibbles can be overlooked as the book is a real pleasure to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2011
A thoroughly entertaining read that does exactly what it says on the tin by seperating fable from fantasy. Luckily the truth is every bit as interesting as the fiction. I learnt much from this well written book. Highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 12 February 2011
Peter Earle is an academic (London School of Economics, University of London) and it shows. This is a scholarly overview of piracy as an occupation across two-and-a-half centuries. Themes and trends are examined, an even-handed approach is adopted. From the outset Earle sets out to remove the romance from piracy. He suggests, for example, that the very small numbers of female pirates lead to an assumption of widespread homosexuality - hardly the Hollywood pirate image.

But, in truth, it makes for heavy reading. The printed page is different from the lecture hall; at times the author seems not to have expressed his ideas in the most fluent prose. Careful revision might also have removed some of the repetition.

This may well be a book for serious students. For the casual reader there are more racy accounts that are still based on good historical research. Try Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood or A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana and Michael Preston, excellent books both.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2008
Separating the pirate truth from the pirate myth both sounds and is a mammoth task to execute, but Peter Earle somehow, through some magical literary genius-ness that was transcended to him by Blackbeard or Bart Roberts themselves, manages to do both, and still create a bloody good book. The tone of the book is a mixed one, and rightly so for us as reader, as Earle never seems to condemning of the activities of any of the pirates he discusses, and nor does he appear to glorify too much the navies and military authorities that try and end the work of these said pirates. His historical yet fun romp through piracy is both exciting, scholarly and educational, but all done in a way that makes you want to keep reading.

A very enjoyable book to read, whether you're a newcomer to the history of pirates or a hardened seafarer, and a book that has clearly had both a lot of effort and research put into each page. Well done Mr Earle, well done.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2009
I persevered with this as I was interested in the subject matter, but in the end it was a disappointment. There were some good bits but a lot of repetition and the good bits had a lot of 'filling' in between them.

Nevertheless, a valiant attempt to dispel the false glamour/glory engendered about pirates by fiction and film.
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