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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


Biography
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan
Black Bart Roberts
Blackbeard
Captain Kidd
Drake
Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
From Forecastle to Cabin
Landsman Hay
Pirate Hunter
Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast
A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
Samuel Smedley
Selkirk's Island
Sir Martin Frobisher
Slaver Captain
Treasure and Intrigue
 

StarStarStarStarStar
Coxinga
De Ruyter
Drake: For God, Queen, and Plunder
Frigate Commander
Granuaile

If a Pirate I Must Be...
King of the Pirates
Lafitte the Pirate
The Last Days of Black Beard
The Pirate Hunter
The Pirates Laffite
Real Canadian Pirates
History
Atrocities of the Pirates
The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
(includes some fiction)
Box Office Archaeology
The Buccaneer’s Realm
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Documentation...Florida Keys
Elizabeth's Sea DogsNew
Flying the Black Flag
Hitler’s Secret Pirate Fleet
Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
Jefferson's War
The Last Buccaneers in the South Sea 1686-1695
Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires
A New Voyage Round the World
Patriot Pirates
Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands
The Pirate Code
The Pirate Coast
Pirate Hunting
The Pirate Queen
The Pirate's Pocket-Book
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates? The Politics of Plunder
Pirates of Maryland

Pirates on the Coasts of Peru 1598-1701
A Privateer's Voyage Round the World
Quelch's Gold
The Sack of Panama
Scourge of the Seas
Seafarers, Merchants & Pirates...Middle Ages
The Spanish Main 1492-1800
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Treasure Wreck
Trimming Yankee Sails
Under the Bloody Flag
Victory in Tripoli
 
StarStarStarStarStar
The Barbary Wars
Blackbeard
Blackbeard's Last Fight

British Piracy in the Golden Age
Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates
Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers
Empire of Blue Water
The Everything Pirates Book
 How History's Greatest Pirates Pillages, Plundered, and Got Away with It
Intrepid Sailors
Piracy: The Complete History
Pirate: The Golden Age

Pirate Killers
The Pirate Round
The Pirate Ship
The Pirate Soul
Pirates: A History
Pirates in the Age of Sail
Pirates of Barbary

Pirates of the Americas
Pirates of the East Coast...Caribbean Sea (CD)
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates, Jack Tar, and Memory
The Pirates' Pact
The Republic of Pirates
The Sea Rover's Practice
Villains of All Nations
The World Atlas of Piracy
Maritime

Blunders & Disasters at Sea
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Captain's Wife
The Challenge
Command at Sea
Commanders of the Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century

Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860
The Cruise of the Sea Eagle
The Dictionary of British Naval Battles
8,000 Years...Maltese Maritime History
Enduring Journey
The Guide to America's Maritime History
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
How Britian Won the War of 1812
Knights of the Sea
A Mariner's Miscellany
Maritime Explorer...Age of Discovery
Maritime Maryland
Maritime Museums of North America
Maritime Taiwan
Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Naval Miscellany
The Naval Mutinies of 1797
The Real Jim Hawkins
The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England

Seized
Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipwrecks...Delmarva Coast
Shipwrecks...Treasures Outer Banks
Sink or Be Sunk!
Smuggling
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649

Splintering the Wooden Wall
Tales of the Seven Seas
The Terror of the Seas?
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Treasure Hunt
The U. S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812

Utmost Gallantry
View from the Masthead
Whale Hunter
Wolf of the Deep
Young Men and the Sea
 

StarStarStarStarStar
1812: The Navy's War
British Naval Captains of the Seven Years' War
Flotilla
The Glorious First of June
Jack Tar’s Story
Man-of-War Life

Maritime Heritage ... Cayman Islands
Monsoon Traders
Most Secret and Confidential

Perilous Fight
Royal Tars
Ships of Oak Guns of Iron
Voyage to Jamestown
The War of 1812
The Way of the Ship
 
Magazines

No Quarter Given
Pirates Magazine
The Pyrates Way
 

Miscellaneous
1812: A Nation Emerges
Ahoy Mates! Leadership Lessons ...
Bizarro Buccaneers
Caribbean Pirates
Government Manual for New Pirates
Hunting Pirate Heaven
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Outlaws!
Pirate Arrrt!
Pirate Fever!
Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills


StarStarStarStarStar

Gentlemen’s Blood

Guide to Pirate Parenting
A Night at Devil's Tavern
The Pirate Primer
Raising Black Flags

Ships

The Billy Ruffian
Create Your Own Pirate Ship
Fireship

Iron Coffin
Spanish Galleon
Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC

Warships of the Napoleonic Era

StarStarStarStarStar

America's Privateer
American Privateers in the War of 1812

The Black Ship
Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis
First Rate
The Global Schooner

HMS Victory 1765-1812
The Pirate Ship 1660-1730
Vasa: A Swedish Warship

World & Modern Piracy

The Barbary Corsairs

The Brutal Seas
Captives and Corsairs
Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Maritime Private Security
Piracy & Privateering ... Netherlands
Pirate of the Far East
Pirate State
Pirates of the 21st Century
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia
Saint-Malo Cap Horn
Seawolves
Violence at Sea
 

StarStarStarStarStar

Contemporary...Piracy in Southeast Asia
Coping with Capture
Dangerous Waters
Hostage

Lords of the Sea

Modern Piracy
A Modern Plague of Pirates
Piracy...Terrorism...Malacca Straits
Pirate Alley

The Pirates of Somalia

Pirates Aboard!
Pirates, Terrorists, and Warlords

Skull and Saltire
Somalia, the New Barbary?
X Marks the Spot
Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs
Cover Art: Elizabeth's Sea Dogs
Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs: How the English Became the Scourge of the Seas
By Hugh Bicheno
Conway, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84486-174-3, £25 / US$30

When Bicheno opens his narrative, he makes it clear how different we are from the Elizabethans and how their outlook on life differs from ours. Chapter one then proceeds to delineate those differences so we more fully comprehend who the Sea Dogs were and why they did what they did for queen, God, and plunder. He also examines those who came before these privateers, such as Jean Fleury, whose capture of a Spanish ship unveiled for all to see just how rich the New World was for those willing to exploit her treasures.  From that French revelation, the author delves into its effect on English adventurers and how naval predation evolved into both a sanctioned and unsanctioned guerre de course, depending on how the political situation ebbed and flowed between England and Spain. Thereafter, the reader learns about specific Sea Dogs – such men as John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, John Oxenham, Martin Frobisher, and Sir Walter Ralegh – and those who financed and supported their exploits. Thereafter he discusses regular and guerilla warfare, as well as the legacy of Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs.

Maps, diagrams, charts, and color portraits and illustrations accompany the text. Bicheno also inserts a section entitled “The Armada Charts” between chapters eleven and twelve, although no reference to this appears in the table of contents. These pages contain the charts commissioned by Lord Admiral Howard and the narrative accompanying them in an attempt to show readers how all the varying aspects pertaining to Spain’s invasion of England came together. The appendices provide information on: 16th-century inflation, currency, and exchange rates; types of ships; naval artillery; the difference between tons burden, tons, and tonnage; and the ships of 1588. Aside from the index, the book also includes a bibliography of print and online resources, some of which the author marks as being particularly valuable to him during his research.

On the whole, this is an interesting and readable account about the Sea Dogs and their exploits. Occasionally, the author insinuates opinions without backing them up with facts to support those conclusions, such as when Drake hanged two men, “one for murder and the other . . . for sodomizing two cabin boys – which is odd, because that’s what cabin boys were for.” (188) Readers seeking a well-rounded examination of the Elizabethan period, particularly as it pertained to the maritime world and the role the Sea Dogs played in the political machinations, will find this volume worth reading.

Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
 
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The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Cover Art: The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Christian Buchet
Translated by Anita Higgie and Michael Duffy
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-801-2, US$115 / £65

This book focuses on how the British Admiralty fed the seamen and officers who manned their warships. The Victualling Board’s effective administration and stimulation of commerce based within the country and across the sea helped the Royal Navy and Great Britain to dominate the oceans. Two aspects that played a role in this were the sailors’ health, particularly protecting them from scurvy, and the logistics required to get the food and beverages to where the men were stationed. Buchet concentrates this examination on the Seven Years War (1756-1763) because this is when naval administration and infrastructure developed.

The scholarly volume is divided into three parts:

I. The General Organisation of Victualling the British Navy
The three chapters in this section elucidate the historical controversy of whether it became more cost efficient and effective for the state to run the supply system, or whether the private sector worked best; analyze the Victualling Board’s operation during the conflict through the use of documentary evidence; and demonstrate the innovative evolution of food rations and their preservation. Also evaluated are the benefits from preventing scurvy.

II. The Bases
Contained within four chapters, Buchet discusses the naval bases and how the Victualling Board Commissioners oversaw their management during times of peace and during outbreaks of hostility. He also explores the consolidation and expansion that the victualling process underwent during this period. Particular emphasis is placed on the day-to-day operation in Plymouth as well as the yards and contractors overseas, with particular emphasis on those in the West Indies where most warships were found. Insight is also provided on the suppliers and merchant house networks that dominated transatlantic trade.

III. The Main Markets
Within the final three chapters of this book, the compiled data identifies the merchants involved with feeding the navy. The author then analyzes this information studies the primary commodities in which they dealt: a) meat, b) cereals and pulses (i.e., peas), and c) beverages, butter, cheese, salt, olive oil, and raisins.

Numerous tables supplement the information contained within the chapters, as are footnotes. Following the author’s conclusions are eight appendices:

Ordinary Charge of the Victualling Board in 1747
Commissioners of the Victualling Board, 1755-63
The Structure of British Naval Administration
Itemised Distribution of Victualling Board Expenses, 1756-9, 1762-3
List of Victuals on the Southsea Castle Leaving for the East Indies at the End of 1759 with a Crew of 130 Men
Process to be Used in Curing Beef and Pork
Wage Totals, According to Activity, Paid to Victualling Personnel in the London Yard in the First Quarter of 1761
Supervisory Staff of the Victualling Board, 1761

A list of sources and a bibliography, as well as an index, are also included.

Originally published in French, Buchet’s definitive examination of the Victualling Board, its development, and its activities provides a thorough, well-researched, and interesting account that focuses on an aspect of Royal Navy history rarely discussed beyond a cursory look. The translation is seamless, easy to read, and, at times, fascinating. Not only does this work study the board and logistics, it also provides readers with information about the merchants who supplied the foodstuffs required to feed the navy. In addition, this study proves false numerous statements about victualling that have appeared in earlier studies of the Royal Navy.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
Cover Art: The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy: Seapower and Supply in Northern Europe, 1808-1812
By James Davey
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-748-0, US $99 / £60

With Britain’s triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), Napoleon turned to economic warfare to defeat his enemy. Rather than face financial ruin, the British government countered with its own policies to counter such warfare, and the Royal Navy played an instrumental part in that strategy. Davey explores one aspect of this through his study of the navy’s role in the Baltic Seas, a crucial trading center for the English, as Britain attempted to thwart Napoleon’s ingress into a region surrounded by Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Russia. While other studies have concerned themselves with how the Admiralty victualled their ships, this one examines how the navy disseminated those food supplies, as well as the challenges the region presented in doing so, and analyzes how that success or failure impacted operations and strategy.

Table of Contents
1. The Forgotten Theatre: Britain, Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea
2. ‘To keep a fleet above a fortnight’: The Evolution of Naval Logistics during the Eighteenth Century
3. The Challenges of the Baltic Sea
4. The Administration of Power Projection
5. The First Year in the Baltic, 1808
6. The Escalation of Seapower, 1809
7. The Navy, Reform and the British State
8. Logistics and Seapower, 1810-1812

A variety of figures, tables, and maps accompany the text, providing graphical clarification to points the author brings out in this scholarly narrative. The appendices that follow the narrative cover Time Taken to Secure Transport Tonnage to the Baltic (1808-12), Time Taken to Secure Tonnage to the Mediterranean (1800-2), Time Taken to Load Victualling Shipments (1808-10), Time Taken to Deliver Provisions to Various Areas of the Baltic (1808-9), and Efficiency of Victualling Deliveries: Bread and Spirits. A bibliography and index are also included.

While the title might make the reader think of this book as pedantic and uninteresting, the opposite is true. It’s a engaging examination of economics during war, in an area of study overlooked in volumes concerning the Napoleonic Wars, and in a region that takes second stage to others in this hostile period. Even though Davey’s primary focus focus British seapower and supply in the Baltic, his presentation encompasses far more than just this region and this navy. It presents a microcosmic study of British strategy and naval policy overall as the nation strove to defeat Napoleon. His inclusion of details about other nations and their navies provides readers with a better understanding of how the war progressed and why Napoleon eventually failed to achieve his goals. While emphasis is placed on the navy, there are references to privateering, since they posed a danger to merchant shipping in the Baltic.

  Read an excerpt
 
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
Cover Art: Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
By Elaine Murphy
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-0-86193-318-1, US $90 / £50

[S]everall Pyratts whoe are newly come upon these Coastes, and for want of a sufficient guarde of shipps of force they doe us much mischief;
they have already taken many men tradeing hither; and indeed will wholly spoyle our trade if you doe not apply a speedie remedie
.
– Henry Cromwell, head of the English administration in Ireland, September 1656
 
During the 1600s, pirates and privateers plagued English shipping and the navy in waters surrounding the coast of Ireland. Murphy, in this first title in the Royal Historical Society’s new series Studies in History, examines the Irish rebellion and naval warfare during the middle of that century. Her introduction provides an overview of the situation and the effects of piracy and privateering on the English government, people, and economy. The first half of the book looks at the naval events in light of political and military changes within and without Ireland. The second half analyzes the “conduct of the war at sea,” which began in 1642 with the formation of the Confederate Catholic Association and its granting of letters of marque. While the leaders of the uprising expected a short war, it eventually spread throughout the country and impacted all of society, not just the elite that led the initial effort.

Table of Contents
Part I: The War at Sea, 1651-1653
1. The outbreak and spread of the rebellion, October 1641-September 1643
2. ‘Weathering the storm’, September 1643-July 1646
3. ‘Infested with pirates’, August 1646-August 1649
4. The support of the navy, September 1649-April 1653

Part II. Navies and the Conduct of the War at Sea
5. A job well done enough? The parliamentary naval effort in Ireland, 1641-1653
6. For the defence of the coasts of this realm: the confederate naval effort, 1641-1653
7. Fighting the war at sea in Ireland, 1641-1653

The author includes figures, maps, and tables to illustrate various points in the narrative. The six appendices cover Parliamentary Summer and Winter Guards for Ireland, Identified Confederate/Irish Privateers, Parliamentary Prizes in Ireland, Confederate and Irish Prizes, Parliamentary Warships Lost on the Irish Coast, and Prominent Parliamentary Shipowners on the Irish Coast. There are also a glossary, a bibliography, and two indices – general and ships.

This important study of privateering and the Irish rebellion provides readers with perspectives from both sides of the coin – the rebels and the Cromwellian navy. The narrow focus of the time period allows for a more thorough investigation into the privateers and their hunters against the context of the political upheavals within Ireland and Britain. By analyzing the parliamentary naval effort, as well as that of the confederates and royalists, the reader is presented with a better understanding of what transpired and how effective both sides were.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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Warships of the Ancient World
Cover Art: Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC
Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC
By Adrian K. Wood
Illustrated by Guiseppe Rava
Osprey, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84908-978-4, US $17.95 / UK £9.99 / CAN $18.95
eBook US $13.95 / UK£7.99

This volume in the New Vanguard series examines the warships of Egypt, Minoan Crete, Syria, Phoenicia, and Greece. Wood traces the innovations of these vessels, which led to the “standardized warships of Greek, Cathaginian and Roman fleets.” (4) The Egyptian section focuses on ships, seafaring challenges, Rameses III’s warships, and the tactics and organization used in the Battle of the Delta against the Sea Peoples and their ships. Minoan Crete looks at Minoan Thalassocracy, ships, and tactics, while the Syrian section examines the maritime importance of the region in the Bronze Age, the city-state of Ugarit and the Hittites, their ships, and the tactics and Battle of Alasiya.

While little is known about the Phoenicians, they are indelibly linked to the maritime world of the Mediterranean. This section discusses their sea power, the warships they built, and the naval practices and tactics they employed. The longest section of the book covers the Greeks. It looks at Homeric warlords, warriors, and ships before focusing on specific vessels, such as pentekonters, hekatonters, and eikosoroi. Other subdivisions include Homeric tactics, colonial wars, tactics used at the Battle of Alalia, the Tyrrhenians (Estruscans), and the most notorious tyrant of the period, Polycrates of Samos.

In addition to the colorful photographs and artwork that populate these pages, the book includes a brief chronology, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index. (A magnifying glass is helpful in accessing the index because of the very small print.) A glossary can be found on the back of the title page.

As is true of other titles from Osprey, Warships of the Ancient World provides readers with an encapsulated introduction on the subject. The text is easy to read and comprehend and the illustrations greatly enhance the readers’ understanding of what these vessels were like. Anyone interested in ancient maritime history will find this a valuable tool, especially if you’re looking for a place to start before delving into more scholarly works.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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Fireship
Cover Art: Fireship
Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail
Peter Kirsch
Seaforth, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84832-025-3, £40 / US$74.95

“Fireship!”

That single word struck fear in the hearts of sailors aboard sailing ships. After all, fire was one of the worst disasters that could befall these vessels, which were built of wood and filled with combustible materials. As the author demonstrates, a cool head, determination, and nerves of steel could help defeat this terrifying weapon of war.

In the introduction, Kirsch explains what a fireship was and that contrary to its name it might not be a ship at all. It was merely a vessel of varying sizes, crammed with inflammable material that could be ignited with the intent to destroy the enemy’s ships. He also discusses how the men who sailed the fireships viewed these weapons of war. Not all agreed they were viable weapons, and some felt their use was downright sneaky. Yet fireships remained part of a navy’s arsenal for hundreds of years. The table of contents (listed below) shows how the fireship was used throughout history, as well as how it evolved.

1. Firepots and Greek Fire
2. The Hellburners of Antwerp
3. John Hawkins and the Spanish Fireship
4. The Invincible Armada
5. The Fireship joins the Battlefleet
6. The Mother-and-Child Boat and other Chinese Specialties
7. The Battle of the Downs
8. Acquiring and Fitting out Fireships
9. The Captain and his Crew
10. The First Anglo-Dutch War
11. The Second Anglo-Dutch War: the pinnacle of fireship success
12. The Four Days’ Battle
13. Fireship against Fireship: the Second Anglo-Dutch War continues
14. Countermeasures: Changing tactics and fireship warfare
15. The Line of Battle dominates: the Third Anglo-Dutch War and the Scanian War
16. Purpose-built Fireships, Machine-vessels and Others
17. Fireships in the Eighteenth Century
18. The Last Fireships: the nineteenth century

While fireships may be mentioned in accounts of naval conflicts, this is one of the few books that deals specifically with this weapon over a broad time span. Numerous illustrations depict its use, providing readers with a better understanding of what these weapons were and how they changed as ships changed. But this book is more than just a history of fireships. It is also a history of naval engagements, for the author lays the groundwork behind the conflicts so the reader better understands the use of the fireships in them. Quotations from contemporary documents help to enhance the readers’ experience.

Fireship is an important addition to the study of maritime warfare, especially during the Age of Sail. It is an essential reference tool for libraries with collections that focus on this subject. The price may be a bit steep for the general reader, but the book makes interesting reading.

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of Maryland
Cover Art: Pirates of Maryland
Pirates of Maryland: Plunder and High Adventure in the Chesapeake Bay
Mark P. Donnelly and Daniel Diehl
Stackpole Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8117-1041-1, US$10.95
Also available as an e-book

Pirates of Maryland is a collection of accounts on various pirates and privateers throughout the state’s history. From colonial times onward, Baltimore was an important maritime port. During the first fifty years of the eighteenth century, it was one of the top five ports in the American colonies. Pirates tended to hunt in Caribbean waters during the winter, then sail north to harass and/or trade with colonists after temperatures warmed.

The length of this volume prohibited an in-depth study of Maryland’s piratical and privateering history, but the authors selected ten stories to share with readers. Their introduction provides a brief overview on piracy as it related to the colonies. The men whose stories are discussed in more detail are as follows:

William Claiborne
Richard Ingle
Roger Makeele
William Kidd
Richard Worley
Joseph Wheland Jr. and the Tory Picaroons
Privateers of the Baltimore Hero
George Little: Yankee Privateer
Joshua Barney and the Battle of Bladensburg
Captain Thomas Boyle of Fells Point

Their activities span the time frame of the 1620s through 1815. The majority of the chapter on Little comes directly from the man’s own account as a privateer during the War of 1812. The book also includes a glossary and a bibliography.

