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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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De Ruyter: Dutch Admiral
Edited by Jaap R. Bruijn, Ronald Prud’homme van Reine, and Rolof van Hövell tot Westerflier
Karwansaray, 2011, ISBN 978-94-90258-03-0, US $92.22 / €70


Far too often books on historical persons focus on a limited point of view, rather than presenting a global perspective of them. Karwansaray seeks to correct this with a new series of books “[w]ith the intention of promoting the growth of a collective European historical consciousness . . . where historians from different countries describe figures of international importance.” (7) For their inaugural release, the publisher selected Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, the Dutch admiral who was respected and honored throughout Europe during his lifetime.
De Ruyter is far from a typical biography, yet it is an absorbing collection of essays that provide a unique and intriguing perspective of this gentleman. The writings reflect this as they examine his life, both professional and personal, as seen through the eyes of his countrymen, as well as the allies and enemies of the Netherlands. This allows the authors to provide glimpses into life and politics during the seventeenth century, a time when the Dutch played a major role in maritime history and much of Europe was embroiled in various wars. Bruijn’s introduction provides an excellent overview of the man and his times, and sets the stage for the chapters that follow.
The Maritime World of the Dutch Republic by Jaap R. Bruijn
Well-written and concise summary that includes sections on the Dutch Republic, the VOC and the WIC, trade and commerce, whaling, privateering, and the navy.
Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter and his Biographer Gerard Brandt by Ronald Purd’homme van Reine
Fascinating assessment of De Ruyter’s life and Gerard Brandt’s biography of the admiral written in 1685, a book that immortalized him and became a bestseller. It also includes an interesting explanation of how biographies were written at the time. Two encounters with Dunkirk privateers appear as well.
Merchants, Diplomats, and Corsairs: The Dutch in Barbary in De Ruyter’s Time by Karim Bejjit
Objective inspection that illuminates the complexity of affairs pertaining to the Barbary States, especially as concerns Dutch relations with them from 1600-1644 and de Ruyter’s experiences dealing with Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis.
The Dutch Republic as a Great Power: Political Interaction and Armed Forces by Jan Glete
Comparative look at the Dutch army and navy with that of other countries.
Navies, Strategy, and Tactics in the Age of De Ruyter by John B. Hattendorf
Also a comparative study, this focuses on naval development in England and the Netherlands, as well as the three naval conflicts fought between these two nations from 1652 to 1674.
The Good Enemy: British Perceptions of Michiel de Ruyter and the Anglo-Dutch Wars by J. D. Davies
Entertaining and informative essay that examines the admiral from the perspective of a plain seaman and a mythic hero. Includes a comparison between de Ruyter and his English contemporaries.
Danish Perspectives on de Ruyter’s Role in the Nordic Conflicts by Niels M. Probst
Interesting chapter on Denmark’s war against Sweden, but the major focus seems to be Niels Juel, rather than de Ruyter, a man with whom Juel sailed more than once.
Michiel de Ruyter’s Expedition to West Africa and America, 1664-1665 by Henk den Heijer
Captivating account of a mission carried out in secret that would lead to the Second Anglo-Dutch War and the role de Ruyter played in it. Also briefly touches on his dealings with the Barbary corsairs.
De Ruyter versus Duquesne: A Battle to the Death by Michel Vergé-Franceschi
Detailed survey of a war that pitted two worthy adversaries against each other with particular emphasis on the French perspective of the battle in which de Ruyter dies.
De Ruyter and his flag officers by Jaap R. Bruijn
Analysis of the two manners – before and after a standing navy became standard – in which flag officers were selected during de Ruyter’s career, the men who held these positions, and what is known of his relationships with them.
De Ruyter in Paint by Ronald Prud’homme van Reine
Intriguing examination of de Ruyter from an unusual perspective that provides insight into his personal life.
Several maps precede the essays, which are handsomely illustrated with reproductions of artwork, photographs, period maps and charts, and artifacts – many of them in color – connected to de Ruyter, whose signature appears at the bottom of each page in gold. Each chapter opens with a double-page spread of a painting that pertains to the subject matter within. Although the font size is small, the abundance of white space on each page makes it easy to read. The book concludes with a Select Bibliography, References for the various chapters, an Index of ship names, an Index of geographical names, and an Index of persons. The final three pages include short biographies of the contributors that clearly show why each is eminently qualified to write on the subject.
The invaluable content and handsome presentation make this a valuable addition to any library interested in maritime history, European history, and naval history. It is an insightful examination of a man whom Louis XIV identified as “a man who did honour to humanity.”

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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