"Highly entertaining and well-documented." — TheNew York Times
While history has painted most pirates as "abominable brutes," capable of the worst cruelties and driven by insatiable greed, the author of this fascinating study insists that pirates have suffered more than their share of bad press, mainly from popularizing writers trying to sell books. He notes, for example, that Henry Morgan always carried privateering commissions signed by the governor of Jamaica, and that many pirates bought commissions (and pardons) from governors of the American colonies.
With this in mind, Mr. Pringle tries to separate fact from fiction in chronicling the activities of the infamous men and women who sailed under the black flag during the great age of piracy. Beginning with Sir Francis Drake, the "Father of Modern Piracy," he examines the lives and deeds of such outlaws as Morgan, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Anne Bonney, and Mary Read, as well as a raft of lesser-known scoundrels, finding, for the most part, that the myths about these maritime marauders are largely overblown.
Pirates, for example, never made their prisoners walk the plank. This was a nineteenth-century fiction with no basis in reality. Moreover, the atrocities pirates are accused of, if true, were no worse, and sometimes not nearly as bad, as the horrific punishments (brandings, drawing and quartering, burning alive, etc.), meted out by legitimate governments of the age.
In short, while piracy undoubtedly was a fact of life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the reality was far less brutal and blood-soaked than the sensationalizing writers of the time and of a later day would have us believe. The true state of affairs is unfolded in this engrossing, impeccably accurate history, sure to delight any armchair sailor, maritime historian or old salt with its balanced, highly readable study of the seagoing brigands who sailed under the Jolly Roger.
Reprint of the W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York, 1953 edition.