This is an interesting volume, but it’s not always clear what the men did that constituted piracy, especially in the early years of the colony. They may have been charged with piracy, but from the information provided, they come across more as raiders, profiteers, and rebels during contentious historical events. Claiborne is an example of this, and while the record shows that he was charged with piracy and murder, some of these events took place during a border dispute with Virginia – a time more reminiscent of a war, rather than the true definition of piracy. The inclusion of Captain Kidd was also a surprise, but the evidence presented pertains to a man who may have worked with Kidd, rather than the captain himself.

The title is something of a misnomer since the book includes privateers, men licensed to prey on enemy shipping during times of war. While the inclusion of Barney is appropriate for a book on privateers, the episode related here is not of that time period. Rather it concerns his service during the War of 1812 when he was a member of the American navy.

In spite of these shortcomings, Pirates of Maryland provides a good overview of piracy and privateering. It’s a fast-paced read with dollops of facts not always included in other volumes. For the lay reader who just wants to learn about the pirates associated with the state and/or the privateers who helped defend the country during the American Revolution and the War of 1812, this is a good place to start.

Read an excerpt

Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar

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1812: A Nation Emerges
Cover Art: 1812: A Nation Emerges
1812: A Nation Emerges
Sidney Hart and Rachael L. Penman
Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-935623-09-0, US$50 / £31.95

In June 1812, the National Portrait Gallery opened a special exhibit entitled “1812: A Nation Emerges.” According to the foreword, this companion volume to the exhibition “offers persuasive evidence that the war merits attention in our own time because of the enduring changes it wrought in national life.” (ix) One reason that the War of 1812 is often overlooked is because it occurred during the Napoleonic Wars, which far eclipsed this one. The authors ably show the significance of the war, not because of the battles fought, but because of how it affected lives and the growth of our nation, as well as its impact on Canada and Native Americans.

What changes resulted from this conflict? Britain relinquished its hold on the Northwest Territory, which permitted Americans to expand their country westward. It helped to establish Canada’s national identity. While no one actually won – the peace treaty returned things to the status quo prior to the war – Native Americans were the losers, having been abandoned by their British allies and irrevocably losing their lands to settlers who craved more than they already owned. The United States gained a new repertoire of national heroes, while the war reinforced our viability as a nation and stirred a patriotic fervor. For the British, however, the war was a mere blip on the radar screen, because of the dire threat Napoleon posed.

Since the National Portrait Gallery is an art museum, the book showcases the art and artists of the period. Items on display and in the book come from collections around the world and demonstrate the caliber and diversity of life, people, and battles before, during, and after the conflict.

The book opens with three essays. J. C. A. Snagg writes about “James Madison’s America,” which discusses the fledgling nation on the eve of fighting and why the president felt his only choice was to declare war. He also answers the question of whether we were justified in “claiming that the War of 1812 had accomplished any important results that changed the nation or improved its standing in the international community.” (5)

Donald R. Hickey, a historian and expert on the War of 1812, pens the second essay, “The War of 1812: A Military History.” He establishes the reasons for America’s declaration of war against Britain, then explains why government officials focused on Canada, rather than directly attacking the British homeland.  This concise and comprehensive treatise provides readers with an overview of events so they better understand how the war progressed and its legacy on the American people.

The final essay is written by Sidney Hart, one of the book’s authors and senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery. He discusses “Art and War: Truth and Myth,” focusing on such artists as Charles Wilson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, John Wesley Jarvis, Thomas Birch, and William Charles, and showing how their depictions of the war helped inspire and reinforce the myths that grew out of the conflict. Hart and his co-author, Rachael L. Penman (assistant curator of the exhibition), wrote the introductions to each section and the anecdotal importance behind each painting or artifact showcased throughout the book. These pages identify the item, when it was made, and who owns it.

The catalogue begins with “Early America, 1800-1811,” which focuses on the city of Washington in its infancy. Each work of art has a double-page spread; on the left is the object, while on the right is the information about it. This section includes paintings of Thomas Jefferson and the confrontation between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Leopard.

The next section in the catalogue focuses on “Causes of the War.” It incorporates information on leading players of the day – such as James Madison, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Lord Castlereagh, and Napoleon – and such artifacts as a pitcher depicting sailors’ rights and Madison’s proclamation of war. The third section highlights “Northern Battles and Indian Wars,” those battles that took place on land. “The Republican Court” examines the women, including Dolley Madison, who played important roles within Washington politics. The ships, commanders, and battles at sea and on the Great Lakes are illustrated in “Naval Battles.” The next two sections focus on the final months of the War of 1812 in “The Burning of Washington and the Defense of Baltimore” and “The Battle of New Orleans.” Among the portraits in the latter grouping is one of Jean Laffite. “The Treaty of Ghent” and “A Nation Emerges” are the final sections in the catalogue.

The book includes a chronology that begins in 1806 and extends through 1828. There is also a map of the United States and Canada at the time of the war. Catalogue notes identify where quotations come from, while a bibliography provides readers with additional avenues of research. The catalogue is indexed.

The tidbits of historical information about the exhibit items are one of the strengths of this book. For example, Major James Wilkinson commanded the entire army, yet he “committed more acts of treason against the United States than his former mentor, Benedict Arnold.” (63) The watercolor Independence Day Celebration in Centre Square includes a quote from an English writer who “came across a book on the war” in 1854 and said, “I read it carefully, with amazement at my own ignorance. I had scarcely heard of any such war!” (245) Another strength is the collection itself, which provides readers with a clearer idea of who’s who and the role each played in the conflict. The book highlights the good and the inept, the forgotten and the heroic among all the combatants, and demonstrates the important roles women played.

1812: A Nation Emerges is a magnificent collection of art that introduces readers to the war, how it came to be, the conflict’s aftermath, and the individuals involved. It is not just an American history, but also incorporates the viewpoints of the other combatants who fought in this too-long-neglected war. For those unable to view the exhibit and those who want to remember the exhibition long after it closes, this catalogue is a worthy addition to any collection.

View the exhibit

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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The U.S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
Cover Art: The US Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
The U.S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
By Don Philpott
Rowman & Littlefield, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4422-1907-6, $49.95 / £31.95
eBook ISBN 978-1-4422-1908-3, $48.99 / £29.95

The introduction to this volume clearly states how the various combatants viewed the war. For the British, it provided the means for “a new era of trade and prosperity with the United States.” (2) It solidified the national identity of Canada, while the United States emerged as a political force to be reckoned with, established the importance of the navy as a fighting force, and formed the nucleus for what this nation has become. But what propelled the combatants to wage war, and how did the war achieve these “victories”? Philpott provides answers to these questions, while focusing on the rise of the U. S. Navy both through actions and in graphic representations.

“Storm Clouds Building” examines the causes that led to war beginning in 1803 and culminating with the declaration of war in 1812. It provides not only the national picture, but also the world view because the conflict between Britain and France trickled down to affect the United States and her relationships with both nations. The decade is also examined from the perspective of the key combatants: the British, the Canadians, the Americans, and the Native Americans. Chapter one concludes with an annotated “Time Line of Major Events Leading to the War of 1812.”

The second chapter focuses on “The Birth of the Navy.” It discusses the building of six frigates – Constitution, Constellation, United States, Congress, Chesapeake, and President – that formed the heart of the American navy, the conflicts with the Barbary corsairs, the Washington Navy Yard, and the exploits of the Constitution with particular emphasis on her escape from HMS Guerriere and four other British vessels soon after the War of 1812 begins.

“Declaration of War” provides an overview of the first year of war, both at sea and on land. For example, the Constitution’s victory over Guerriere in October is shown through the correspondence of Captain Isaac Hull (USN) and Captain James R. Dacres (RN) to their superiors, and the artwork of John Trumbull, W. Strickland, Thomas Gimbrede, and M. F. Corne. Chapter four covers 1813, including several naval battles between British ships and American privateers. Primary emphasis is placed on the Battle of Lake Erie and events during the fall of that year. The fifth chapter focuses on 1814, including events such as the British burning Washington, the bombardment of Fort McHenry, and the battle between General Armstrong, an American privateer, and several British warships in the Azores. Events of 1815, such as the Battle of New Orleans and the final naval confrontations between vessels unaware that a peace treaty had been signed, are examined in chapter six. The final chapter summarizes the effects wrought by the “Peace” on the combatants.

The volume is beautifully and generously illustrated with color portraits of key people and stunning depictions of naval confrontations, as well as engravings, prints, and lithographs. Excerpts of primary documents and observations pepper the narrative, while footnotes and tables are included where appropriate. A list of references and an index conclude the book.

This book covers much of the same material as other works on the War of 1812, but the inclusion of overlooked historical nuggets distinguishes it from those other volumes. For example, any narrative on the war discusses the Royal Navy’s impressments of American sailors, but few mention the French navy’s habit of boarding American ships “and confiscating vessel, crew, and cargo.” (8) Another illustration concerns the Bloody Assize in May 1814, trials that ended with fifteen Canadians being convicted of high treason. This is a good summary examination for any reader who wants an overview of the war, particularly from a naval perspective, that also incorporates key land battles and global events that impacted the conflict.

Learn more about the Bicentennial of the War of 1812


Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy
Cover Art: Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy
Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
By S. A. Cavell
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-719-0, $99 / £60

Cavell opens her study on young gentlemen in the Royal Navy with a letter from a five-year-old lad enamored with the romance of naval life. What he doesn’t comprehend are the hardships, perils, and demands of such a life. This volume focuses on the “servants, volunteers, midshipmen, masters’ mates, and acting lieutenants” – boys who entered the navy with the intent of one day becoming an officer.1 Cavell’s purpose in examining this generation of young gentlemen is to determine what naval and civil factors influenced these recruits and their careers within the navy. The time period was chosen because of “important changes taking place within the navy during the French Wars.” (4)

The book is divided into eight chapters and the content covered is summarized in the final paragraph of each chapter.

Young Gentlemen Defined provides an overview of who’s being studied and the parameters used to provide the sampling for the database. Subheadings in this chapter cover selection and appointment, life aboard ship, the birth of the ‘young gentleman’, education and training, the appearance of a gentleman, and authority and the officer trainee.

A Social Survey: The Social Backgrounds of Young Gentlemen concerns methodology and definitions and terminology used in this study.

Eighteenth-Century Selection, 1771-1800, begins with an overview of the data before examining different historical periods – before and after the American War (the American Revolution). Other subtopics covered include Prince William Henry at sea, naval perspectives versus public perceptions, agents of change, rates of promotion to commissioned rank 1771-91, the geography of recruitment 1771-91, and The Order of Council of 1794.

Eighteenth-Century Crime and Punishment, 1760-1800: By examining the crimes these junior officers committed, Cavell provides an insightful look “into how young gentlemen interpreted their place in naval society, conceived of their authority, and then used or abused that authority.” (93) From data culled from courts martial records, she focuses on the nature of crime, aggression toward superiors, naval and civil issues, and the Midshipmen’s Mutiny in 1791.

Nineteenth-Century Selection, 1801-1815: This chapter covers the Napoleonic Wars, social change and its effect on young gentlemen, changing boundaries of authority, the disparity between social authority and naval rank, manners and deportment, education, presentation, professionalism and patronage, and the increase in the Admiralty’s power in matters concerning young gentlemen.

Nineteenth-Century Selection, 1815-1831: While the previous chapter focuses on a war-torn period, the primary focus of this chapter is during a time of peace and the problems that arose as a result of it. Subheadings include the Admiralty’s regulations of 1815, other Admiralty measures, the plight of volunteers, volunteers and the Order of 1830, rates of promotion to commissioned rank 1801-31, public perception in the post-war years, and the geography of recruitment 1801-31.

Nineteenth-Century Crime and Punishment, 1801-1831, explores the crimes of young gentlemen, how they differed from the previous years, and social order and the naval hierarchy.

Beyond Reform: the Future of Naval Command: The final chapter in this study explores the abolition of the Royal Naval College in 1837, as well as the qualifying examinations for young gentlemen.

Dr. Cavell completes her volume on midshipmen and quarterdeck boys with a conclusion on her findings. The key points upon which she elucidates concern the theories of social development, centralization and the Admiralty, effects on professionalism and subordination, and patterns of change.

Aside from the figures, plates, and tables that appear within various chapters, she also includes five appendices:

a. Sampling results: quarterdeck boys and junior officers with traceable social backgrounds
b. Ages and passing times
c. Wages and allocations for 1771, 1797, and 1807
d. Estimates of available positions for captains’ servants/1st-class volunteers, and midshipmen and masters’ mates
e. Sample numbers for final databases

An extensive bibliography and a detailed index follow. Citations and explanatory notes appear in footnotes on the pages where the material is discussed.

Cavell deftly demonstrates how the social status of a person’s birth, whom he knew, and how much wealth he had played vital roles in determining who became a young gentleman and whether he eventually realized his goal of becoming a commissioned officer. She also shows that just because a boy knew influential and powerful people did not mean that the boy merited either his appointment or his elevation within the service. Excerpts from naval documents and journals or correspondence provide primary evidence to back up her claims and to showcase how individual officers interpreted the changes occurring within the navy during this time period. Perhaps most fascinating is how the author shows the conflicts that arose when a young gentleman’s social status was higher than his rank or that of his commanding officer, as well as how external changes led to it becoming more difficult to achieve an officer appointment without sufficient wealth and/or the patronage of someone with influence and power. The steep price may keep this book out of the hands of most readers, but Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy is an essential addition to any library that focuses on naval history in general or the history of the British Royal Navy in particular.

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1. The officer candidates surveyed for this study ranged in age from seven to fifty-eight, although the majority were between thirteen and twenty-two years old.
 
 
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 
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The Challenge
Cover Art: The Challenge
The Challenge: Britain against America in the Naval War of 1812
Andrew Lambert
Faber and Faber, 2012, ISBN 978-0-571-27319-5, £20 / US $44
Also available in e-book format

When a war is fought between two nations, there are always two views of that war, and how those who come after interpret the conflict can be equally disparate. This is what Lambert shows in The Challenge. In June 1812, the United States declares war on Britain. At the time, the British have more pressing concerns than this upstart and fledgling nation’s attempt to make a stand in a world where the Royal Navy rules the seas. Their military forces fight for survival in a world where Napoleon wishes to reign supreme. Little wonder that “the British simply did not believe that the Americans meant to fight about issues of principle, issues which they had no hope of upholding.” (1)

In his introduction, Lambert writes, “This book examines the origins, conduct and consequences of the war from a British perspective, focusing on the development of policy and strategy in London and the conduct of war at sea.” (3) The principal theater examined is that of the Atlantic Ocean, both coastal and at sea, and the activities of the Royal Navy’s North American Squadron. Although the primary emphasis is on the naval aspects of the war, the book also delves into aspects that foresaw the future of United States activities – westward expansion and the divisive aspects between the Northern and Southern states that ultimately lead to civil war.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters, each of with is organized with subheadings. For example, Chapter 1: Flashpoints opens with the confrontation between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Leopard in 1807. From there, the chapter discusses “The Continental System,” “Money, Land and Honor,” “Economic War,” “Thomas Jefferson,” “Between the Millstones of War,” “Republican Visions,” “A Fleet of Gunboats,” and “The Many Wars of President James Madison.” Maps and illustrations, including sixteen color plates, highlight people and events, while quotations from primary documents of the period provide glimpses of participant viewpoints.

Another interesting aspect of this volume concerns where Lambert focuses his attention. An underlying theme throughout the narrative is the USS President, which is labeled “an American icon” in one illustration. Many Americans have probably never heard of this frigate, but as he points out, tracing the history and fate of this ship with the USS Constitution, which Americans today would label “an American icon,” summarizes the complex “judgements of the war.” (402) On the other hand – perhaps because of the focus of the book and the British perspective – the burning of Washington and the bombardment of Fort McHenry are merely summarized in ten pages. In American history, these are key turning points in the war and are given weightier examination. While privateers are discussed throughout the book, only a few specific vessels and captains are mentioned. Chasseur, one of the successful privateers that eluded capture and impacted British merchant shipping, is mentioned because of her design rather than the audacity of her captain, who dared to blockade the British coast. These examples showcase why students of conflicts should examine them from both sides, for in doing so, they will gain a richer, more comprehensive understanding of the war.

With the start of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a number of histories have been published, some of which focus on the naval war. Few, however, are written by British historians, and this makes Lambert’s volume compelling and eye-opening, yet also perplexing and irritating to American readers, who have a totally different concept of this conflict. Of course, this assumes that Americans have even a cursory knowledge of the war, which has long been given short shrift in history classes.

The truth is that the War of 1812 was an ill-conceived idea which the United States was ill-prepared to carry through. The country was sharply divided on whether to go to war or not; previous administrations had decimated the navy; and the federal government lacked the funds to wage war. When peace finally came in 1815, the issues that propelled America into war remained unanswered, for the treaty returned everything to the status quo before the war began. So, as Lambert asks in his introduction, “how could a defeated nation, one that suffered such devastating losses, declare a victory and remain in occupation of the literal battlefield for two centuries?” (2)

This is the question that Lambert answers as he delves into the history of the war and how it came to be. He examines these events from the perspective of a nation already waging war – one that lasted for almost a quarter of a century and often without allies – against Napoleon. In doing so, he puts Americans and their history under a microscope that shows the discordant elements that threatened to tear apart the United States. He also exposes how those who fought and those who came after glossed over, altered, or conveniently forgot the numerous losses, the devastating effects of an economic blockade, and the questionable measures that propelled America into war. These machinations permitted the nation to see the War of 1812 as a victory. Perhaps more deftly, Lambert reveals how the conflict served to sever the apron strings with England and allowed the United States to create its own, distinct cultural identity.


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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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From Forecastle to Cabin
Cover Art: From Forecastle to Cabin
From Forecastle to Cabin
Captain Samuel Samuels
Seaforth, 2012, ISBN 978-0-571-27319-5, US $27.95 / £13.99


Influenced by the seafaring tales of Captain Frederick Marryat and James Fenimore Cooper, eleven-year-old Samuel Samuels runs away from home to become a sailor. His autobiography recounts his life as a seaman, from his days as a lowly cabin boy on a coastal schooner to his tenure as captain of the famous Liverpool packet, Dreadnought. During his fifty-year career, he survives “storm and shipwreck, famine and disease, press-gangs and desertion, piracy, violence, and mutiny.” (1) He even rescues a woman from a harem.
 
This book, the eighth volume in the Seafarer’s Voice series, uses the text from the 1877 edition, published by Harper, and includes some details about the mutiny of the Dreadnought from Basil Lubbock’s The Western Ocean Packets (1925). The text has been shortened, but the omissions pertain to “repetitious sailing passages and . . . elaborate technical details relating to the handling of sails and rigging . . .”. (xi) This volume includes a map that highlights the various ports to which Samuels sails.
 
As Vincent McInerney points out in his introduction, the importance of Samuels’ book is that it demonstrates how a man, who begins his career as a lowly seaman, could advance to captain a ship, and how his views of seafaring life change as he matures and advances. His recounting of the mutiny aboard Dreadnought is spine-tingling, yet matter of fact. At other times, his tale is harrowing – such as when he encounters a ghost or discovers a mate who commits suicide – or astounding as when he talks about the armament on one ship. To defend themselves against pirates who prey on ships in Chinese waters, his vessel carries “four carronades and six ‘Quakers’ (mock cannon bolted to the bulwarks which, with painted-on gun ports, give the appearance of a sloop-of-war.” (79) Rather than romanticizing his seafaring life, Sameuls wishes to show the reality of it.
 
I would not commit my experiences to paper if I felt that they would in the slightest tend to induce a boy to become a sailor. The rough experience I have gone through, few could live to endure. I have seen many a man who started with me in this race of a daring and reckless life fall early on the journey, leaving his mother, wife, or sweetheart to watch and wait for one who will never return to her loving embrace, or meet her again until the sea shall be called to give up its dead. (4)
 
How he ends his narrative is just as compelling as how he begins, and his words will haunt readers long after they close the cover.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

Also Reviewed by Kristine Crimmins

This handy-sized version of a much longer accounting of American Captain Samuel Samuels' growth and learning experiences on and off several vessels, the most famous being the Dreadnought, made a quick and easy read for this reviewer. Being interested in journals and logs of voyages, I found it enlightening to read how Capt. Samuels grew up and learned to handle just about any situation presented a seafaring young man in the nineteenth century.  

