Book Review: Under the Black Flag – by David Cordingly

Cordingly is an expert in maritime history. He published this book  in 1995, telling of the romance and the reality of life among the pirates. He does not just tell of the pirates in the Caribbean, which is what we think about when pirates come to mind. Pirates were active all over the world, but the most intense period of pirate activity took place between 1700 and about 1725.

An exhaustive work, it talks about the mystique created by writers like Robert Luis Stevenson, as well as the brutal reality of pirates as the savage murderers they really were. He tells the story with endless examples, quotes from historical records and many anecdotes. Perhaps it will be best if I just list the names of all the chapters, and you’ll get the idea:

  1. Wood Legs and Parrots
  2. Plundering the Treasure Ports
  3. Sir Henry Morgan
  4. Women Pirates and Pirates’ Women
  5. Storms, Shipwrecks, and Life at Sea
  6. Into Action Under the Pirate Flag
  7. Torture, Violence, and Marooning
  8. Pirate Islands and Other Haunts
  9. Sloops, Schooners, and Pirate Films
  10. Captain Kidd and Buried Treasure
  11. Hunting Down the Pirates
  12. Trials, Executions, and Hanging in Chains

After reading this eminently entertaining book I will never think about pirates in the same romantic way again. All of a sudden I find myself interested in reading Treasure Island by Stevenson. I also want to travel to the Caribbean and perhaps take a cruise and stop off at some of the places I learned so much about, including Port Royal on Jamaica.

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