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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

Cover Art: Born to Be Hanged
Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune
By Keith Thomson
Little, Brown and Company, 2022, ISBN 978-0-316-70361-1, US $32.00 / CAN $40.00


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In 1680, buccaneers ally themselves with the Kuna. Their enemy is the same, but their goals differ. The Kuna wish to rescue their leaderís granddaughter, a captive of the Spanish, and the buccaneers seek Spanish treasure. If successful, each pirate may acquire 12,000 pieces of eight. Quite a sum compared to the annual wages of a common laborer on a plantation, 100 pieces of eight per annum. Two impediments block their achievement of this fantastic goal: more soldiers than buccaneers and an impermeable jungle that is totally unknown to them. This is why they seek assistance from the Kuna.

One of the buccaneers records the meeting between Andreas, head of the Kuna, and the pirates. His name is Basil Ringrose, a navigator, a mathematician, and a first-time gentleman of fortune. Six others also write of their exploits: Lionel Wafer (surgeon and Ringroseís friend), Bartholomew Sharp (veteran buccaneer adept at ferreting out prizes and devising tactical plans), John Cox (who has misgivings about the raid), William Dampier (naturalist), Edward Povey, and William Dick. Born to Be Hanged recounts their adventure from the onset of this raid through the end of their adventure together.* Some buccaneers die, some live, and some give up before they ever reach their destination. In addition to the scriveners, readers meet other men, such as Richard Sawkins, who escaped from Port Royalís jail to join the expedition; Peter Harris, another veteran who loses a limb in the expedition; and John Watling, a religious man who tossed gambling dice into the ocean.

Interlaced throughout this journey are captains ousted because of no-confidence votes, a Spaniard who testifies in favor of the buccaneers, a bloody sea battle pitting thirty-six gentlemen of fortune against three Spanish warships, raids on other Spanish settlements, scurvy, a sea serpent, sabotage, irreconcilable differences, an accident that alters Waferís life, the capture of treasure more valuable than gold, and arrest warrants for several buccaneers upon their return to England. Maps, illustrations, a bibliography, end notes, and an index enhance the text and make the information easily accessible. Readers also discover what happened to these men after the expedition ended.

Those familiar with pirate history know of Henry Morganís raid on Panama, but this attack is relatively unfamiliar. Relying on historical archives and the seven accounts of this expedition, Thomson adeptly weaves together details that make for a most intriguing seventeenth-century journey fraught with untold danger and intrepid courage. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the Buccaneering Era and a worthy addition to any pirate collection.


Meet the Author

*In the interest of full disclosure, I am mentioned in the acknowledgements of this book because I read and commented on an early draft of the manuscript. My review, however, is based on the published book, which I did not see or read until after publication.

Review Copyrighted ©2022 Cindy Vallar


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