Samuel Samuels learned to live on pennies a day, survive prison, and set his own broken leg bone are only some of the intolerable pains to which most anyone else would succumb. Aging fast, dealing with every imaginable situation and human tragedy, and having othe pportunity to see and do what most could not, seems to be the best and worse of a world Samuel endured. It was a lifestyle in need of every prayer known to man.  

The story reads quickly as I stated, but it also includes much detail. Each tale is presented in a way to be savored and enjoyed. Having sailed various sized vessels myself, it intrigued me to read every written word and absorb each colorful entry. I found myself circling phrases and returning later to reread and savor the facts ofhow Samuel dealt with the situation. I know I will reread this version and I recommend it to anyone eager to have a quick education on what it means to be a seafarer willing and eager to gain a worldly education by starting at the bottom of the ship and working his way to the top.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Kristine Crimmins
 
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Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Cover Art: Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950: Essays in Honour of Michael Duffy
Edited by Helen Doe and Richard Harding
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-695-7, US$99 / £60

After forty years of teaching, Michael Duffy retired in 2009. His research in maritime history began at Oxford, and in 1987 he published an influential and authoritative study entitled Soldiers, Sugar and Seapower: The British Expeditions to the West Indies. He founded the Maritime Historical Studies Centre at Exeter, and went on to mentor and guide many doctoral candidates. He also edited the Mariner’s Mirror. He served on the Councils of the Society for Nautical Research and the Navy Records Society. His colleagues and students have participated in this publication to pay tribute to Duffy, who encouraged “the highest standards of historical scholarship” in “people of all ages and levels of experience to contribute to the field of naval history”. (25) The essays focus on leadership and management in the British Royal Navy over a three hundred-year period. They step beyond the heroic to examine the reality.

Leadership: The Place of Hero
1. Admiral Rainier’s Management Challenges, 1794-1805 by Peter Ward
2. Neglect or Treason: Leadership Failure in the Mid-Eighteenth-Century Royal Navy by Richard Harding

Leadership and Organisational Frictions: Contested Territories
3. Who has Command? The Royal Artilleryman aboard Royal Navy Warships in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Gareth Cole
4. ‘The Marine Officer is a Raw Lad and therefore Troublesome’: Royal Navy Officers and the Officers of the Marines, 1755-1797 by Britt Zerbe

Management Capability and the Exercise of Naval Power
5. High Exertions and Difficult Cases: The Work of the Transport Agent at Portsmouth and Southampton, 1795-1797 by Roger Morriss
6. Forgotten or Ignored, the Officers at Invergordon: ‘We are doing this for you as well you know’ by Mike Farquharson-Roberts
7. ‘To Excite the Whole Company to Courage and Bravery’: The Incentivisation of British Privateering Crews, 1702-1815 by David J. Starkey

The Evolution of Management Training in the Royal Navy, 1800-1950
8. New Kinds of Discipline: The Royal Navy in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century by Oliver Walton
9. Towards a Hierarchy of Management: The Victorian and Edwardian Navy, 1860-1918 by Mary Jones
10. Leadership Training for Midshipmen, c. 1919-1939 by Elinor Romans

Of particular interest to readers of this column is Starkey’s essay on privateering. He discusses various “theoretical perspectives with empirical evidence to explain the organisational structure deployed by those who promoted privateering ventures”. (124) He first examines privateering as a business, including the objectives and managerial challenges those involved in these ventures faced. Next he focuses on incentives for those who funded the privateers and how they were organized, before progressing to ways in which tensions within those structures were managed or dealt with.

Each editor and contributor is eminently qualified to participate in this volume. In addition to the essays, the book includes tables, a list of editors and contributors, a select bibliography, and an index. Footnotes appear within each essay, which allows readers to see the references and notes as they reach them, rather than having to refer to the back of the book.

Richard Knight’s “Michael Duffy: An Appreciation,” which opens the book, succinctly explains why Duffy played an important role in maritime research and includes a bibliography of his work. Although just the tip of the iceberg, these essays are readable and provide a wealth of information for anyone interested in leadership and management studies, whether the reader’s focus be the Royal Navy or a different path entirely.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Dictionary of British Naval Battles
Cover Art: Dictionary of British Naval Battles
Dictionary of British Naval Battles
John D. Grainger
Boydell, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-704-6, US$165 / £95

This is an alphabetical listing of naval battles involving the British. What encompasses “British”, however, is more problematic because some entries refer to nations that are now independent countries. Some of the documented battles pertain to events in which the Royal Navy was involved, but may not involve sip-to-ship encounters. One example of this is D-Day. Grainger explains how he decided what to include and what to omit in his introduction to the book. He also discusses the historical records that were available, or not, and how contradictory evidence sometimes limited what he included. Additionally, the introduction explains the format he uses to denote different types of entries. Lists of references, abbreviations, and a glossary follow.

The entries themselves range in length from a single paragraph of two sentences to several pages. Places may be subdivided by wars or years. For example, the entry for the Adriatic Sea is subdivided into the Napoleonic War and The Great War, and both of these are further delineated by years, such as 1807, 1809, and 1943-1945. The most recent entries involve the Iraq Wars. Also included are encounters pertaining to ships of the East India Company. One of the most extensive listings concerns the English Channel, which goes on for fourteen pages beginning with King Athelstan in 939 and ending with the final U-boat attacks in 1944 and 1945.

Some entries include battles between a specific vessel and privateers or pirates. Many of these cite confrontations that would be difficult for the researcher to locate without careful study of individual ship’s logs. Quite a few entries involve Chinese or other Asian pirates. The battle between Blackbeard and Maynard is included, but is listed under the ships involved: “Pearl and Lyme v. Adventure”. One entry names the wrong pirate. Listed under “Scarborough v. Queen Anne’s Revenge, 1717”, it identifies the pirate as Kidd, who was never associated with the QAR and was hanged sixteen years before this battle. The QAR was Edward Teach’s (Blackbeard) pirate ship.

A set of maps follows the entries, but aren’t always helpful if the reader doesn’t know where a place cited in an entry is located. This problem might have been averted had a map reference been appended to the entry. There is an extensive index at the end of the book, but generic search terms won’t be found. For example, “pirate” doesn’t appear under P, but if a specific pirate’s name is known, such as Bartholomew Roberts, the reader will find the entry concerning his ships. Some may be found by looking up the place, such as Sallee, Morocco, if the reader knows from where the Barbary pirates hailed.

The steep price of this volume puts it out of reach for many readers. Libraries with a strong naval history collection may find their owned titles already contain more-detailed accounts of the battles, but this book may provide information on lesser-known or hard-to-find confrontations.  Collections containing few volumes on the history of the Royal Navy may find this a good introductory resource.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Maritime Private Security
Cover Art: Maritime Private Security
Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century
Edited by Claude Berube and Patrick Cullen
Routledge, 2012, ISBN 978-0-415-68862-8, US & CAN $135.00 / £80.00
eBook ISBN 978-0-203-12660-8


As Rear Admiral Terence McKnight points out in his foreword to this volume, piracy has confronted the United States since our first days as a new nation. Our first war following independence involved repeated attacks on our merchant shipping by Barbary pirates. Then, much of our defensive policies at sea relied on the private sector. The contributors here demonstrate how we have come full circle to once again incorporate private security in defense of our borders and merchant shipping. They also show how private security companies have evolved and changed to meet the growing maritime risks that our seamen face, as well as “the inability or unwillingness for sovereign states to adequately respond to them.” The result is to suggest ways in which these private entities might be used “as a tool to mitigate them.” (3)

Each essay is authored by someone eminently qualified to speak on the subject. The contributors include academicians, maritime security analysts, and security professionals.  This collection is divided into five parts and sixteen chapters:

Part I. The historical and contemporary market in maritime private security services

1. Editors’ introduction: the emergence of maritime private security by Claude G. Berube and Patrick Cullen

2. The United States’ use of maritime private security from the War of Independence to the 21st century by James Jay Carafano

3. Surveying the market in maritime private security services by Patrick Cullen

4. Private gunboats on the horizon? Private security and contemporary naval presence by Christopher Spearin

Part II. The emergence of private anti-piracy escorts in the commercial sector

5. Commercial anti-piracy escorts in the Malacca Strait by Carolin Liss

6. Private security at sea: a customer’s perspective by Gordon Evans Van Hook

7. Anti-piracy escorts in the Gulf of Aden: problems and prospects by Claude G. Berube

8. Legal considerations for private naval company armed anti-piracy escorts by Mark Tempest

Part III. The privatization of Coast Guard services

9. Privatized maritime security governance in war-torn Sierra Leone by Patrick Cullen

10. Private security, maritime protection and surveillance in Somaliland by Stig Hansen

11. Private security fighting pirates and illegal fishing in Puntland by Christopher Kinsey

12. Securing the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Guinea by Roger Hawkes

Part IV. Private security responses to maritime terrorism

13. Maritime terrorism: scope, dimensions and potential threat contingencies by Peter Chalk

14. Commercial risk consulting and management in the maritime sector by Elke Krahmann

15. Integrating private security into port security in a post-9/11 environment by Bill DeWitt

16. Maritime eco-extremism reconsidered: understanding fourth generation eco-warriors in the modern media age by Brendon J. Mills and Howard R. Ernst

Part V. Conclusions and future directions
 
The hope is that “our readers will emerge with a new appreciation and a broad understanding of the shape and significance of this emergent maritime subsector of the private security industry, and its relationship to the waterborne risks of the twenty-first century.” (11)

The essays are easy to comprehend, but include succinct summaries of the salient points readers need to quickly grasp the content. The print and online resources contained in the chapter notes, which appear at the end of each chapter, provide readers with additional avenues to explore. Several figures and tables are included in two of the essays. The editors conclude this volume with a lengthy bibliography and an index.

The majority of content has specific relevance to students of maritime piracy today. Carafano’s historical recap of the use of private security (privateers) in defense of our nation is particularly compelling. Chalk’s comparison between terrorism and piracy is equally gripping. The title of this forty-eighth volume in the case series “Naval Policy and History” might make Maritime Private Security seem dry and pedantic. It is actually quite engrossing. It is a must read for anyone interested in how today’s world economy and society influence combating piracy and maritime terrorism now and in the future.
 
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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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Knights of the Sea
Cover Art: Knights of the Sea
Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812
David Hanna
NAL Caliber, 2012, ISBN 978-0-451-23562-6, $25.95
Also available as an e-book

On 5 September 1813, two enemy brigs – HM Boxer and the USS Enterprise – engaged off the Maine coast near Pemaquid Point. The ensuing battle lasted forty minutes and claimed the lives of both captains. Samuel Blyth of Portsmouth was cut in half, while William Burrows of Philadelphia was shot in the groin. Afterward, the residents of Portland, Maine honored both men in a joint funeral.

What makes this particular engagement unique is that it is the only one between naval vessels during the War of 1812 that was viewed from land. Knights of the Sea examines this battle and why those involved risked “drowning, burns, dismemberment, and death in exchanges of broadsides or hand-to-hand combat.” (2) Hanna attempts to “place all of the events, rich in pathos, in a larger transatlantic sociopolitical context.” (4) In doing so, he tells the story of the commanders and where they hailed from, the British and American navies, and what caused the War of 1812.

The book opens with that fateful day, and then steps back in time to explore Blyth’s hometown and family. He was born the year the American colonies won their independence into a seafaring family. He followed in the steps of his grandfather, father, and uncle and joined the Royal Navy. The chapter on Philadelphia contrasts the differences between the two port cities, as well as the Burrows family. Whereas Samuel Blyth was the first of his family to enter the ranks of gentlemen officers, William Burrows was born into privilege and an influential family with its feet firmly planted on the land. In doing so, Hanna vividly brings to life these two places as they were at the time these men were growing up.

Subsequent chapters discuss: a) the Royal Navy, the Boxer, and Blyth’s rise through the ranks to eventually command her; b) the Enterprise, Burrows’ education as a midshipman and the obstacles he had to overcome to gain a command; c) the war, how it came to pass from both the British and the American perspectives, the role American privateers played in the conflict, and its legacy; d) the war at sea and some of the engagements between the two navies; e) the home front, including Americans supplying the enemy; f) a closer examination of the actual battle between the two ships; g) the officers who fought and died, and the code by which they lived, which the author likens to that of medieval knights; and h) a visit in 2007 to the cemetery where Blyth and Burrows were buried and what happened to various people with ties to these two men.

Occasionally, Hanna draws comparisons between happenings then and more recent events. He incorporates contemporary quotations to provide readers with a better feel for the time, place, and events. The book also includes black-and-white portraits, maps, and diagrams, as well as appendices of the courts-martial of the Boxer’s surviving officers and William Harper, who was on board the Enterprise, a selected bibliography, end notes, and an index.

Knights of the Sea is a well-written account of a battle that is often overlooked in accounts of the naval War of 1812. Hanna grounds the reader with sufficient background to explain who, what, when, where, and why. At times, he seems to diverge from the main story, but he usually has a good reason for doing so.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Iron Coffin
Cover Art: Iron Coffin
Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor
David A. Mindell
Johns Hopkins University, 2012, ISBN 978-1-4214-0520-9, $23.00
 
Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide, by blowing up the world. – Henry Adams*

On 9 March 1862, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia engaged in a battle at Hampton Roads that lasted almost four hours. It was the first time that two ironclad ships fought each other, and afterward “[t]he press, the public, and the Union leadership hailed the Monitor’s performance not only as a military victory but also as a victory for new machinery, spelling the end of the ‘wooden walls’ of the traditional navies of the world and the rise of superior steam-powered, armored fleets.” (1) Although Mindell does recount the battle in one chapter, this book goes far beyond that because the Monitor was more than simply a new type of ship. To completely tell her story, he delves into “the histories of expertise, experience, and representation that created it.” (3) In doing so, he reexamines technical developments in the navy during the 1800s, and then links those changes to how people view technology and war.

Introduction: A Strange Sort of Warfare
Chapter 1: Revising the Revolution, 1815-1861
Chapter 2: Building a Ship, Speaking Success
Chapter 3: William Keeler’s Epistolary Monitor
Chapter 4: Life in the Artificial World
Chapter 5: The Battle of Hampton Roads
Chapter 6: Iron Ship in a Glass Case, April-September 1862
Chapter 7: Utilitarians View the Monitor’s Fight, 1862-1865
Chapter 8: Melville and the Mechanic’s War
Conclusion: Mechanical Faces of Battle
Epilogue

First written in 2000, this re-issuance provides updated information, including the discovery and archaeological excavations of the Monitor. Mindell, who has visited the wreck site, enhances the reader’s experience with a variety of illustrations that include photographs of the men who crewed the ironclad. Chapter notes, a bibliographical essay, and an index are found at the end of the book.

I don’t usually review books covering the American Civil War or later unless they don’t concern wooden sailing ships. When this volume arrived, however, I was intrigued since I have been to the USS Monitor Center at The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Iron Coffin is a fascinating examination of technology and its impact on society, the navy, and the people directly involved with the creation and manning of this ironclad. Mindell engages the reader and forces him/her to examine not only the introduction of technology then, but even today. He keenly points out how fighting in an ironclad differed from a battle between two wooden ships, and how those who participated in the fight had to realign their understanding of what constituted a hero, because the only man who actually saw the enemy was the captain. The author also stresses that this vessel wasn’t just a warship built to fulfill a naval contract. She “had to convey the strength of American industry and ingenuity . . . [and] represent the industrial power of the Union, against which innovations and barricades would be futile.” (31)
 
What make Iron Coffin particularly compelling are the contemporary accounts found throughout the book. These include writings from John Ericsson (the engineer who designed the Monitor), William Keeler (paymaster aboard the ironclad), and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville (authors who wrote about technology and war). In doing so, Mindell takes us back in time so we become “witnesses” to the events surrounding the Union Navy’s most famous ironclad.
 
*Adams was the private secretary to the American ambassador to Britain during the Civil War and he wrote these words while in London. The full quote appears on page two of this book.

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The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
Cover Art: The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
Edited by Cheryl A. Fury
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-8438-3689-6, $115.00 / £65.00

This collection of essays, written by eminently qualified historians and an osteoarchaeologist, focuses on English mariners during the Tudor-Stuart era. Specifically, each of the ten contributions examines what is known about seamen, rather than officers, who sailed with the navy, the merchant marine, privateers, and pirates. The authors also share their conclusions on what can be inferred from this knowledge, and provide insight into where further research needs to be done. Fury, in her introduction to the book, explains the difficulties researchers encounter when delving into the mysteries surrounding those who sailed before the mast and what primary documents are available for study.

“The English Maritime Community, 1500-1650”, by David Loades, provides an overview of seamen and the state of seafaring during this time to ground the reader for what follows. Among the topics he addresses are merchant guilds, shipbuilding, dockyards and storage facilities, training, where ships sailed, discipline, piracy, war, recruitment practices, smuggling, and public policy.

In chapter two, Fury summarizes “The Work of G. V. Scammell”, who died during the planning stage of this book. She liberally incorporates quotations from his many works while refraining from instilling her own research and conclusions into this composite of his work. Her hope is to whet readers’ appetites to delve more fully into Scammell’s research on the merchant service, an area often ignored in favor of the navy. Other topics touched upon are war, shipowning and seamanship, the crew as pertains to “the emergence of an officer class”, provisioning, and mutiny.

One particularly interesting chapter is Ann Stirland’s “The Men of the Mary Rose.” She explains what information has been gleaned from studying the bones of seamen who died when this warship sank in 1545.

J. D. Alsop’s “Tudor Merchant Seafarers in the Early Guinea Trade” provides insights into the socio-economics of England’s commerce with West Africa. Subdivided into eight parts, he looks at the voyages between 1553 and 1565, the available source materials, will-making at sea, ships’ companies, seamen and traders, shipboard economy, shipboard society, and relations between the crew and the investors who financed the voyages.

“The Elizabethan Maritime Community” is Fury’s second contribution to this book. She concentrates on the sailors first at sea, and then on land before analyzing what the two worlds tells us about seamen during this period. Afterward she examines how war affected the maritime community.

Vincent V. Patarino, Jr.’s contribution focuses on “The Religious Shipboard Culture of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century English Sailors.” This essay brings together superstition, folklore, and the shift from Catholicism to Protestant practices and beliefs.

Fury returns again with “Health and Health Care at Sea,” an important topic since thousands of men died from illnesses, rather than from injuries suffered in the course of their work or during times of war. She discusses their diet, solutions to complaints about the provisions, victuals served on naval ships, techniques the Crown tried to remedy problems with navy food, sickness and death at sea, prevalent diseases and attempts to prevent and contain them, other hazards encountered during voyages, health care provisions, and nursing.

In “The Relief of English Disabled Ex-Sailors, c. 1590-1680,” Geoffrey L. Hudson discusses national (the Chatham Chest) and county (Devon) systems that were founded to care for ex-seaman, including the disabled.

The editor’s final contribution is “Seamen’s Wives and Widows” and the challenges they faced during the long periods in which their husbands were at sea or failed to return from a voyage. The subsection on problems includes women who were estranged at the time of their husbands’ departures. Fury also examines how women coped with these challenges.

Pirates and privateers appear in many of the essays, although they are the primary focus only in John C. Appleby’s “Jacobean Piracy: English Maritime Depredation in Transition, 1603-1625.” He opens by summarizing the background that led to the flourishing of piracy during this time period and where the pirates sailed. From there, he examines such villainy in the British Isles and the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean before a discussion on pirate culture. Readers familiar with later periods of piracy will be intrigued by some of the practices mentioned here, which are similar or forerunners to those used during the era of the Buccaneers and the Golden Age of Piracy. He concludes with a summary of the decline of piracy in this time period. Among the pirates whom Appleby uses to illustrate his points are John Ward, Peter Easton, and Henry Mainwaring.

For all the chapters, citations appear on the same page as the footnote. This makes it easy to see additional information the author has included or simply the source from which the material comes. There are illustrations, tables, a detailed bibliography, and an index.

