Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
On 30 January 1698, William Kidd and the crew of the Adventure Galley seized a merchant ship known as the Quedagh Merchant. She was laden with “1200 bayles of muslins, raw silk and calicoe of all sorts, fourteen hundred bags of brown sugar, 84 bayles of raw silk and eighty chests of opium . . . [along with] iron and saltpeter and other goods of less value” (38) They sailed to the Indian Ocean to capture pirates; instead, Kidd was denounced as a pirate. To clear his name, he sailed the Quedagh Merchant to the Caribbean, where she later sank. He was eventually arrested and taken to London, where he stood trial for murder and piracy.
Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship recounts Kidd’s rise and fall, the demise of both him and his prize, and her rediscovery. But far from the simple telling of a privateer who becomes a pirate, this volume delves much deeper into the myth, history, and archaeology surrounding one of the best-known episodes in pirate history. The following quote from page one best explains the purpose of this book.
Archaeology is not solely the excavation of a site and the recovery of its artifacts; it includes an investigation of the social activity surrounding a site and its formation, the historical context, the actions of individuals in the past as related to a site, and the management and preservation of a site for public benefit and future generations.Hanselmann deftly recounts not only the scientific and theoretical sides of the story, but also showcases how one person’s actions and decisions, in combination with those of others and the states involved, snowballed into the loss of both ship and man. It is a tale of interconnected networks – the English East India Company, Armenian traders, sailors, privateers, and piracy – in a global tapestry that reaches from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean and several points in between. He also explains how they identified the shipwreck and how the Dominican Republic decided to turn this archaeological find into a Living Museum in the Sea.
Even those familiar with William Kidd’s rise and fall will find new information within this book and come away with a better appreciation of who this man was, what he did, and how global changes played a significant part in his story. The step-by-step review of all aspects allows readers to better see “the differences between the commonly held view of Kidd and his vessel that has been passed down through the centuries and the true tale of Kidd’s rise and fall in a much broader context.” (2) The inclusion of contemporary documents, some of which may not appear in other works on Kidd, are an added bonus to a book that is well written. To further place this episode within its historical context, Hanselmann includes a Chronology of Events. There is also a list of cited literature and an index.
While the theoretical explanations may mislead some to think this is a pedantic treatment of a fascinating subject, the author provides a gripping account of how archaeologists sift through myths and legends to discover the reality. Hanselmann provides a well-rounded, more complete glimpse into Kidd and the world in which he lived. It’s one of the best demonstrations of how actions have consequences and how those consequences impact individuals in real world situations. As a result, Captain Kidd’s Lost Ship is an invaluable and informative addition to any maritime, archaeological, or piratical library.
Book review Copyright ©2020 by Cindy Vallar
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