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A buccaneer with empathy and intelligence
on 27 July 2010
Every time I started a new chapter in this book there was something to delight, inform, entertain or shock me. Delight in the descriptions of the remote places Dampier visited. Information on the history, politics, morals, religion and practices of the time: I learned a lot. Entertainment in the enormous adventure of his life and his interaction with the people he met and worked with. Horror at the hardships and living conditions of life on board ship and in the fragility of life in the early European colonies - imagine having to extract a two foot long worm from your leg as Dampier did.
What I was left with was a great admiration for Dampier. Even though he was an extremely tough man he displayed a sensitivity in his interaction with the native people he encountered, and made an intelligent and systematic analysis of the physical world and the environments in which he found himself.
This book combines the best of serious history with the best of biography. My only small reservation is that while the maps illustrated in the book are reproductions of maps made by Dampier himself, it would have been nice to have an immediate comparison with current geographical knowledge - I had to constantly refer to a modern atlas.