This volume is an important contribution to maritime studies, not just because it focuses on a less studied period in maritime history, but also because it features the average seamen and highlights what we’ve learned in spite of the limited resources. It also provides readers with areas where further research is necessary if we are to complete this picture of those men who chose to work at sea, rather than on land.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Cover Art: Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Edited by Richard Gorski
Boydell Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84383-701-5, $90.00 / £50.00

This volume focuses on the historiography of England during the fourteenth century, while exploring the connections between maritime trade and war. The essays’ primary perspectives are from the land and the authors demonstrate how people of this time period used the sea. The entities involved include “the crown, the government, the merchant guild, the counting house and the port community” and the essayists use the medieval documentary evidence from these. (8)

“Roles of the Sea: Views from the Shore,” by Richard Gorski, serves as an overview to the times, the resources, and what each contributor discusses.

Significant changes in shipbuilding occurred between 500 and 1500, and this is what Richard W. Unger examines in “Changes in Ship Design and Construction: England in the European Mould.” He discusses the influence of economics in designing and building, inventions and innovations in technological developments, and other facets that led to better ships.

The Cinque Ports were coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. Susan Rose examines “The Value of the Cinque Ports to the Crown 1200-1500” in her essay. She discusses terms of service, resources and how these were deployed, feuds and violence within and between the ports, and the decline of the Cinque Ports.

Craig Lambert analyzes how the Cinque Ports contributed naval resources to the wars with Scotland and France from 1322 to 1360 in “The Contribution of the Cinque Ports to the Wars of Edward II and Edward III: New Methodologies and Estimates.” He looks at how fleets were raised and the frequency of their service, as well as “the numbers of unique ships” that the Ports supplied.
 
“Keeping the Seas: England’s Admirals, 1369-1389,” written by David Simpkin, investigates the men who held the highest naval rank, “their powers, duties and activities” to assess how significant they were during a period of intensive military campaigning that involved naval ships. (80)

Tony K. Moore considers “The Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Fourteenth-Century Naval Campaign: Margate/Cadzand, 1387” – one of the few English victories during the 1300s. After a brief overview of the battle, he compares “known expenses . . . against the estimated values of the prizes taken.” (104)

Of particular interest to readers is “Piracy and Anglo-Hanseatic Relations, 1385-1420” by Marcus Pitcaithly. He explores Anglo-Hanseatic relations, the upsurge in piracy, the Vitalienbrüder, pretexts for trading with the enemy under Henry IV, and politics related to piracy and trade.

Tim Bowley’s “‘Herring of Sligo and Salmon of Bann’: Bristol’s Maritime Trade with Ireland in the Fifteenth Century” delves into the trade between these two places and how unique it was when compared to Bristol’s trade with other European countries; Bristol’s merchant community; and what this exchange tells us about the ships’ home ports. The principal commodities discussed include pottery, building stones, cloth, clothing, furs, and fish.

The time frame of the final essay, “How Much did the Sea Matter in Medieval England (c.1200-c.1500)?” by Ian Friel, extends from when King John lost Normandy in 1204 to the beginning of regular voyages transoceanic voyages. He attempts to answer two questions: “In the centuries between, was the sea quite so important to the country?” and “What happened with England and the sea during the period in between?” (168) To achieve those aims he looks at towns, ports, trade, daily life for upper and lower classes as it pertains to the sea, the impact of war and defense, government, peoples’ awareness of the sea.

The contributors to this volume are historians, professors, and a museum consultant, all of whom specialize in studies of the maritime world during the Middle Ages. A couple of maps, several tables, and an index accompany the text. Footnotes appear within each essay, providing sources and additional information.

For those interested in England during the Middle Ages and how its citizens used and viewed the sea, this is an important resource. Readers having some knowledge of the time period and maritime-related history will find Roles of the Sea in Medieval England more useful than those lacking such knowledge, as the writers don’t always explain basic information, such as what the Cinque Ports were.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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The Naval Mutinies of 1797
Cover Art: The Naval Mutinies of 1797
The Naval Mutinies of 1797: Unity and Perseverance
Edited by Ann Veronica Coats and Philip MacDougall
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-669-8, $99.00 / £65.00

Nearly a century ago, Conrad Gill wrote a definitive study, entitled The Naval Mutinies of 1797, about the mutinies in the British Royal Navy that occurred principally at Spithead and Nore*. This current volume, which has the same title, is meant “to complement his scholarship and re-examine some of his conclusions.” (xi) In the process of examining these mutinies, some authors also look at how they inspired later ones. One thing inspiration for this volume is the “need for new research into the empirical detail and interpretation of these mutinies”. (xiii) That information is assembled and compared here. Each chapter includes period documents such as “court martial papers, muster books, petitions, logbooks, subsequent remarks of naval officers, writings from the lower deck and witnesses.” (xiii)

When the crews of the Channel Fleet mutinied in February 1797 at Spithead, they stunned England because naval personnel had never protested on such a large scale. The mutinies eventually involved more than one hundred vessels in five different anchorages, but their actions were later repeated by sailors in the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. Their grievances included poor pay**, a more equitable sharing of prize money, better provisions, assistance to injured and retired seamen, and the removal of bad officers. The seamen did attempt more traditional methods of having these problems addressed, but when those failed, they refused to heed the command to put to sea. Although those involved in the Spithead mutiny gained concessions from the Admiralty and Parliament, the outcome of the Nore mutiny was far different than that of Spithead.

The sixteen essays in the book and their authors are listed below:
  • Spithead Mutiny: Introduction, The Delegates: A Radical Tradition, The 1797 Mutinies in the Channel Fleet: A Foreign-Inspired Revolutionary Movement?, and ‘Launched into Eternity’: Admiralty Retribution or the Restoration of Discipline? by Ann Veronica Coats
  • What Really Happened on Board HMS London? and The Spirit of Kempenfeldt by Daniel W. London
  • Voices from the Lower Deck: Petitions on the Conduct of Naval Officers during the 1797 Mutinies by Kathrin Orth
  • Crew Management and Mutiny: The Case of Minerve, 1796-1802 by Roger Moriss
  • The Nore Mutiny: Introduction, The East Coast Mutinies: May-June 1797, and ‘We went out with Admiral Duncan, we came back without him’: Mutiny and the North Sea Squadron by Philip MacDougall
  • A Floating Republic? Conspiracy Theory and the Nore Mutiny of 1797 by Christopher Doorne
  • Lower Deck Life in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars by Brian Lavery
  • Discipline, Desertion and Death: HMS Trent 1796-1803 by Nick Slope
  • The Influence of 1797 upon the Nereide Mutiny of 1809 by Jonathan Neale
The Naval Mutinies of 1797 also includes brief paragraphs about the contributors’ qualifications, illustrations and tables, a select bibliography, and an index. Footnotes appear on the pages where the citation occurs, rather than at the end of the book, making it far easier to refer from one to the other.

Whereas many naval histories examine events from officers’ perspectives, this volume stresses perceptions from those who served on the lower decks. The authors also re-examine and clarify exactly what mutiny meant and how it could work legally within the framework of the Royal Navy. They clearly demonstrate that the participants followed the Rules and Orders and never intended to either cause a total overthrow or endanger national safety. They mutinied because they had no alternatives left. Anyone who reads about the history of the British navy encounters references to the Spithead and Nore mutinies, but the information provided is normally general in nature and of short duration. This volume delves into all aspects of the mutinies, from a variety of perspectives, and answers a host of questions while proposing new avenues for research or where further study is needed. The Naval Mutinies of 1797 is recommended for any student of the Royal Navy and for libraries with a particular interest in naval history.

*Spithead and Nore are sites where naval ships anchored. The former lies between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Nore is located near Kent.

**At the time of the mutinies, seamen’s pay had not been raised since King Charles II’s reign in the previous century.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Samuel Smedley
Cover Art: Samuel Smedley
Samuel Smedley: Connecticut Privateer
Jackson Kuhl
History Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-60949-228-1, $19.99

In 1778 Britain and her American colonies were at war when Captain Dike of the Cyrus, a British merchant vessel, spotted two ships sailing toward him and another vessel he sailed with named Admiral Keppel. They were bound for St. Kitts and Jamaica, laden with cargo and passengers. Both British vessels carried letters of marque, which permitted them to attack enemy ships even though their primary task was trade. Dike hoisted a French flag to trick the Americans into assuming he was a friend, but the ploy failed. The night before the two American ships had wined and dined a French captain, who warned them of the British vessels.

Dike’s initial volley missed the Defence, while the Oliver Cromwell pursued the Admiral Keppel. Instead of firing, the Defence sailed ahead of the Cyrus, whose second round of shot also missed. This time, Defence returned fire and one gunner’s aim splintered the enemy’s rudder wheel so that her helmsman could no longer control her. A second broadside did further damage and with thirty-five crewmen dead, Dike surrendered to Defence’s captain, Samuel Smedley. This privateer was a bold and daring captain who first boarded his vessel three years earlier as a lieutenant of the marines. “Over his career, he would capture or aid in capturing more than a dozen prizes, survive shipwreck, battle Loyalists off the shores of his hometown, twice captain privateers and twice be captured by the British, escape the infamous Mill Prison in England and sail victoriously, at war’s end, back to the newly independent country he so strenuously loved.” (16)

The book includes an abundance of maps, illustrations, and photographs. At the conclusion of the main text are chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index.

The author begins his narrative with an absorbing account of the battle between the Cyrus and the Defence. Then just before the latter cripples the former, he steps out of the past to compare the firing of the guns to the cruising speed of a 747, which destroys the impact of the scene. Kuhl sufficiently grounds the reader in the time and place: Fairfield, Connecticut during the American Revolution. While this is an interesting account of one privateer, the known information on Samuel Smedley fills at most two of the chapters. The remaining text focuses on Connecticut and its role in the struggle for freedom. Readers meet a variety of people, some more famous than others, but each played a part in the defense of this state and crossed paths with Smedley.

Kuhl does, at times, cite unique trivia about the way the colonies were organized and worked. He also clearly explains the differences between the Continental navy and Connecticut’s navy, particularly as regards the division of prizes, which often greatly impacted the latter’s ability to crew vessels. Another intriguing action of Smedley’s is his decision to inoculate his crew against smallpox.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Utmost Gallantry
Cover Art: Utmost Gallantry
Utmost Gallantry: The U.S. and Royal Navies at Sea in the War of 1812
Kevin D. McCranie
Naval Institute Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59114-504-2, $24.95

When discussing war, there are always at least two perspectives from which to view the conflict. For the United States, the War of 1812 was an affair of honor “against the most powerful navy in the world”. (xi) The British had a totally different perspective, because they waged a war against a greater threat – Napoleon Bonaparte – and the American navy was “a threat to the sea-lines of communication that were essential for the well-being of its economy and its empire.” (xi)
 
According to McCranie, other volumes written on the naval War of 1812 overemphasize the first six months of encounters, neglect to connect “the ship-on-ship battles to a broader understanding of the war; fail to fully use archival and primary material from British resources; and rely too much on secondary resources that include errors or twist the perspectives of both countries.” (xi) His intent with this volume is to provide a more balanced examination of the naval war using a variety of primary documents from archives in both countries. He also narrows the book’s focus to omit naval confrontations and activities on the Great Lakes, as well as the privateers’ contributions to the war effort. Utmost Gallantry confines itself to those confrontations that occurred on the high seas between the American and British navies.
 
The book is divided into the following fourteen chapters:

Chapter 1: “Every Appearance of Hastening the Crisis”: The Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and the Background to the War

Chapter 2: “’A Little Bit of Dust’ With an English Frigate”: The Opening Naval Campaign, June to September 1812

Chapter 3: “It Is a Thing I Could Not Have Expected”:  The Second Round, September 1812-March 1813

Chapter 4: “If We Could Take One or Two of These D—d Frigates”: Reassessment of Britain’s Naval Objectives, 1812-13

Chapter 5: “Cast Away .  . . or Taken”: American Naval Failure and Reassessment, June 1812-Early 1813

Chapter 6: “Creating a Powerful Diversion”: Secretary Jones and the Naval Campaign of 1813

Chapter 7: “A Glorious Retrieval of Our Naval Reputation”: The Turning Point, 1 June 1813

Chapter 8: “More Than Ordinary Risk”: United States Frigates, Winter 1813-14

Chapter 9: “Pursuing My Own Course”: The Essex in the Pacific, 1813-14

Chapter 10: “Some Hard Knocks”: Reassessment – The United States, September 1813-March 1814

Chapter 11: “Into Abler Hands”: Britain Turns to New Leadership, 1814

Chapter 12: “Repulsed in Every Attempt”: The Culmination of the Jones’ Small Cruiser Strategy, mid-1814

Chapter 13: “The Current Demands of the Service”: An Appraisal of British Naval Operations, 1813-14

Epilogue: “A Wreath of Laurels . . . a Crown of Thorns”: The Last Naval Campaign, 1815

The material presented is augmented with numerous images, maps, tables, and diagrams. At the conclusion of the narrative are an extensive section of chapter notes, a glossary of nautical terms, a bibliography, and an index.

McCranie provides a comprehensive appraisal of events, tactics, and strategies that the two navies utilized during the War of 1812. As promised in the preface, he stays true to the narrow focus of the conflict while providing sufficient information and details for the reader to fully understand what happened and why. The presentation is thorough, well balanced, and well organized, but it lacks what today might be called the “wow factor”. Unlike other recent works on the naval war, this one is geared toward serious students of this conflict and is a valuable asset to historians because of its impartial and well-researched analysis.

NWC Professor Writes Book on the War of 1812

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar

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Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Cover Art: Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
By Robert Wilhelm
The History Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-60949-400-1, $19.99

The stories in this book all take place in Essex County, Massachusetts. They are a mix of truth and legend, but the author allows the reader to draw his/her own conclusion about each one. Wilhelm presents this collection in a chronological sequence, from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to 1900. The introduction sets the scene and provides historical background the general reader might not know. Each chapter includes black-and-white photographs of people, artifacts, and places pertaining to the subject matter.

The murders discussed within these pages include Mary Sholy (1636), John Hoddy (1637), Ruth Ames (1769), Captain Charles Furbush (1795), Captain Joseph White (1830), Charles Gilman (1877), Albert Swan (1885), Carrie Andrews (1894), John Gallo (1897), and George Bailey (1900). The culprits are both male and female, from a variety of backgrounds, and the victims range in age from children to adults. The mayhem includes accounts of witches, Indian captives, arson, and pirates (Thomas Veal, John Philips, and Rachel Wall).

If more than one version of the crime exists, Wilhelm provides all of them. If a primary document exists, the author incorporates it into the telling. All the chapters are fascinating, but the one most pertinent to us concerns the pirates of Essex County. I was familiar with John Philips and Rachel Wall, but Thomas Veal was new to me, and I particularly liked this chapter because these aren’t rogues that appear often in other volumes.

The only drawback concerns a handful of illustrations that don’t fit the mood instilled by this collection of slaughter and villainy. They are too comic-like and detract from the gritty, historical feel that the crimes engender. In spite of this objection, readers interested in murder, mayhem, and true crime will enjoy this journey to the dark side.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
Cover Art: Historical Dictionary of the US Maritime Industry
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
By Kenneth J. Blume
Scarecrow Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-8105-5634-9, US$99.00 / £59.95
eBook ISBN 978-0-8108-7963-8, US$94.99 / £59.95

This latest addition to the Historical Dictionaries of Professions and Industries series concerns maritime industry in the United States from 1776 through 2010.  Contained in a single volume and arranged alphabetically, the entries cover a wide variety of topics:  
  • Coastal and International Shipping
  • Evolving Ship Technologies
  • Famous Ships
  • Governmental Policies
  • Inland Waterways
  • Labor
  • Leading Entrepreneurs
  • Partnerships and Corporations
  • Shipbuilding
  • Trade
The book opens with an explanation as to what a historical dictionary is and why it’s an essential reference tool, or as the text says, “the perfect starting point for anyone looking to research in these fields.” Jon Woronoff, the series editor, provides the rationale behind a work that strictly focuses on the merchant maritime industry.
 
Aside from 512 pages of entries, the book includes a list of acronyms and abbreviations, a chronology of events from 1620 through 2010, four appendices, and a bibliography with a narrative introduction followed by resource listings by subject. Before the individual topics, Blume provides an introduction that contains an overview of U.S. maritime history, a discussion on the industry’s cyclical and volatile nature, and a concise summary of technological developments.
 
Even if a reader merely skims the entries, he/she quickly comes to understand that the maritime industry is far greater than just ships and shipbuilding, and that it frequently involves governmental interaction. Entry length varies from a single paragraph to two pages. Occasionally, black-and-white illustrations accompany the text. Some entries include bold-face words to alert the reader to topics on these items. See and see also references are also included where appropriate.
 
Perhaps most surprising is discovering what subjects are covered and which ones are not. This stems from the author’s intention to narrow down a vast topic so that entries pertain only to merchant maritime industries, rather than including entries concerning private entities during times of war. There are some entries concerning the industry prior to 1815. Readers more interested in the Age of Sail period may be disappointed to find that the preponderance of material addresses subjects from 1815 onward.
 
Those seeking explanations about different kinds of ships or for brief overviews of specific ships will be better off consulting other volumes. The former is rarely included, while the later focuses only on very famous ships.
 
Piracy, Privateering, and Smuggling have separate entries, but anyone needing/wanting in-depth information must look elsewhere. Few of the titles in the bibliography, however, will help in this regard. Jean Laffite is included, but there’s no consistency to the spelling of his surname. Noticeably missing from his entry is any mention of his participation in the Battle of New Orleans, but he is mentioned in the Galveston, Texas entry. The only named pirates in Piracy are William Kidd and Blackbeard, although this entry does touch on Barbary pirates, river pirates, privateering, and modern-day pirates. Privateering, on the other hand, is just a single paragraph with two See also references: one to Joseph Ropes, a privateer in the War of 1812; the other to Piracy.
 
Overall, this is an important addition to any reference collection on maritime trade and the historical and technological developments of this industry in the United States.

Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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How Britain Won the War of 1812
Cover Art: How Britain Won the War of 1812
How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy’s Blockades of the United States, 1812-1815
By Brian Arthur
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-665-0, US$99.00 / CAN $102.93 / £60

For most Americans, this title might seem odd since we’re taught to believe we won the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, actually signaled a return to the status quo before President Madison declared war. Historians on both sides of the Atlantic have tended to ignore this conflict, but with the beginning of its bicentennial, they turn from the greater conflicts of the period to examine this one. Arthur puts forth the hypothesis that Britain actually won because of the success of its naval blockade.
 
The War of 1812 threatened Canada, the economy of British colonies in the West Indies, and the health and welfare of the fledgling United States. Although Arthur includes key military campaigns and the progress of the war from the perspective of those who fought it, his main purpose is to show the devastating effect the Royal Navy’s blockade system – perfected against Napoleonic France – had on the American economy and government. He also highlights how the differences in the two countries’ fiscal systems greatly impacted the war’s outcome, as well as the strengths and weaknesses in implementing blockades and convoys.
 
Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, pens the foreword. Seven chapters cover Convoys and Blockades, War at a Distance, From Business Partners to Enemies, The United States Blockaded, Blockades and Blunders, Trade and War, Capital and Credit. The final chapter presents the author’s conclusions. Supplemental materials include illustrations, tables, two appendices, chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index.
 
Although occasional reference is made to privateers and the author clearly recognizes and discusses the role of the United States Navy, this is a study of the effectiveness of the Royal Navy. In the introduction, Arthur elucidates the purpose for writing this book:
 
. . . to investigate the link between the British maritime blockades of the United States, their fiscal, financial, economic and political consequences, and the subsequent preparedness of the American administration to end the war of 1812 on terms significantly favourable to Britain in the long run: a task not before undertaken at such depth.
 
He skillfully and competently argues this premise, demonstrating that while the grinding down of one side’s economy is a long and drawn-out method of waging war, it can also be quite successful. By incorporating an overview of how economic warfare evolved, the various facets impacting the potential for war and the actual conflict, and the practical problems and solutions for implementing a blockade, he provides a well-rounded examination from a fresh perspective. Readers will find themselves rethinking what they know of this period in American history. The price of this volume is a bit daunting, but this scholarly and objective work provides vital research material to those who study this Anglo-American war.

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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 
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Warships of the Napoleonic Era
Cover Art: Warships of the Napoleonic Era
Warships of the Napoleonic Era: Design, Development and Deployment
By Robert Gardiner
Seaforth, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84832-108-3, US$74.95 / £45.00

Warships of the Napoleonic Era is a compilation of draughts (drafts), ship models, paintings, and contemporary prints that showcase the design and development of various warships. The author examines these vessels from a general perspective so readers can readily compare the basic characteristics of each type of vessel found in various navies during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The introduction summarizes how warships of this time period were classified and described. As the title implies, Gardiner looks primarily at Great Britain’s Royal Navy, but also discusses the navies of France, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Portugal, Sweden, and the United States.
 
