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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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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Pirates in Their Own Words                    King of the Pirates

Cover Art: Pirates in Their Own
Pirates in Their Own Words: Eye-witness Accounts of the ‘Golden Age’ of Piracy, 1690-1728
Edited by E. T. Fox
Fox Historical, 2014, ISBN 978-1-291-93835-7 (hardback), $56.29
ISBN 978-1-291-94399-3 (paperback), $38.37
ISBN 978-1-291-94521-8 (e-book), $28.78


Although publications of primary source documents abound, few collections have incorporated the words of pirates. For readers seeking such documents written between 1690 and 1728, there exist only two such volumes – John Franklin Jameson’s Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period (1923) and Joel Baer’s British Piracy in the Golden Age (2007) – until now. Pirates in Their Own Words is an affordable book in a single volume that focuses on manuscript sources, and the material it contains comes only from the Golden Age.

The book is divided into five sections, the first four of which are eyewitness accounts:
Part I: Pirates (35 entries) – documents (such as a will, depositions, and letters) that the pirates either freely wrote or dictated to someone to write on their behalf

Part II: Forced Men (13 entries) – accounts from men who surrendered themselves after being forced to join pirate crews. They either testified against the pirates or succeeded in proving to others that they had had no choice in going on the account.

Part III: Pirates’ Victims (11 entries) – documents from those whom the pirates captured. These often provide details about pirate life, especially when at sea.

Part IV: Trials (3 entries) – pirate trials

Part V: Miscellaneous Documents (14 entries) – items that shed light on pirate life, including financial documents and a wife’s letter.
For the most part, Fox includes a short introduction to each document to orient the reader. Each section also opens with an overview of the material found within and familiarizes the reader with piratical sources. Sometimes the information here can be just as enlightening as the primary documents themselves. As Fox so eloquently states in his introduction to part one:
In this chapter the pirates speak for themselves, they tell us only what they want to tell us, not necessarily what we would like to know. (16)
While there is no index, Fox lists all documents in the table of contents and cross-references accounts related to each other throughout the book. He also includes an explanation of abbreviations that appear in the various accounts, as well as an extensive bibliography. He not only retains the original spelling of the documents, but also provides footnotes to offer further information and explain place names. Many students of pirate history will be familiar with the black-and-white pictures that illustrate the volume.

Pirates in Their Own Words is an invaluable resource that contains priceless nuggets of information rarely found in other pirate histories. For example, more than once I’ve encountered references to the fact that few pirates were married, yet wives are mentioned a number of times in the documents included in this collection. William Phillips [doc. 2] not only mentions that Richard Chope, John King, Thomas Johnson, James Craggett, Nathaniel Pyke, and James Murray were married but also identifies where some of their wives resided. The inclusion of pirates who aren’t well known and documents referred to but rarely quoted in history books are two more reasons why this is a significant reference tool.

Several of the most priceless documents in this collection, at least from my perspective, are:
14. The Will of Joseph Jones

17. Robert Collover writes to a shipmate’s widow

18. A Pirate Reference

19. Dear British Apollo

38. John Ireland

57. Jacob du Bucquoy describes life in the company of John Taylor

65. A pirate’s widow seeks her inheritance

69. Pirates surrender to Captain Pearse
I realize these titles tell readers little, but if you’re curious, I highly recommend you check out this book for yourselves. You won’t be disappointed and you will gain better insight into the pirates!

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar

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            King of the Pirates
King of the Pirates: The Swashbuckling Life of Henry Every
by E. T. Fox
The History Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7524-4718-6, £14.99


All the best stories begin at the end, and this story is no exception. In 1695 Henry Every, a thirty-six-year-old master mariner from the south coast of Devon, led one of the most powerful pirate crews in history on a short but spectacularly successful cruise in the Red Sea. Their capture of the Grand Moghul’s ship the Gang-i-Sawai was one of the most successful crimes ever committed, and while it made the fortune of Every’s pirates, it plunged the nascent British Empire into turmoil.

Thus begins this fascinating and riveting account into the life and escapades of Henry Every and his men. While other pirates are better known, Every was a legend in his own time. He accomplished what others only dreamed of and he succeeded in getting away with it. With a single capture he became the most wanted man in the world, yet he eluded authorities even though many of his crew did not.

Within the pages of this book, Fox recounts the life of this pirate and the times in which he lived. The Prologue sets the stage and explores what is and isn’t known about Every’s early life. Chapter one covers his navy career and his work as a master for the Royal African Company, while the next chapter examines how he went on the account. The next several sections cover his capture and aftermath of the Gang-i-Sawai. The trials of Every’s men are covered in chapter seven,  and the next focuses on Every’s disappearance.

This concise, yet thorough, examination of Henry Every’s life is further enhanced with an epilogue, appendices, notes, and index. The first, entitled “Flotsam and Jetsam,” covers a treasure chest of related information about bit players and early accounts. Among the topics found in the appendices are Every’s “Declaration” at Corunna, Every and the Derbyshire Everys, wages and money, Every and William Kidd, legends of buried treasure, and the Fancy’s crew.

King of the Pirates is a must read for any pirate enthusiast or fan of Henry Every. While many books include information on this noteworthy buccaneer, this is one of the few books devoted to him and the most recent, best documented resources available.

Book Review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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