He opens with a look at the First Rate warships, those that were the largest, most expensive, and the pride of the navy. Subsequent chapters examine Second Rates, 80-gun ships, 74-gun ships, 64-gun ships, 50-gun ships, frigates, sloops of war, gunboats and gunbrigs, cutters and schooners, bomb vessels and fireships, and service craft. He discusses not only their design and construction, but also how they were utilized in battle and/or their roles during the war, and their drawbacks and advantages. Some mention is also made of vessels particularly suited to privateering.
 
Aside from the many draughts and models throughout the book, the reader will also find tables that compare various aspects of ships in a particular class or how many were in service during different years from 1793 to 1815. Special multiple-page spreads focus on specific aspects in more depth: Speed and Length, Quality versus Quantity, Experiments and Innovation, The Invasion Threat, Great Lakes Warships, and The Boulogne Flotilla. The book also includes a section of Sources and Notes and an index (although users may require a magnifying glass because of the small print). The final page contains a divided model that shows the difference in the stern of a three-decker before and after Robert Sepping introduced the “trussed frame” to provide existing warships with greater structural strength.
 
This beautifully illustrated volume was originally published in 1999. Although the narrative remains basically the same, with some revision based on a decade of further study, it is these illustrations that make Warships of the Napoleonic Era a worthwhile purchase for any naval historian during the Age of Sail or maritime libraries. In this edition the page size has been expanded and many images are reproduced in color, rather than the original edition’s black-and-white renderings. This is a wonderful examination of the fighting ships that navigated the seas between 1793 and 1815, and the narrative and captions provide an ocean-full of interesting facts and details to complement the outstanding illustrations selected for the book.


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Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Treasure Island
Cover Art: Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
By John Amrhein, Jr.
New Maritime Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9830843-0-3, US$32.95

Rather than a search for buried gold, this is a search for a different treasure – the history that provided the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. In 1750, on the coast of North America, a hurricane damaged or wrecked the ships in a Spanish convoy bound for Spain laden with treasure. The captain of one vessel, Juan Manuel Bonilla, enlisted the aid of two Englishmen, Owen Lloyd and his brother, John, to transport these riches from the damaged galleon to a vessel headed for the West Indies. Owen, a charismatic man, persuaded the American crew to appropriate the transferred money after leaving Ocracoke, where the galleon sought shelter after the storm. In doing so, they became pirates and eventually buried their treasure on an uninhabited Caribbean island.
 
Divided into two parts, the first section of the book relates the story of the Lloyds, Bonilla, and how their paths eventually cross in North Carolinian waters. The account begins in 1746 and details Owen and John’s lives and families. Owen’s tendency to embellish tales and his ability to sway men to his side will eventually lead to his downfall, but at this time he’s a successful sea captain with a wife who is the sister of a prominent citizen on St. Kitts. John, on the other hand, envies his younger’s brother’s successes and has trouble because of the loss of one leg during a naval battle with Spain.
 
Four years later, Bonilla hopes to return to Spain aboard the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe with a cargo that will increase his wealth and return a good profit for his mother-in-law and her influential friends who invested in the voyage. Then the hurricane strikes, and while the Guadalupe survives the storm, she’s badly damaged.
 
The Lloyds, however, aren’t the only ones interested in the treasure. The Bankers, who live in the remote marshes of Ocracoke, often plunder shipwrecks. Other English seamen, such as William Blackstock, also seek their fair share of the treasure. So does Bonilla’s own crew. Then there are the various government officials and lawyers who find ways to also profit from Bonilla’s circumstances.
 
After presenting all the various participants, Amrhein then relates the events that lead to the actual theft, the burial of treasure worth nearly 250,000 pieces of eight, and the subsequent events that lead to the capture of these pirates. While it’s interesting to follow the hunt for the stolen cargo and the pursuit of Lloyd and the others, the recounting becomes confusing at times because of the numerous names that enter into the story. Painstakingly researched, the author clearly demonstrates how greed and old grudges against enemies-turned-friends play a significant role in the outcome of the recovery effort and the pursuit of justice.
 
The second half of the book delves into the author’s search for Owen Lloyd and the stolen treasure. The beginning of this, which reads like a travelogue to some extent, slows the book’s pace, but that quickly picks up again once Armhein delves into Robert Louis Stevenson and the writing of his novel, Treasure Island. This riveting account showcases where he got his ideas, how his family’s history is connected to the stolen treasure, and how the fictional pirate tale becomes the story we know today, which is based (in part) on Lloyd’s burial of treasure in the Caribbean. Equally compelling is the historical path that permits the author to track the real pirates through documentary evidence. This trail takes him from American repositories to those in the Netherlands and the Caribbean, and incorporates the assistance of researchers familiar with the various languages in these foreign archives, as well as a psychic.
 
Black-and-white pictures and maps accompany the text throughout the book. There are also two sections of color photographs, although the first comprises many pictures more suitable to a family album than a history book. The author also includes a detailed bibliography, which lists many primary documents and a variety of libraries. The endnotes follow, but the reader is unaware of their existence until reaching the end of the book, because there are no numbers within the text to indicate an endnote contains additional information. These would have been more beneficial and helpful had the author indicated their existence on the pages in question so readers could consult the endnotes as they read. A lengthy index completes the book.
 
Learn more about the book and view the trailer
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Whale Hunter
Cover Art: Whale Hunter
Whale Hunter
By Nelson Cole Haley
Seaforth, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84832-096-3, £12.99 / US $27.95 / CAN $26.37

 
In 1864 Nelson Cole Haley wrote about his life as a whaler aboard the Charles W. Morgan. In 1951 the Travel Book Club published an abridged version of his manuscript, which Seaforth now publishes as part of its Seafarers’ Voices series. The importance of Haley’s account is the door it opens into the heyday of American whaling ships, when seamen sailed as far as the South Pacific to hunt these mammals to bring back their baleen (whale bone) and sperm and whale oil, which were in great demand during the Industrial Age. The voyage recounted here began in 1849 and lasted four years.
 
This New Englander provides a complete record of what his life was like, from the time he signs aboard at the age of seventeen to the time he receives his pay when the ship finally returns home. His unique perspective as a “boat-steerer,” permits him to interact with and have the confidence of both officers and seamen, a rare happenstance on board ships. Among the experiences he shares are the “Crossing the Line” festivities, the chase and kill of the crew’s first whale, visits to exotic shores, encounters with native peoples, and having a whale stove in his boat. While Haley doesn’t provide an account of his later years, Vincent McInerney, the series’ editor, discusses the rest of the whaler’s life in the introduction. He also writes about the Charles W. Morgan, which first set sail in 1841. This National Historic Landmark, berthed at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, is currently undergoing renovations that will make the only surviving wooden whaler seaworthy once again.
 
I’ve had the pleasure of walking the decks of the Charles W. Morgan before the present restoration project. Haley’s account brings to life a whaler’s life and the dangers and hardships such men faced. Of particular interest for me is the story his encounter with someone whose shipmate includes a woman disguised as a seaman and how her secret is discovered. Haley also writes of an encounter with a pirate, natives who attempt to attack the ship with the intention of “beating out our brains,” and the discovery of stowaways.
 
This wonderful and engrossing narration opens the door to a past way of life, one in which the reader can literally step through afterwards with a visit aboard Haley’s ship and a tour through a 19th-century whaling community in Connecticut.

 
Learn more about the Charles W. Morgan

Read news of the restoration’s progress
 
View a video celebrating her 170th birthday

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Cover Art: Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea
By James Kraska

Praeger, 2011, ISBN 978-0-313-38724-1, $49.95

In seven chapters, Kraska examines maritime piracy today, focusing on existing laws and evolving strategies the United States Navy employs in dealing with this problem. Chapter 1 covers the history of piracy from ancient times through the early eighteenth century.  Modern piracy in Asian and East African waters is the focus of the second chapter. Chapter 3 looks at the International Maritime Bureau, the International Maritime Organization, and shipboard security. Naval strategy and policy is found in the next chapter, while international law is discussed in the fifth chapter. Subsequent sections concern diplomatic partnerships to curb the problem and the complexities of prosecuting pirates today. Notes follow at the end of each chapter and the appendix includes primary documents relevant to the discussions within the text. There is also an index.
 
Commander Kraska is eminently qualified to write this analysis, having assisted in the development of America’s policy on piracy, particularly as it pertains to the legal and diplomatic sides of the issue. He writes succinctly, covering the essential facts, elaborating where necessary, yet never straying from providing a gripping assessment for readers seeking a well-written perspective on addressing maritime threats or the casual reader who’s looking for a quality overview on the topic. This is an important reference for those seeking information on legal tools and naval strategies to use in the fight against piracy.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
Cover Art: Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
Commanders of Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
By Jaap R. Bruijn
Boydell Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84383-622-3, $130.00

Written by a leading maritime historian in the Netherlands, Bruijn focuses on one segment of the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) – the commanders who captained the company’s vessels during the 1700s. Divided into two parts, the first segment of the book focuses on these men at home. Each of the six Chambers of the VOC – located in Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Middelburg, Delft, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam – are covered. He also discusses those commanders who came from other places and the naval officers who sometimes sought employment with the Company. The second half of the book concentrates on the commanders at sea. Individual chapters cover their appointments as commander, their training and education, their income, the ships and their lives aboard them, the different personalities present among the commanders, and navigation and other advancements. The final chapter compares the VOC with the English East India Company, France’s Compagnie des Indes, Denmark’s Dansk-Asiatisk Compagnie, and the Swedish Svenska Ostindiska Kompani. The book includes a number of black-and-white illustrations, an extensive bibliography, and two indices (one of Names, one of Ship Names).
 
Although there is a bit of repetition from one chapter to another, the reiteration helps to keep the reader aware of the subject matter so he/she doesn’t forget a vital piece of information. For the most part the English translation of this Dutch book (Schippers van de VOC in de achttiende eeuw aan de wal en op zee, De Bataafsche Leeuw, 2008) is well done, although there are a few spots where the reader may have to read a brief passage more than once to fully understand what’s said. The text is easily read by layman and historian alike, and Bruijn skillfully shows the importance and evolution of the VOC on its commanders and the cities from which they sailed during this time period.
 
The book includes a few references to pirates, particularly those of the Indian Ocean. The author, as if knowing the gems historical novelists search for when researching a topic, provides a wealth of information that will add realism to their stories. The price may be steep for some, but this is an important work that is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of the VOC at its zenith. Those who venture to do so will find a fascinating account of what it was like to be a commander in the Dutch East India Company.


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 Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Captives and Corsairs
Cover Art: Captives and Corsairs
Captives and Corsairs: France and Slavery in the Early Modern Mediterranean
By Gillian Weiss
Stanford University, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8047-7000-2, US $65.00
 

For three hundred years, Barbary corsairs preyed on French ships and raided France’s Mediterranean coast. Tens of thousands of people ended up as slaves in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and Salé. The only way to escape this servitude was to convert to Islam, die, or buy freedom. Redemption and ransom payments came from several sources in France –victims’ families, local cities, Catholic orders, and the State – beginning in the mid-sixteenth century. Liberating the slaves was seen as an act of Christian charity, but after 1830 it became “a method of state building and, eventually, a rationale for imperial expansion.” (2)
 
France suffered the loss of valuable seamen, merchants, and others, but reclaiming these victims proved problematic because of perceived and real North African “contagions,” such as “plague, sodomy, and Islam.” Repatriation provided the monarchy with a means of acquiring additional territory and citizens, not only from the victims themselves, but from those regions often in conflict with France.
 
This book looks at this problem and the resulting solutions in eight chapters.
  • Mediterranean Slavery
  • Salvation with the State
  • Manumission and Absolute Monarchy
  • Bombarding Barbary
  • Emancipation in an Age of Enlightenment
  • Liberation and Empire from the Revolution to Napoleon
  • North African Servitude in Black and White
  • The Conquest of Algiers
Weiss examines a wide variety of source material: administrative correspondence, religious printings, newspapers, philosophical treatises, novels, plays, paintings, unpublished letters, and slave narratives. In doing so, she challenges accepted standards about the emergence of France as both a nation and a colonial power. The author also examines the evolving definition of what constituted slavery, from forced servitude with no regard to a person’s skin color to one in which color played a key role.
 
The text is well documented with extensive chapter notes and a bibliography in excess of fifty pages. In addition to an index and illustrations throughout the text, appendices detail “Slave Numbers” and “Religious Redemptions and Processions.”
 
Much of our exposure to the Barbary corsairs and their victims comes from accounts written by English and American captives or historians concerned primarily with them. This book is a fresh and stimulating examination of the topic from the perspective of France and its captives. This provides readers with illuminating pieces of information not often mentioned in other works on the subject, such as the processions of returned slaves. Weiss skillfully demonstrates how the nation of France evolved and how the perspectives of French people changed over time.


Read the Introduction
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History
Cover Art: The Fyddeye Guide to America's Maritime History
The Fyddeye Guide to America’s Maritime History
Edited by Joe Follansbee
Fyddeye Media, 2010, ISBN 9780615381534, $24.95
 

In 2009 Follansbee launched a website where visitors could locate basic information about local and national maritime history, as well as news items related to our maritime heritage. The online guide now indexes in excess of 2,000 places. Since some people prefer holding a book in their hands, he decided to publish the guide as a book and this is the result. He warns, though, in the preface that one drawback to doing this is the book lacks the immediacy of the web, so readers should visit the website for updated information about the places and organizations listed.
 
The chapters are divided into ships; shipwrecks; museums; research libraries; lighthouses and lightships; life-saving stations; education; districts (living history sites & maritime festivals); structures and sites; markers and monuments; and organizations. A black-and-white photograph of an artifact opens each chapter, but there are other photographs throughout the book. Divisions within a chapter vary according to what topic is being discussed. Those places open to the public include the hours of operation and whether or not there is an admission fee. Latitude and longitude are also provided for readers with GPS in their vehicles. Several chapters also include brief articles pertaining to the subject.
 
Each listing consists of a one-sentence description, the location and phone number, the website URL, the organization that operates the attraction, and whether it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places or it’s a National Historic Landmark. Also given is the year of establishment or construction. Some entries include a four-pointed star that signifies the attraction is recommended for visiting. 
 
This isn’t the first maritime guide I’ve reviewed for Pirates and Privateers, but The Fyddeye Guide is definitely the most comprehensive one I’ve seen. The introduction explains how to read the listings, but for the most part these are easily figured out. The guide doesn’t relegate itself just to those places on saltwater coasts. Fresh water coastal sites are also included.
 
There is a city index, but no subject index, so you have to either know of a pirate exhibit’s location, such as Providence, Rhode Island for the Whydah museum, or the type of vessel, such as a tall ship, for the Pride of Baltimore to find the actual listing. This is one drawback to the book, but you can search for “pirates” or “Whydah” on the website and find exactly what you need or discover that there’s more information on the subject that’s not in the book.
 
Whenever I read nonfiction, I always peruse the introductory materials because these often contain essential information about the book’s content and why the author, or editor in this case, creates the book. Follansbee concludes his preface with a comment about the fragility of maritime history. He writes:
 
We’d rather spend time and money on the next new thing than on remembering the last new thing. . . . I want Fyddeye to be my small attempt to raise awareness of a heritage that is by-and-large slow[ly] decaying. Perhaps if people understand the breadth and scope of our heritage by presenting it in one place, they might recognize that keeping our history is part of what keeps our country whole.
 
The Fyddeye Guide is a great reference for when you’re planning a vacation or you find yourself in a city and want to know what maritime attractions are located in the area.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
Cover Art: The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told
Edited by Stephen Brennan
Skyhorse, 2011, ISBN 978-1-61608-218-5, US $12.95 / CAN $15.95

 
This new collection includes pirate stories written during the past 400 years. It is divided into four parts: The Histories, The Captains, Pirate Song and Verse, and The Tales. Below is a list of the contents by author, or title if unknown.


The Articles of Pirate Law
Lord Byron The Corsair
Arthur Hunt Chute Passing of the Mogul Mackenzie
Joseph Conrad Captain Brown
James Fenimore Cooper The Malay Proas
Henri de Monfreid & Ida Treat Pirates and Coast-Guards
Daniel Defoe The Daughter of the Great Moghul
Charles Ellms The Danish and Norman Pirates
Authentic History of the Malay Pirates of the Indian Ocean
The Barbarous Conduct and Romantic Death of the Joassamee Chief Rahmah-ben-Jabir
The Adventures and Execution of Captain John Rackham
The Life of Captain Lewis
Anne Bonney and Mary Read
George MacDonald Fraser The Pyrates Attack
Richard Glasspoole The Terrible Landrones
Oscar Herrmann Pirates and Piracy
Archibald Hurd Captain Charles Vane
Captain Gow of the Orkneys

An Indictment for Piracy, 1812
Captain Charles Johnson Mutiny!—Captain Howel Davis and His Crew
The Pirate’s Parody

King’s Evidence against a Pirate

Last Words and Other Pirate Quotations
W. B. Lord The Last of the Sea Rovers
Captain Marryat The Attack
John Masefield The Ways of the Buccaneers
The Buccaneer
The Tarry Buccaneer
Henry Ormerod Piracy in the Ancient World
Lucretia Parker The Female Captive

The Pirate’s Song (two different poems)
Plutarch Caesar and the Pirates
Howard Pyle A True Account of Three Notorious Pirates
With the Buccaneers
Rafael Sabatini Captain Blood
Captain H. C. St. John, RN Cruising after Pirates
Captain Samuel Samuels A Crew of the “Bloody Forties”
John S. Sewall Capture, Sufferings, and Escape of Captain Barnabas Lincoln
William Shakespeare Shakespeare on Pirates

The Song of Captain Kidd
Edward John Trelawny Autobiography
Mark Twain Tom Sawyer, Pirate King
E. H. Visiak The Rivals
The Fleet of Captain Morgan

This is a great collection that introduces readers to pirates around the world, not just the Caribbean. Some tales are often found in similar compilations, but many are rarely included, which makes this a treasure for fans of pirate stories. Although the editor protected each writer’s individual style as his/her story appeared when originally published, the stories remain easy to read.
 
The one drawback is the lack of anecdotal information for each story to set the stage, identify who the writer is, and classify the tale as a true account, fiction, or a combination of the two. This may be obvious to some readers, but to many others perhaps not since a number of the tales fall into the last category. The other missing detail is that some of these are excerpts from larger works. For example, the book includes one episode from Captain Blood, rather than the entire novel. Inclusion of all this information would enrich the book tenfold and satisfy the reader’s curiosity.
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Shipping the Medieval Military
Cover Art: Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipping the Medieval Military: English Maritime Logistics in the Fourteenth Century
By Craig L. Lambert
Boydell Press, 2010, ISBN 9780615381534, US$90.00 / £50.00

 
Lambert’s goal in writing this book is to provide a more thorough understanding of the maritime resources available to Kings Edward II and III when they went to war at a time when the Royal Navy as we know it did not exist. He achieves this through a close examination of documents related to the merchant fleet, which supplied the majority of vessels during these conflicts. Lambert also assesses the needs and effectiveness of maritime contributions to the logistical support of the troops that fought on land.
 
Chapter one, Raising the Fleet, covers sources of shipping, requisition orders, the process of requisition, and return passage. The second chapter concerns the years 1320 through 1360 and discusses the supply of armies and garrisons by sea. This includes the logistics and preparations for war, supplying the armies and the naval war in Scotland, the maritime logistics relating to that war, and the supply of English armies in France. The following chapter discusses the transport of the armies to France from 1324 through 1360. Its subtopics include the preparation of the fleet, two transport fleets during Edward II’s reign, the Earl of Surrey’s fleet, five fleets for Edward III’s armies, and the Black Prince’s 1355 fleet. Chapter four, Maritime Resources and the King’s War, examines organizational developments of the fleets, port resources, shipmaster service and mariners, and crew size and manning.
 
Various tables and pictures appear throughout the book. After the conclusion are two appendices: Ports that Supplied Ships to the Fleets and the Methodology of Reconstructing the Merchant Fleet. An extensive bibliography and index are also included.
 
What makes this book of such notable importance is the focus is on mariners and port masters, instead of “knights, esquires, and their mounts”, and logistics from a nautical perspective, rather than naval warfare itself. Lambert commendably demonstrates the complexity of supplying an army that fights in another land. His research shows the royal advisors understood this and carefully managed their resources to meet the king’s needs. While the preponderance of material concerns the merchant fleet and wartimes, there are a few references to pirates. Shipping the Medieval Military opens an intriguing window into the medieval merchant navy in a well-thought-out and organized fashion that is easy for the layman to read.

View the Table of Contents or Index and read a sample

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U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills

Cover Art: U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
By Department of the Navy

Lyons Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7627-7037-3, US $14.95 / CAN $16.95

To the uninitiated this book may seem like a manual on how to take down pirates, but it soon becomes apparent that it is more tongue-in-cheek than reality. The guest foreword, written by “(Retired) Admiral I. I. Scuttle, Commander of the Fighting 44th Anti-Pirate Assault, the Most Decorated Anti-Piracy Unit in U.S. Navy History,” is a rousing rah-rah introduction to the manual. There is nothing subtle or toned down in his narrative, and he concludes his remarks with an invitation to join him in singing ‘Pirate Slayers We,’ the “age-old pirate-hunter’s anthem.”
 
Arranged into two parts – Offensive Strategies and Defensive Strategies – the information is divided into sixteen chapters.  
  • Pirate Ship Boarding Assaults
  • On-Deck Hand-to-Hand and Hand-to-Hook Combat
  • Handheld Weapons
  • Riverine Assault Operations
  • Waterway Interdiction, Surveillance, Barrier, and Security Operations
  • Special Operations
  • Diving in Support of Anti-Pirate Operations
  • Parachute Operations
  • Miscellaneous Anti-Pirate Operations
  • Weapons
  • Demolitions
  • Contingency Planning
  • Defensive Command and Control
  • Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACS)
  • Survival at Sea
  • Escape from Captivity
The book also includes three appendices: Nautical Abbreviations, Seabag Checklist, and Loadout Lists. A host of drawings illustrate key points in the text, and these often include subtle humor (though if the advice isn’t heeded, the seaman or soldier might well find himself in dire straits).
 
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills is an odd mixture of eighteenth-century scurvy dogs and present-day hunters. This field manual has a ring of truth that makes the reader think “if only” we’d known that then or had that technology existed and why can’t pirates today be so easily defeated?
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Landsman Hay

Cover Art: Landsman Hay
Landsman Hay
By Robert Hay
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-068-0, US$27.95, £13.99
 
Between 1820 and 1821 Robert Hay wrote a memoir for his children. Some of this material eventually appeared in Paisley Magazine under the pseudonym Sam Spritsail around 1828. Hay’s account of his life was later edited by his great-granddaughter and published in 1953. Vincent McInerney, the editor of this volume in the Seafarers’ Voices series, has taken the original material and the additions later made to it to join them together in this narrative for today’s readers.
 
Hay served as a seaman in the Royal Navy from 1803 to 1811 during the wars with France. He provides an account of life on the lower deck on warships in Nelson’s Navy. While such memoirs aren’t unusual, the majority are written long after the fact, at a time when social mores differed from those in which the story is set. Hays, however, penned his shortly after he went to sea at fourteen, and he did so as a volunteer, rather than being pressed into service. Rather than entering the service as a seaman, he became a “shoe boy,” a personal servant to an officer. Although he deserted in hopes of finding a berth on a merchant ship, he ended up back in the Royal Navy, where he eventually became a carpenter’s mate, which taught him a skill he could later use on land when he retired.
 
Hay provides a matter-of-fact recitation of it was like to be a sailor in the early nineteenth century. Having worked aboard both naval and merchant vessels, he compares and contrasts the differences between the two. The first chapter sets the stage, giving an account of his family and youth before he ran away to sea. The remaining chapters discuss the ships he served on and the events and people he encountered on board and in his travels. Landsman Hay is a fascinating story with rare glimpses of navy life and personnel from a servant’s perspective.
 
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Atrocities of the Pirates

Cover Art: The Atrocities of the Pirates
The Atrocities of the Pirates
By Aaron Smith

Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, ISBN 978-1-61608-194-2, $12.95


In 1824 a seaman named Aaron Smith published an account of his captivity under Cuban pirates. They forced him aboard their vessel because of his skill as a navigator. At the time of his capture two years earlier, he had been on his way home to England to wed Miss Sophia Knight, who would later testify at his trial before a British Admiralty Court. This reprinting of his memoir shares with modern readers the torture and atrocities he witnessed and endured, as well as showing what lengths he went to in order to stay alive.
 
One thing, however, threw a gloom over my mind: The captain had declared that when my services were no longer wanted, he would kill me . . . .
 
Added to this volume is an account of his trial as it appeared in the Morning Chronicle on 20 December 1823.
 
This is an absorbing, yet harrowing, tale of what it was like to be taken by pirates then forced to watch as other innocent seamen fell prey to them. Smith pulls no punches as he recounts the tortures he endured, and the reader soon accepts the truth – being a pirate isn’t a romantic adventure at all. His insights into the perfidy of his fellow countrymen and Cuban officials provide a more rounded examination of sea life and why it was difficult to curb piracy.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Slaver Captain

Cover Art: Slaver Captain
Slaver Captain
By John Newton

Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-079-6, US$27.95, £13.99

One of the volumes in the Seafarers’ Voices series, Slaver Captain is Newton’s memoirs of his life (1725-1807) combined with his reflections on his participation in the slave trade. He writes about loving a distant relation, deserting the Royal Navy and his flogging upon capture, how he entered the slave trade, his eventual retirement because of ill health, and his ordination as a minister for the Church of England. The editor, Vincent McInerney, has brought together two of Newton’s works in this book. Thoughts on the African Slave Trade (1788) is a public confession of Newton’s involvement in slavery and his plea for abolishing it. The fourteen letters he wrote in hopes of entering the Anglican ministry appeared under the title An Authentic Narrative of Some Remarkable Particulars in the Life of John Newton (1765).
 
The editing of this volume provides a seamless and readable narrative, even though McInerney reduced the overall length of the two volumes to remove “repetition, theological argument, and observations of perhaps limited interest to those interested primarily in maritime aspects of the work.” Slaver Captain is an enlightening, eloquent, and forthright account of eighteenth-century sea life that provides a first-hand account of the slave trade from the perspective of a participant who later became a strong advocate for abolition of the vile practice. While most readers may not recognize Newton’s name, they will recognize his hymn, “Amazing Grace,” and this book provides readers with a new perspective of the song.
 
 

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires

Cover Art: Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires
Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Context
Edited by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee

Columbia University, 2010, ISBN 978-0-231-70208-9, $55.00

This scholarly tome on the field of study known as International Relations (IR) focuses on those groups on the periphery of public, state authority: bandits, mercenaries, pirates, privateers, smugglers, and warlords. The goal is to show the historical context of the development of private violence in hopes of better understanding this form of aggression and its evolution and effect on global concepts impacting IR today.
 
The book begins with an introduction entitled “Private Violence in Historical Context” and is written by the editors. The subsequent nine chapters are:  
  1. Distinctions, Distinctions: ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Force? by Patricia Owens
  2. State and Armed Force in International Context by Tarak Barkawi
  3. Privateers of the North Sea: At Worlds End – French Privateers in Norwegian Waters by Halvard Leira and Benjamin de Carvalho
  4. The Flow and Ebb of Private Seaborne Violence in Global Politics: Lessons from the Atlantic World, 1689-1815 by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee
  5. Violent Undertows: Smuggling as Dissent in Nineteenth-Century Southeast Asia by Eric Tagliacozzo
  6. ‘Tribes’ and Warlords in Southern Afghanistan, 1980-2005 by Antonio Giustozzi and Noor Ullah
  7. The Criminal-State Symbiosis and the Yugoslav Wars of Succession by Kenneth Morrison
  8. Private Security Companies in the Malacca Straits: Mapping New Patterns of Security Governance by Patrick Cullen
  9. Securing the City: Private Security Companies and Non-State Authority in Global Governance by Rita Abrahamsen and Michael C. Williams
Three themes run through these chapters: a) global markets, b) how law assists in understanding private violence, and c) the character and dynamics of this type of aggression. The absence of a bibliography is mitigated by the presence of footnotes for each essay that identify resources and other pertinent details for those wishing to conduct further research on the topic. The book also contains a list of contributors and their qualifications, as well as an index.
 
The chapters of particular interest to readers interested in pirates are one, three, four, and eight. Owens examines the differences between public and private violence, explaining how pirates and privateers assisted in the defense of colonies then were eventually eliminated from the state’s military defense. Leira and de Carvalho show how French state-building influenced privateering. Colás and Mabee argue that sea piracy is a marginal form of private violence today by studying implications of the Golden Age piracy to help us better understand our current and future IR. Their focus is on “sociological and political-economic [approaches], rather than the normative-legal causes . . ..” (84) Finally, Cullen explores the use of private security companies, transnational security, and the inherent problems encountered when doing so through in his examination of countering piracy in the Malacca Straits.
 
Normally, I recommend reading the introduction so readers have a better understanding of the essays to come and the book’s focus, but this one is a bit pedantic and difficult to follow if the reader isn’t well versed in IR and what constitutes private versus public violence. The essays are far more interesting and easier to comprehend from a layman’s perspective and they challenge us to re-examine conclusions we may have drawn regarding global aggression and relationships today. Doing so fromS a historical perspective brings these issues and dilemmas into sharper focus.
   
(Note: For readers unfamiliar with these concepts, it might be helpful to first read Janice Thomson’s Mercenaries, Pirates and Sovereigns published
 by Princeton University in 1994. This work is critiqued and frequently referred to throughout this book.)

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Smuggling

Cover Art: Smuggling
Smuggling: Contraband and Corruption in World History
By Alan L. Karras
Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7425-5315-6, US $34.95 / £21.95 / € 24.95
Also available as an e-book
 
Most books on smuggling concentrate on a particular region or country during a specific time period. Karras approaches it from a worldwide view that includes case studies not only from the past, but also today. Although his initial objective was to focus on Caribbean smuggling during the 1700s, he discovered what happened there, also happened elsewhere, so he expanded his research and the scope of this volume. He aptly shows how smugglers and purchasers of smuggled goods influenced the evolution of laws and policies regulating smuggling while at the same time circumventing them.
 
The content is arranged into five chapters, plus a conclusion. The book also includes chapter notes, illustrations, a selected bibliography, and an index. The chapters are:  
1.     Smuggling in Regional and Global Perspective: “Truck, Barter, and  Exchange”
2.     “It’s Not Pirates!”
3.     The Political Economy of Smuggling
4.     Smuggling: Patterns and Practices
5.     Smuggling, “Custom,” and Legal Violations
 
Chapter two is of particular interest to readers of this publication, and Karras deftly demonstrates that pirates and smugglers are not the same, contrary to popular opinion. Pirates identify themselves when they attack and often threaten or use violence to gain their objective. Their victims are easy to identify. Smugglers, on the other hand, operate clandestinely and rarely use violence because they don’t want to suffer the consequences of getting caught. Everyone is an enemy of the pirate, whereas the law is the smuggler’s enemy. The case studies used to prove these arguments date from 1750 to present-day Somalia.
 
Karras selects specific cases that illustrate “a larger pattern that is observable across both time and space” (viii) and reinforce his arguments. They demonstrate the amount of culling through primary resources he’s done to assemble this evidence. Also of noteworthy mention is how he shows the lack of correlation between implementing laws against smuggling and how these are interpreted. Readers looking for a general history of smuggling may not find this a compelling narrative, but the book provides an important examination of the global similarities of smuggling and the parallels between modern-day smugglers and those of the past.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Real Jim Hawkins

Cover Art: The Real Jim Hawkins
The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy
By Roland Pietsch
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-036-9, £25.00


Using Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jim Hawkins as a typical boy of the eighteenth century, Pietsch discusses the actual lads who went to sea with the Royal Navy. These boys were the servants and powder monkeys who later became seasoned sailors, and the author incorporates archival resources, such as records from the Marine Society, to illustrate his points. This book isn’t merely an examination of their lives at sea, but also their lives before – social backgrounds, previous jobs and apprenticeships, and the youth culture of the period. He also focuses on the social and emotional challenges Jim Hawkins faced once he retired from the sea. Rather than a history of the privileged boys who eventually became midshipmen and officers, this is the story of those who lived on the lower decks.
 
The book is divided into eight chapters:
  1. Seafaring Boys in the Eighteenth Century: Fiction and Reality
  2. Jim’s Troublesome Youth on Land: ‘The Idle Apprentice Sent to Sea’
  3. Poor Jim: Charity and the Marine Society
  4. The Typical Jim Hawkins
  5. Jim’s Motives: Sailors and Youth Culture
  6. Jim’s Life on Board
  7. Jim’s Coming of Age at Sea: Masculinity and the Horrors of War
  8. Jim’s Return from the Sea
An epilogue follows, as do source and literature notes, text notes, a bibliography, and an index. Black-and-white illustrations can be viewed throughout the narrative.
 
While many books have been written about the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail, this is the first to focus on the young lads who went to sea, especially during times of war. The inclusion of quotes from actual ships’ boys – Edward Coxe, Mary Lacy, Olaudah Equiano, and Sam Leech are but a few – enrich the narrative and bring an element of realism to what life was like for them. The Marine Society’s records provide a solid sampling of information since they supplied more than 26,000 boys to the navy between 1756 and 1815, and the incorporation of this data shows the depth of the research Pietsch went to in writing this book. (He narrowed that number down to 262 boys found in the naval archives.) The Real Jim Hawkins is a readable and intriguing account about one segment of the Royal Navy overlooked in history.

Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Sir Martin Frobisher

Cover Art: Sir Martin Frobisher
Sir Martin Frobisher: Seaman, Soldier, Explorer
By Taliesin Trow
Pen & Sword, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84884-232-8, £19.99 / US $39.95

Most people have heard of Queen Elizabeth I’s pirates, but few can readily name any unless his name is Sir Francis Drake. Trow remedies this oversight with his latest book, Sir Martin Frobisher, an English Sea Dog who searched for a Northwest Passage and gold to fill English coffers. He was impulsive, hot-headed, self-centered, and egotistical, but he was also an able seaman and an adventurer. At different times in his life he was a prisoner, an interpreter, a trader, a thief, a privateer, a pirate hunter, and a defender of the realm. He led three voyages to the New World, introduced the English to a new race of people, and was one of the few to venture into the icy waters of the North Atlantic to reach such places as Greenland and Baffin Bay as he searched for gold and Meta Incognita.
 
There is little documentary evidence to give us a good picture of Frobisher the man, but there are many historical references to him as a mariner and explorer, and it is from these that Trow crafts a succinct look into this man and the issues of importance during his lifetime. Doing so grounds the reader and provides a compelling overview of the period. By unveiling various facets of the man, the author allows the reader to discover that Frobisher is human, rather than just a stick figure who made his mark on history.
 
The journey through Frobisher’s life is enriched with black-and-white illustrations and maps, as well as a timeline of the man’s life and New World exploration. An appendix covers the ships he used.  There are also chapter notes, a selected bibliography, and index.
 
Chapter 11 “Our Land, Our Strength” is a bit tenuous in its inclusion, for the material is presented after Frobisher’s death and concerns the Thule (the native tribe mentioned earlier) and later explorations of the region. In spite of this, Sir Martin Frobisher provides readers with an intriguing glimpse into an explorer often overlooked and the times in which he lived.

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast

Cover Art: Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
By Jean L. Epperson
Liberty County Historical Commission, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9822899-4-5, $20


In the years before Texas became a state, its southern shores along the Gulf of Mexico provided a base from which pirates and privateers could operate. Perhaps the most famous of these was Jean Laffite, who operated out of Galveston Island after he left Barataria near New Orleans.  The pages of this book contain a collection of short articles on him and other filibusters written by Jean Epperson, who has researched the Laffites and their associates for many years. Many of these articles first appeared in The Laffite Society Chronicles, and they primarily focus on the Texas coast between 1815 and 1823.
 
The contents of the book are divided into seven chapters. 
  1. Col. Henry Perry on Bolivar & 1816 Maps
  2. Corsairs on Galveston Bay – Aury & the Laffites
  3. The Final Years of Jean & Pierre Laffite
  4. Some Associates of Perry, Aury & the Laffites
  5. Gen. James Long
  6. Ramon Lafon the Founder of Port Isabel in 1823 & the Three Pirates Lafon
  7. Related Topics to the Major Characters
The last of these chapters includes discussions on a wide range of subjects, including Stanley Faye, John Andrechyne Laffite and the Laffite Journal, Maison Rouge, the flags Laffite flew, and paintings of the Laffites.
 
Accompanying the text are a variety of period maps and illustrations of some participants. Each article contains endnotes detailing the documentary sources consulted in the author’s research. The book is also indexed.
 
This is an easily read book that provides access to material often not found in other volumes, which makes it useful to readers who want to know more about the Laffite brothers and Texas pirates. The book has a few drawbacks that readers should be aware of. First, a good copyeditor would have greatly enhanced the spelling and punctuation of the text. Second, there are times when readers unfamiliar with the subject matter may feel a bit lost, as if important details that would have grounded the reader were left out. Third, a few articles are more a solicitation for information because the historical records haven’t yet revealed the answers to some questions. On the other hand, this book’s particular strength lies in the diversity of topics covered in a succinct style that permits readers to grasp the essence of what is known and serves as a stepping stone for further research.


Please Note: Anyone interested in purchasing this book should send a check or money order, payable to LCHC, in the amount of $23.00 (includes shipping) to LCHC, 550 CR 401, Dayton, TX 77535.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Last of the Great Swashbucklers

Cover Art: The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers: A Bio-Bibliography of Rafael Sabatini
By Jesse F. Knight and Stephen Darley

Oak Knoll Press, 2010, ISBN 978-1-58456-279-5, US $65.00


Although Captain Blood and Errol Flynn first introduced me to Rafael Sabatini’s work while in high school, I discovered many of his other titles while perusing the shelves of a bookstore during my college days. I bought all of them, and while I read each one, only a few remain favorites. Sabatini, however, became one of my preferred writers of historical fiction, for he had a gift of sweeping me off to the past where I experienced many swashbuckling adventures.
 
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers is both a biography and a bibliography of Sabatini’s novels. Jesse F. Knight, an ardent admirer of this author’s writing and founder of the Rafael Sabatini Society, wrote the thirty-page biography that examines the Sabatini’s life from birth through death, as well as the various experiences that influenced his writing. The biography is entertaining, captivating, and informative from beginning to end.
 
Stephen Darley has compiled a comprehensive list of Sabatini’s published books, both in the UK and USA. It is primarily aimed at bibliophiles, book dealers, and readers interested in the first editions of these forty-seven books. The bibliography is chronological, beginning with The Lovers of Yvonne in 1902 and ending with The Sword of Islam and Other Tales of Adventure in 2008. Each entry provides information on the title page, contents, binding, dust jacket, printing, and notes for each edition. Some include pictures of the cover art.
 
At the end of the main bibliography, “Books by Sabatini,” Darley includes:  
  • Checklist of Selected US and UK Reprints
  • Checklist of Significant Books in Paperback
  • Checklist of Fiction and Non-Fiction Contributions to Books
  • Checklist of Periodicals or Books Concerning Rafael Sabatini
  • Checklist of Uncollected Short Stories in Magazines
  • Movies Made from Sabatini’s Books
  • Plays Written by Sabatini or Adapted from His Books
  • Identifying UK and US First Editions Published before 1921
The book also includes an index.
 
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers isn’t for everyone, but those who have enjoyed many of Sabatini’s swashbuckling adventures – some piratical, some not – and those who are serious collectors and students of his work, will find a treasure trove of information about both his life and his writings.


Read an excerpt and view a slideshow

Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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The Terror of the Seas?
Cover Art: Terror of the Seas?
The Terror of the Seas? Scottish Maritime Warfare, 1513-1713
By Steve Murdoch

Brill, 2010, ISBN 978-90-04-18568-5, US $199.00 / €140.00

The Terror of the Seas? examines a two-hundred-year period in Scotland’s maritime history. Although nearly surrounded by water, this country’s maritime history is often overlooked or given short shrift in history books.  Steve Murdoch, a Professor in History at the University of Saint Andrews, remedies this in the fifty-eighth volume in the “History of Warfare” series. His research corrects erroneous conclusions other historians have drawn about Scottish naval warfare, and he consults a variety of primary documentation to present a more accurate and pioneering portrayal that provides readers and scholars with new perspectives on the importance of Scotland and her maritime history.
 
In the introduction he disagrees with other historians as to the number of Scots who took part in the Golden Age of Piracy. He also discusses the importance of and the purposes privateers served in protecting Scottish maritime interests, especially since the lack of resources made it nearly impossible for the monarchy to maintain a large navy. Unlike other countries’ Lord High Admirals, Scotland’s was a hereditary office, and Murdoch shows how this affected the nation. Other points of discussion concern International Jurisdictions and Enforcing Jurisdictions: The Admiral, Maritime Warfare and the Privateer.
 
Since many Admiralty records from Scotland’s past are no longer available, Murdoch searched elsewhere for primary documentation, particularly the Scottish Admiralty Court records discovered in Scandinavia. This permits him to examine how the country’s maritime forces progressed through a series of armed conflicts. Below is a list of the chapters and the subtopics discussed in each. All chapters begin with a brief introduction and end with a summary.
 
Chapter One: Scottish Maritime Warfare, 1513-1560
Maritime warfare in the Post-Flodden Period
The Guerre de Course in the Majority of James V
The Rough Wooings: The 1544 Hertford Campaign
The Rough Wooings: Episodic Conflict, 1545-1547
The Rough Wooings: Protector Somerset’s 1547 Campaign
Maritime Operations, 1549-1552
The Anglo-French War and the Scottish Reformation
Scottish Admiralty Decisions in the Sixteenth Century
 
Chapter Two: Letters of Reprisal
The Barton-Portuguese Reprisal War
Scottish Imperial Reprisals and the ‘Six Years War’, 1544-1550
Reprisal Wars in Scandinavia and the Baltic
Individual Reprisals
 
Chapter Three: ‘Peacetime’ and Piracy, 1560-1618
Anglo-Scottish Piracy, 1560-1590
Piracy and the Anglo-Spanish War
Combined British Naval Operations after 1603
The Politics of Piracy: Domestic
The Politics of Piracy: International
 
Chapter Four: The ‘Marque Fleets’ of Scotland, 1618-1638
The Spanish Threat
The 1623 ‘Dunkirker’ Episodes
The Marque Fleets of Scotland
The Spoils of War: Analysis of Scottish Prizes and l
Losses, 1626-1630
The Hamburg Reprisal War, 1628-1643
 
Chapter Five: Scottish Maritime Warfare in the British Civil Wars, 1638-1660
The Covenanters and Maritime Warfare
The Solemn League and Covenant at Sea, 1643-1648
Denmark and the British Civil Wars. Part One: The Blockade, 1642-1645
Denmark and the British Civil Wars. Part Two: The Proxy War, 1644-1645
From the Scottish Engagement to the Patriotic Accommodation, 1647-1651
Charles II, Covenanted King of Great Britain
The Cromwellian Usurpation, 1651-1660
 
Chapter Six: The ‘Scottish-Dutch’ Wars, 1665-1667 and 1672-1674
Scottish Maritime Operations, 1665-1667
‘Per Mare Per Terras’
Engagements in the Forth, April-May 1667
Scottish Operations, 1672-1674
Difficult Decisions
Sweden, Holstein and the Problem of Neutrality
 
Chapter Seven: The Franco-Scottish Wars: 1689-1697 and 1702-1713
French Operations, 1689-1697
Queen Anne’s War, 1702-1713
The Franco-Jacobite ‘Attempt’ of 1708
Commercial Considerations
 
After the author’s conclusion, readers will find an extensive bibliography, seven appendices, a section of illustrations, and three indices: names, places, and subjects.
 
Of particular interest to those who study pirates and privateers are the conclusions and evidence Murdoch presents concerning pirates and privateers. It’s refreshing to learn about those outside of the English and their treatment under the law and the various monarchies. Most readers probably won’t be able to afford this book, but serious students of Scotland’s maritime history and collectors of maritime history will find a wealth of new and intriguing information. The book is authoritative and puts forth conclusions that dispel previous accounts of the country’s naval and maritime history, and Murdoch hope this will encourage further studies in these topics.

Read Excerpts
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar

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Captain Kidd

Cover Art: Captain Kidd
Captain Kidd: The Hunt for the Truth
By Craig Cabell, Graham A. Thomas, and Allan Richards
Pen & Sword Maritime, 2010, ISBN 9781844159611, £19.99



Through thirteen chapters and six appendices, the authors attempt to separate myth from reality to uncover the truth about William Kidd – who started out a pirate hunter, but ended up executed for piracy. The authors’ goal is not to tell the reader which he was, but rather to present all the facts to allow the reader to make up his or her own mind. The story unfolds at the beginning, recapping what little is known about Kidd prior to his appearance in the Caribbean in 1689.
 
The book includes a map of Kidd’s voyages that depict his outward journey and his return, as well as the failed interception by the Royal Navy. There are several pages of black-and-white pictures, although the inclusion of two photographs of modern crafts is a questionable choice. There’s a list of books for further reading, chapter notes, and an index.
 
One point the authors stress in the preface is that “there is no single person who is able to confirm Kidd’s account from beginning to end.” This statement (as well as other points) makes it difficult to know whether the truths put forth are actually that, for there remains no irrefutable evidence one way or the way to answer the question beyond a shadow of doubt. The introduction contains one misstatement:
 
The first person to brand Kidd as a pirate was Captain Charles Johnson who wrote a biography of Kidd in his book, A General History Of The Most Notorious Pirates, which was first published in 1724.
 
In actuality the English East India Company, as well as the Admiralty Courts that tried him, branded Kidd as such long before Johnson’s book was published.
 
The authors’ unbiased account incorporates primary documents and secondary resources. The overwhelming question of why remains elusive. Why did a respected, wealthy family man leave his loved ones and become entangled in the adventure that eventually cost him his life? Possibilities are presented, but as with the primary focus of the book – was he or wasn’t he a pirate – no definitive answer is available.
 
For me, the more interesting portion of the book is the “Annexes” (appendices): Crew members who served with Kidd, Legend, Timeline of Kidd’s maritime career, Articles of agreement, Letters concerning Kidd, Pirates and privateers: Kidd compared.
 
Captain Kidd is logically presented and easy to follow. Readers will find the narrative interesting, and the authors point out some of the problems with recent and not-so-recent published books. If you are in need of a good, straight-forward account of Kidd’s life, career, and demise, Captain Kidd is a worthwhile resource to consult. Those looking to find some new enlightenment on the subject may have to look elsewhere.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar


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Maritime Maryland

Cover Art: Maritime Maryland
Maritime Maryland: A History
By William S. Dudley

Johns Hopkins University, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8018-9475-6, $50.00

Long associated with Maryland, Dudley provides readers with an encapsulated view of this state’s waterways and the events that have impacted her history and development. He opens with Captain John Smith’s discovery of Chesapeake Bay, then expounds on the colony’s founding after King Charles I provides a land grant to Cecil Calvert, the second Lord of Baltimore. He also discusses the founding of Fells Point and its importance to shipbuilding, as well as the various marine trades that became vital to the state’s maritime industry. In subsequent chapters he covers the first naval ships built here, as well as other important aspects of the American navy to Maryland’s development and protection, the privateers for which Baltimore became famous, the introduction of steam-powered vessels and the subsequent steam industry, and economic ups and downs of maritime commerce. Other chapters examine the marine life that provides income to the watermen who fish in Maryland waters, the steel industry, the decline of working sail, pleasure boating and racing, maritime archeology, cultural resources (museums, the USS Constellation, Pride of Baltimore, lighthouses), and the environmental impact on the Chesapeake and her tributaries.
 
The book concludes with chapter notes, a nautical glossary, an essay on sources, and an index. Although the first three chapters lack illustrations, they do accompany the rest of the narrative and color collection of them exists at the book’s center. The only drawback is the print size; it’s small and strains the eyes.
 
Maritime Maryland is a readable overview that serves as a good introduction to a vital part of this state’s history and commerce. It provides those who want to learn more with great starting places for further research. It is an important resource for any maritime collection, especially for those with special interests in Maryland and her contributions to history and the economy.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate State

Cover Art: Pirate State
Pirate State: Inside Somalia’s Terrorism at Sea
By Peter Eichstaedt

Lawrence Hill Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-56976-311-7, US $24.95 / CAN $27.95

While in Khartoum, Sudan for a workshop in 2008, Peter Eichstaedt reads a magazine article about Somali pirates, who attack a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks. They also attack and ransom other vessels, including tankers and cargo ships, cruise liners, and yachts. The article stirs several questions in his mind – Were these pirates truly a legion of desperate fishermen bloodying the noses of global shipping companies on a daily basis? Was this the work of organized crime syndicates? Was piracy connected to the madness that gripped Somalia? – so the following year, he travels around East Africa in search of answers. He reveals what  found and experienced in this book, which he divides into twelve chapters.
 
Prologue: The Pirates’ Call
1.  Attack on the Alabama
2.  Pirates and Prisons
3.  Cauldron of Chaos
4.  Method to the Madness
5.  Inside a Hijacking
6.  Nightmare on the Delta
7.  Ten Months in Hell
8.  Malaise in Mombassa
9.  Desperation at Dadaab
10.  Haven for Terror
11. Fighting Back
12. Sailors Take Warning
Epilogue: A Modest Proposal
 
The book includes chapter notes, maps, photographs, and an index. The interviews and quotes from those involved in piracy, as well as those who have dealt with the pirates, are the strengths of this volume. The weaknesses are the author’s digression into Nigerian piracy and the interviews at Dadaab, a Somali refugee camp in Kenya.
 
There have been a number of books published on this topic since the Maersk Alabama, the first American ship attacked by Somali pirates, but what sets Pirate State apart from those is that Eichstaedt presents the subject from a variety of perspectives that give a well-rounded and more comprehensive look at the problem through the eyes of those who have been there – the pirates, their victims, and those who attempt to combat the problem through legal means or the use of force. Perhaps one of the most telling sentences in the book is found in the epilogue: “Shipping interests act as if piracy can be ignored and that it will go away. It won’t.”
 
Anyone interested in knowing more about Somali piracy – those involved, the causes, and the attacks – will find Pirate State an interesting and absorbing book that explores beneath the surface through interviews with those directly involved. Readers leave with a better understanding of the problem and that it won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Visit the author
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Cover Art: Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Edited by John Kleinen and Manon Osseweijer
International Institute for Asian Studies (The Netherlands) & Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore)
2010, ISBN 978-981-4279-07-9, Singapore $59.90 / US $49.90
Individual chapters are also available in PDF for electronic download at S$8.00 / US$6.00 each

Divided into three parts, this book collects presentations given at a conference in Shanghai in 2005, and is the fourth installment in the series “Maritime Issues and Piracy in Asia.” The contributors – historians, researchers, anthropologists, and professors – are eminently qualified to enlighten readers on the various topics on which they expound.
 
Part 1: Introduction
1.    Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia by John Kleinen and Manon Osseweijer
2.    Piracy in Asian Waters: Problems of Definition by Michael Pearson
 
Part 2: East Asia
3.    Giang Binh: Pirate Haven and Black Market on the Sino-Vietnamese Frontier, 1780-1802 by Robert J. Antony
4.    Tonkin Read for China Front: The Dutch East India Company’s Strategy for the North-Eastern Vietnamese Ports in the 1660s by Hoang Anh Tuan
5.    South Fujian the Disputed Coast, Power and Counter-power by Paola Calanca
6.    Maritime Piracy through a Barbarian Lens: Punishment and Representation (the SS Namoa Hijack Case, [1890-91])
 
Part 3: Southeast Asia
7.    Violence and Armed Robbery in Indonesian Seas by Adrian B. Lapian
8.    Robbers and Traders: Papuan Piracy in the Seventeenth Century by Gerrit Knaap
9.    The Port of Jolo: International Trade and Slave Raiding by James Warren
10.   Pirates in the Periphery: Eastern Sulawesi 1720-1905
11.   Suppressing Piracy in Asia: Decolonization and International Relations in a Maritime Border Region (the Sulu Sea), 1959-63 by Stefan Eklöf Amirell
12.   Contemporary Maritime Piracy in the Waters off Semporna by Carolin Liss
13. Piracy in Contemporary Sulu: An Ethnographical Case Study by Ikuya Tokoro
 
The three facets which these contributors examine are intricately intertwined – various groups of people lived in the ports and on the coasts, while pirates interacted with and victimized them all. Of particular import to any reader of Asian piracy is to understand that it differs from the western concept of piracy, and this is pointed out not only at the beginning of the book, but also in several of the essays. (One term that was new to me was “froth of the sea,” a term that denoted pirates on the South China coast in the past.) These essays focus on the relationship between pirates, ports, and coasts from various historical perspectives, as well as the links between piracy and organized crime, such as smuggling, trafficking in drugs and people, and taking hostages.
 
Each chapter provides a list of references that are predominantly in English, although other languages are also represented. The essays hold the reader’s interest without being overly pedantic. Source notes, tables, and photographs are also provided in some cases. While each provides important information, the essay I found most intriguing involved the attack on the SS Namoa, and the photograph of the subsequent execution of the pirates. Also of special note is Ikuya Tokoro’s essay, for he interviewed (ex-)pirates to obtain firsthand information for his studies. An index is also included.
 
When combined with the previous titles in this series, readers and researchers of this region are provided with a comprehensive “overview of the current knowledge and key themes in piracy studies”. This volume is a worthy addition to any collection that deals with Asian piracy, and the information it contains adds significantly to English-language studies on the topic from a variety of perspectives.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860

Cover Art: Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860
Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860: Reality and Popular Myth
By Cathryn Pearce
Boydell, 2010, ISBN 9781843835554, US $90.00 / £45.00


Cornish Wrecking is the first comprehensive scholarly work that attempts to separate the myth from the reality of wrecking in Cornwall, England. Using legal, social, and cultural resources, Pearce, a maritime historian, examines wreck law and how the various groups involved responded to the changes over time. Her research deftly shows the image of evil wreckers isn’t an accurate depiction of these men and women, and she provides readers with glimpses into who these people were and why they scavenged ships that wrecked on their shores. As she writes:
 
By assiduous investigation and “beachcombing”, we find that the historical record contains fragments of diverse materials that we can use to piece together wrecking history, including official government correspondence and records, Board of Trade wreck registers, legal cases involving right of wreck, personal correspondence, religious tracts, contemporary newspapers and literary sources.
 
The book opens with an introduction to wrecking, which is followed by these nine chapters:
 
1.     Cornwall and the Sea
2.     “Dead Wrecks” and the Foundation of Wreck Law
3.     Wrecking and Criminality
4.     The Cornish Wrecker
5.     Wrecking and Popular Morality
6.     Wrecking and Enforcement of the Law
7.     Lords of the Manor and their Right of Wreck
8.     Wrecking and Centralised Authority
9.     The Wrecker, the Press, and the Pulpit.
 
Her conclusions sum up what her research reveals, after which are included several appendices, an in-depth bibliography, and a detailed index. Figures, maps, and tables accompany the narrative as well.
 
Cornish Wrecking is a highly readable and intriguing examination of an often misunderstood subject. Pearce deftly sets the stage for those unfamiliar with wrecking, then takes readers step by step through wreck law and how changes to it affected those directly and indirectly involved. For those looking for the truth about false lights, she does touch on this subject, but not enough. She promises, though, that a future book will address this topic in detail. The price of the book may put off potential readers, but those truly interested in this topic will not be disappointed.

Meet the author

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
 
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A Privateer's Voyage Round the World

Cover Art: A Privateer's Voyage Round the World
A Privateer’s Voyage Round the World
By George Shelvocke
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-066-6, US $27.95 / £12.99
 
Originally published in 1726, George Shelvocke’s account of his three-year privateering venture, which took him around the world, is rife with danger and adventure. He also strives to put himself in the best light possible when faced with situations that border on – if they weren’t outright – piracy and unending bouts of attempted mutinies from his crew.
 
This book is the second in the Seafarers’ Voices series, and the introduction recounts Shelvocke’s experience as a mariner before becoming a privateer. He began his career in the Royal Navy in 1690, and within thirteen years he received his first command. When further promotions weren’t forthcoming, he was appointed purser in 1707 – a position which he held until Britain and France signed a peace treaty in 1713 and he was dismissed from service. Five years later he became a “Gentleman-Adventurer,” becoming captain of the Success and commander-in-chief of an expedition to capture Spanish treasure ships. Several problems arose and before year’s end Shelvocke was demoted to master of the Speedwell, and that ship’s captain – John Clipperton, who had sailed William Dampier on an earlier privateering venture – assumed both the captaincy of Success and head of the expedition, which departed England the following year.
 
While the information revealed in the introduction is important and necessary for the reader to gain a well-rounded picture of the events, it is somewhat dry in its rendering and it colors one’s reading of Shelvocke’s actual account. This could easily have been negated by confining the introduction to Shelvocke’s early life, the historical background for the venture, and what makes a privateer. After his account of the voyage ends, an epilogue or editor’s note to explain the discrepancies of the various accounts, the animosities between the parties involved, and the subsequent events that unfolded because of these would have allowed the reader to draw his or her own conclusions without being biased beforehand.
 
What makes this book important is it is a primary resource (firsthand account) that describes not only Shelvocke’s journey, but also the people, places, and flora and fauna he encounters just as previous privateers did. He also shares the many inherent dangers of a life at sea, although the reader soon wonders why he bothers to continue with so many mutinous crewmen. (More than once readers will see similarities to an earlier voyage where the men also tended to dictate to the captain and became pirates – William Kidd.)
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates of the 21st Century
Cover Art: Pirates of the 21st Century
Pirates of the 21st Century: How Modern-day Buccaneers Are Terrorising the World’s Oceans
By Nigel Cawthorne

John Blake, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84454-807-1, US $16.95 / £11.99

In November 2008, Sirius Star, sailed 500 miles off the coast of East Africa – beyond the danger zone the International Maritime Bureau warned merchantmen of when sailing these pirate-infested waters. In spite of following the IMB’s recommended protocols, her captain and crew found themselves facing well-armed Somalis who seized the supertanker. Never before had these pirates ventured this far into international waters to capture a vessel.
 
One evening of the following March, Malcolm Robertson and his wife were moored off southern Thailand. After midnight, Burmese pirates snuck aboard. In the ensuing scuffle, Malcolm was killed and his body thrown overboard. The intruders plundered the vessel, then left in the boat’s dinghy. Linda managed to free herself and get to safety.
 
These are but two of the tales recounted in Cawthorne’s book. As he writes in the introduction:
 
. . . most piracy takes place in areas where people are poor. Their livelihood has been taken from them by globalisation, civil unrest or war. There, men turn to piracy simply to survive and often go to great lengths to ensure that the crews of the vessels they seize are not hurt. Even The Economist and The Times have compared the modern-day buccaneers to Robin Hood. But that’s not the whole story . . . (ix-x)
 
Half of this account concentrates on Somali piracy, with a heavy emphasis on firsthand accounts from the perspective of the victims, the rescuers, and the pirates themselves. In this way Cawthorne slowly reveals the strategies and techniques used, as well as why the Somalis claim they have been forced to become pirates.
 
The book suffers from a number of weaknesses in its presentation. In separating the events involving the Sirius Star into two separate chapters, there is a lot of redundancy. While making readers aware of the problem, Cawthorne incorporates an overabundance of incidents, rather than also examining modern piracy in any depth. A sufficient number of missing words and incomplete sentences demonstrates that copy editing was slack before the book went to press. While other region of the world are included, more than half of the episodes reported occurred prior to the twenty-first century. No index or list of consulted resources is provided.
Pirates of the 21st Century clearly demonstrates that modern-day pirates are not akin to Robin Hood, yet choosing to end the book on a “lighter moment,” seems to trivialize the dangerous threat these criminals impose on merchant seamen and pleasure boaters.
 
In spite of these flaws, the author presents an engrossing introduction to modern-day piracy. The inclusion of quotes from those involved is a particular strength because they provide well-rounded perspectives from those directly involved in pirate attacks. Another is the fact that this book focuses on occurrences involving Europeans, rather than just Americans, which gives readers a better understanding on how global this problem is. It also shows how the problem of piracy isn’t reserved just for ships involved in moving the world’s commodities from one port to another. Cawthorne incorporates the dangers that yachtsmen also face – an aspect of piracy often overlooked in other volumes on this subject.

Meet Nigel Cawthorne
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
 
Second  Review of Pirates of the 21st Century
"It is fun," said one pirate, "an adventure like James Bond."
 
Pirates of the 21st Century by Nigel Cawthorne is a book that metaphorically is as wide as an ocean, but as shallow as a stream. Cawthorne does go into some detail when writing about some well-known incidents, such as the capture of the Sirius Star and the escape of the cruise ship Seaborn Spirit. Mostly, he gives the reader dozens of incidents involving not only huge cargo vessels, but private yachts as well. His point, I believe, is to show the reader how pervasive modern piracy has become and the reasons for its growth. However, there are just too many brief accounts.
 
Explored in this book are the frequent attacks on the Indian Ocean which have been in the news most often. I am glad that other trouble spots such as the Malacca Straits, the Caribbean, and the South China Sea are also addressed.
 
Mr. Cawthorne often repeats certain points in different chapters. Telling us how piracy off the coast of Somalia began because of European countries dumping their toxic materials into the Indian Ocean and spoiling the rich fishing grounds upon which many natives depend is repeated often.
 
The chapter entitled “Portrait of the Pirates” was most informative, however, I would suggest that it be the first chapter. It would be important to know the personality of these characters before citing various attacks.
 
One of the most frightening incidents was the explosion of the French oil tanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility and Osama bin Laden made a very similar statement against the west right after the U.S.S. Cole blew up in the port of Aden in October of 2000.
 
Cawthorne's strengths are in his description of the pancungs or small boats that the pirates employ and their methods of boarding the much larger ships that are their prey.
 
His writing about phantom ships, which pirates use, was very interesting. These are vessels that after capture are repainted, reflagged, and recertified to continue to operate illegally. Our hearts are moved by the harrowing tales of families on private yachts who are often attacked. These defenseless people are sometimes murdered or, if lucky, are simply robbed of all their possessions and left alone.
 
These modern pirates are unafraid of capture, Cawthorne writes. Jurisdictional problems have resulted due to the multinational makeup of the crew, the ship registered in a different country, and insurance companies too willing to pay the ransom. More often than not these pirates are not tried at all. Only Kenya and lately the Seychelles Islands have been willing to adjudicate such crimes.
 
According to Mr. Cawthorne, piracy will continue to grow unless countries work in unison to eradicate these heinous crimes. China and Indonesia have recently joined the coalition in the Indian Ocean and the Malacca Straits. In the case of Somalia, Cawthorne believes only a stable government will halt the growing menace. Somalia has been without such a government since 1991.
 
Nigel Cawthorne's Pirate of the 21st Century is a wonderful book for the casual reader. If one seeks depth and detailed reasoning about the nature of piracy and more on the root causes, this volume falls short. The book lacks a bibliography and annotations to urge the reader to continue to explore this phenomenon that is creating a toll in human and property loss, as well as a possible threat to our environment.

View Jeff Pearlman's Modern Piracy Videos

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Jeff Pearlman


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Tales of the Seven Seas

Cover Art: Tales of the Seven Seas
Tales of the Seven Seas: The Escapades of Captain Dynamite Johnny O’Brien
By Dennis M. Powers
Taylor Trade, 2010, ISBN 978-1-58979-447-4, US $22.95 / CAN $17.95 / £9.99

Born in Ireland in 1851, Johnny O’Brien went to sea as the sun began to set on the Age of Sail. Although he trained to become an architect and engineer, his destiny changed when he met a sea captain while returning from a visit home.
 
The wonderful stories he told of the sea and the prospect of some day being in command . . . impressed me so that I at once decided that a sailor’s life was the life for me. This was late in the year 1866. On our arrival in London, I went to the shipping office and the shipping mate was very kind. He told me to do my best as a “boy” – and that someday – I may sail up the Thames River in command of a ship. The day after arriving in London, I signed on the ship Marlborough. Twelve years later, I came to London from British Columbia with the first full cargo of salmon just that way – on the Alice Dickerman.
 
During his sixty-four years as a seaman and captain, his adventures took him around the world and made him legendary. Although his escapades unfold as if one reads a novel, they actually occurred and served to inspire at least one fictional character, Jack London’s Sea Wolf (based on one man who sailed with O’Brien).
 
In spite of his lack of formal education, O’Brien strove to better himself and to learn all he could about his chosen trade. He had the foresight to understand that steamships would become the principal means of transporting cargo and people, and studied these new aspects of sailing to easily transition from wooden sailing ships to those powered by steam.
 
While the events recounted here explore many facets and dangers of maritime life, one chapter involves pirates. After discharging cargo in Hong Kong in 1886 and setting sail with hardwood, teak, mahogany, raw silk, and medicinal opium aboard, O’Brien receives a crude warning that pirates intend to attack his ship. As the episode unfolds, readers “see” firsthand how the captain uses his wits and materials at hand to thwart this threat.
 
Powers writes in the preface:
 
I wrote this book to illustrate the world that O’Brien’s adventures reflect: sometimes violent, always risky, at times lawless, when shipping out was a feat of rugged individualism – before the judgmental filter that today’s world applies. O’Brien’s time was one that was raw and real in its underbelly – and he lived his way in an age when one could.
 
The eighteen chapters comprising this account certainly achieve that goal. Whether recounting O’Brien’s experiences sailing the South Pacific and the Atlantic, navigating the frigid waters of Alaska ferrying men to and from the gold fields, or encountering exotic princesses, shanghaiers, railroad magnates, and Hollywood stars, Powers enriches the tale with vivid imagery and astonishing factual accounts that bring this time period to life.
 
From first page to last, the book draws the reader into this foreign world and permits the reader to experience life as O’Brien did. Powers deftly shows that while steam eclipsed sails, the mariner’s life didn’t become less dangerous. From poignant moments, like the death of O’Brien’s son, to quotes from those who lived during this period, Powers infuses the text with sadness, fear, love, and humor – as when an old sailor answered the question as to why tattoos decorate his entire body. “I was a damned fool for having it done, but being drunk at the time, I was in such a condition that anything suggested was just fine with me.” (14)
 
Tales of the Seven Seas leaves the reader feeling dumbfounded and rewarded at having survived alongside Dynamite Johnny as he “sailed dangerous waters, skirted treacherous reefs, crept through dense fogs, sailed through terrific storms with the hell of rock bound shores sounding in his ears.” (from an editorial in the 8 August 1931 edition of Marine Digest) This book is a true treasure that gives those who dare to navigate its perilous waters a satisfying, but secure, peek into the enthralling world of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth-century mariner.

 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Seized

Cover Art: Seized
Seized
By Max Hardberger
Broadway Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7679-3138-0, US $25 / Can $29.95
Nicholas Brealey, 2010, ISBN
9781857885569, £9.99

The subtitle for this book is “A Sea Captain’s Adventure Battling Scoundrels and Pirates while Recovering Stolen Ships in the World’s Most Trouble Waters.”  Hardberger is a ship captain, as well as a pilot, maritime lawyer, and teacher (among other jobs). While Seized includes glimpses into the man and his personal life, it primarily recounts his adventures extracting freighters illegally seized from their owners, beginning with the first bulk carrier he retrieved in 1987.
 
His travels take him from Louisiana to Haiti, Belize, East Germany, Russia, Greece, and other locales. Each has its own murky waters and life-threatening dangers through which Hardberger navigates – revolution, Russian mafia, and possible imprisonment to name but a few. The foreword does disclose that names and places have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
 
While pirates are mentioned in the subtitle, only one incident comes close to meeting the definition of maritime piracy. Seized is a riveting account of the seamier side of maritime shipping and the men willing to risk their lives to help others. Amid the daring rescues, the author reveals the life of seamen, the world in which they live, and the dangers they face.
 
Visit Max Hardberger
Read an Excerpt
Read an Interview

Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar



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Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
Cover Art: Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy: Privateer, Patriot, Pioneer
By Sheldon S. Cohen
University Press of Florida, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8130-3433-1, US $69.95


Often overlooked in studies of the American Revolution are the war’s naval aspects. Merchantmen were converted to warships, while eleven of the thirteen states established “navies” of their own. One of the first men to enter the fray was Abraham Whipple of Rhode Island. His experience as both master of merchant vessels and captain aboard privateers earned him a spot first in Rhode Island’s maritime force and later in that of the Continental Congress. Two years prior to the opening salvos at Lexington and Concord, Whipple participated in the capture and destruction of HMS Gaspee, a British ship that pursued smugglers along the New England coast. When his naval and maritime careers ended, he became a pioneer farmer in Ohio.
 
Most people have probably never heard of Whipple, but Cohen aims to rectify the omission with this full-length biography. He explores the man and those he interacted with, as well as the times in which Whipple lived. Presented chronologically, this account also corrects previously published inaccuracies and exaggerations about him.
 
The book is divided into six chapters:
  1. Rhode Island Beginnings
  2. The Passage from Peacetime to Rebellion, 1763-1775
  3. Whipple’s War, at Home and Abroad, 1775-1778
  4. War’s Fortunes and Misfortunes, 1779-1783
  5. Postwar Discontentments, 1783-1789
  6. Final Years in Ohio, 1789-1819
and includes an extensive section of chapter notes and an in-depth bibliography of primary and secondary sources, as well as the repositories where information about Whipple can be found. The detailed index permits readers to easily gain access to pertinent information. Interspersed throughout the book are maps and illustrations pertaining to the time period.
 
While the biography is easy to read, the retelling of each voyage becomes tedious at times, even though many contain kernels of worthwhile seafaring knowledge. One strength of the book is Cohen’s adeptness at situating the man within his time period and explaining how the events of the day affected Whipple and others, especially mariners. The author’s reliance on primary documents further enhances this life story.
 
Commodore Abraham Whipple is an informative, complete accounting of a man who can be considered one of our nation’s founding fathers. The price, however, puts the book out of the hands of casual readers. Library and history collections pertaining to Rhode Island, the American Revolution, and maritime history will find this an invaluable resource.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

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Outlaws!
Cover Art: Outlaws!

Outlaws! Adventures of Pirates, Scoundrels, and Other Rebels
By Laurent Maréchaux

Flammarion, 2009, ISBN 978-2-0803-0107-9, US $45 / Can $54 / UK £27.50 / 40

No one is born an outlaw. They are made. These are the individuals whom the author showcases in this coffee table book. No matter what classification they fall into, each lived outside the law. Each suffered an untimely death of a mother or father at a young age or experienced a tragic event that altered forever his or her outlook on life and the world around them. Although we know these men and women broke the law, they fascinate us. According to the author, “We should not…rush to judge the errant ways of these idealistic vagabonds. They deserve our recognition. Without them, the maps of this world would be less colorful, our taxes and rights would be less human, democracy…would be lacking in imagination, and our eternal quest for a better world would be nothing but an outmoded fancy.” (page 10)
 
Divided into six groupings, the book introduces readers to the familiar and the stranger, the distant and the near past, the western and the eastern. Each section begins with a short introduction that makes the reader ponder the rightness or wrongness of these individuals’ actions and those of society. Either a color or black-and-white, full-page portrait of the individual outlaw introduces us to him or her. Other illustrations accompany the text, which talks about this person’s life and death over four to six pages.
 
Of particular interest to readers of Pirates and Privateers is the section titled “The Black Sail and the Call of the High Seas.” The author begins with a quote from Alexandre Exquemelin, the buccaneer surgeon who wrote The Buccaneers of America:
 
Alive today, dead tomorrow, what does it matter whether we hoard or save. We live for the day and not for the day we may never live.
 
This perfect quote neatly sums up the pirates’ philosophy. Few readers may be familiar with the first outlaw showcased, Jehan Ango, but one of the corsairs who sailed for this shipowner and privateer was Jean Fleury, the first to capture a Spanish treasure galleon. The other pirates profiled are: the Barbarossas; Sir Francis Drake; François l’Olonnais; Bartholomew Roberts; Edward Teach; Anne Bonny, Calico Jack Rackham, and Mary Read; Olivier Mission, the Monk Caraccioli, and Thomas Tew; and Ching Shih. A page from Drake’s 1598 log is reproduced, as are several period maps. While an earlier profile discusses Robin Hood as both fictional and real, the same does not occur in the summary about Olivier Mission, whom many historians believe to be fictitious.
 
Another person of interest to pirate enthusiasts appears in the section “Desert Devils,” for one of Renaud de Châtillon’s occupations was that of pirate. His name, like others, may not be familiar to readers, but others will be: Henry David Thoreau, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Calamity Jane, Richard Francis Burton, Lawrence of Arabia, Bobby Sands, and Bonnie and Clyde. The book concludes with notes and a bibliography.
 
Outlaws! is an intriguing book and even the cover art taunts the reader to look inside. This is a well-rounded, international collection of those who lived on the fringes of society. Each account is compelling and fascinating. The quotes that begin each chapter are well chosen and thought provoking. The author himself is something of a rebel so he knows whereof he writes.
 
Perhaps the quote that begins the “City Hoodlums and Urban Gangs” section best clarifies the outlaw and sums up this book:
 
Some will turn me into a hero, but there are no heroes in crime. There are just men who…are marginal, and who don’t respect laws because laws are made for the rich and powerful. recorded testament of Jacque Mesrine

Read an interview with the author

Review Copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Under the Bloody Flag
Cover Art: Under the Bloody Flag
Under the Bloody Flag: Pirates of the Tudor Age
By John C. Appleby

History Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7524-4851-0, US $34.95, CAN $38.95, £20.00

In theory, pirates were criminals, the enemies of all mankind who faced execution if caught; in practice, they were often maintained by seafaring communities and protected by local officials or rulers. This sentence from the introduction of Under the Bloody Flag encapsulates what this book is about. While the House of Tudor ruled England, theory became muddied by the issuance of letters of reprisal and letters of marque and the fine line the bearers sometimes walked between that which was legal piracy and that which was not. Professional navies as we think of them hadn’t yet formed, so to gain the power and prestige desired, monarchs walked an equally wavy line between theory and reality.

Accompanied by illustrations, maps, and an index, this book’s time period – 1480s to 1603 – is divided into six chapters:

1.     War and Maritime Plunder from the 1480s to the 1540s

2.     Pirates and Rebellious Rovers during the 1540s and 1550s

3.     Pirates, Privateers and Slave Traders from the later 1550s to the later 1560s

4.     Piracy, Plunder and Undeclared War during the 1570s

5.     The Profession of Piracy from the mid-1570s to 1585

6.     War, Reprisals and Piracy from 1585 to 1603

Among the many resources the author consulted in compiling this account of maritime piracy and privateering are archival records of the High Court of Admiralty, State Papers, and a variety of primary and secondary works.

Appleby’s objective is to “provide a narrative of English piracy and sea roving from c. 1485 to 1603”, which he admirably achieves and, in the process, skillfully shows the complexity of the period and both its effect on the pirates and their effect on nations, particularly England. Within these pages readers will encounter well-known pirates/privateers (Martin Frobisher and Francis Drake) and those not so famous (Henry Strangeways and John Callice). The final chapter also touches upon Grace O’Malley and John Ward, whose piracies were directed against England.

Although the narrative of this scholarly work sometimes plods along, Under the Black Flag examines a period of English piracy rarely touched upon in any detail. For those fascinated with the Tudor period, this is a worthy tome to add to one’s collection.

Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Maritime Taiwan
Cover Art: Maritime Taiwan
Maritime Taiwan: Historical Encounters with the East and the West
By Shih-Shan Henry Tsai
M. E. Sharpe, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7656-2329-4, $27.95


At different times in history the Dutch, Chinese, English, French, and Japanese have all interacted with Taiwan because its strategic location and rich resources make it an important part of maritime trade in Asia. These contacts have been both to the benefit and detriment of those who call this island home. Through the incorporation of primary and secondary resources encompassing all these peoples, the author recounts the history of Taiwan and how the interactions with these interlopers affected those who lived here.

Condensed into nine chapters, the book discusses the rulers of Taiwan during the seventeenth century – Dutch, Spaniards, and Koxinga; trading networks with Southeast Asia and China; the consulates, trading firms, and Presbyterian churches the British introduced; the arrivals of the French, Americans, and Japanese on Taiwan’s shores; and the effects of World War II and postwar incursions on the island. Of particular interest to fans of the Age of Sail are the interactions between the Taiwanese and the East India companies of Europe, and to pirate aficionados, Koxinga and others.

The author’s intent is to convey “the island’s deep and far-reaching relationships with such historically seaborne nations as Holland, Britain, France, Japan, and the United States.” (page 17) He admirably achieves that goal. The addition of maps, tables, and illustrations enhance this journey into Taiwan’s maritime history, while a detailed index allows readers to easily locate needed information. A wealth of additional resources is also included in the bibliography and chapter notes. For anyone interested in maritime history in Asian waters or the establishment of East India companies’ trading posts, Maritime Taiwan is an excellent starting place.

Review copyrighted ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Code

Cover Art: The Pirate Code
The Pirate Code: From Honorable Thieves to Modern-Day Villains
By Brenda Ralph Lewis
Lyons Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59921-455-9, US $19.95 / CAN $21.95


This book presents the history of piracy from ancient times through today. In between those two periods, the author examines Vikings, Barbary Corsairs, and Caribbean pirates. Black-and-white illustrations accompany much of the text, and quotations from primary source materials are interspersed throughout the narrative. Boxes highlight particular items tied to subjects presented in the text.

Source information for quotations is provided, but isn’t always complete. There are no footnotes and the bibliography lists only ten resources. While the book contains many facts not included in other piracy books, there are also a few questionable facts. For example, the author writes, “They were Ishaq, Aruj, Ilyas, and the most famous of them and apparently the youngest, Khair ad Din (c. 1480-1546), who was known to Europeans as Barbarossa or Red Beard.” Aruj was known by this moniker long before Khair ad Din, who dyed his beard red to honor his dead brother and thus acquired the name Barbarossa, just as his brother had. Lewis also claims young boys on pirate ships were given the task of setting “fire to their own ship” once pirates acquired another vessel. Although there were a few boys amongst pirate crews, they were a rarity, and she fails to provide documentation to support this claim of them firing a ship – a fact I’ve never come across in a decade of researching pirates.

Another questionable aspect of the book is the misplacement of the chapter on pirate democracy. It precedes the chapters on the Buccaneers of the 17th century and the Golden Age of Piracy, yet it discusses Bartholomew Roberts, John Phillips, George Lowther, and a few others from the 18th century.

Readers also need to be aware that there are a few gaps in what is incorporated into this book. When discussing Asian piracy, Lewis makes no mention of the pirate confederation under Cheng and Cheng I Sao’s leadership in the early 19th century – a force so powerful it nearly destroyed the Chinese imperial navy. Yet the chapter on ancient piracy is one of the most readable and well presented overviews readers will encounter.

If you’re looking for a useful starting point to learn about piratical history, The Pirate Code is worth reading.

 

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate’s Pocket-Book

Cover Art: Pirates Pocket-Book
The Pirate’s Pocket-Book
Edited by Stuart Robertson
Conway, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84486-077-70, £9.99

Divided into five chapters, each explores some aspect of Caribbean piracy from the mid-seventeenth through the early eighteenth century. The first concentrates on the buccaneers, from their origins through William Dampier. Among the particular rogues featured are François L’Ollonais, Bartolomeo el Portugue, Rock the Brazilian, and Henry Morgan. Chapter two explores the golden age, introducing readers to the likes of Henry Avery, William Kidd, Alexander Dolzell, Samuel Bellamy, Woodes Rogers, Alexander Selkirk, and Charles Vane. Edward Teach, Stede Bonnet, Richard Worley, Calico Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read appear in the third chapter, “Heroes and Heroines: The Heyday of Piracy in American Waters.” Chapter four is devoted to Bartholomew Roberts, while the fifth chapter focuses on George Lowther, Ned Low, and the suppression of piracy. It ends with a look at Jean Laffite and pirate victims. A bibliography, glossary, and index round out the tome.

This book isn’t your typical history book. It is primarily contemporary accounts – some written by these sea raiders, others from newspapers and broadsides – combined with a narrative that sets up each passage and provides continuity from start to finish. Illustrations, both color and black-and-white, complement the book. Some excerpts, though, come from secondary sources written by Captain Johnson and Charles Ellms. The problem with including the latter is Ellms’ book, The Pirates’ Own Book, is primarily a work of fiction, so some information provided on Jean Laffite is inaccurate. The typeface is small, which makes it difficult to read.

The first sentence of the introduction – “Where the majority of men will go about their business lawfully, there will always be members of society who take a different path” – encapsulates the history of maritime piracy yet succinctly defines a pirate in terms that equally define any person who breaks the law. Although the romantic imagery of pirates is mentioned, this book adheres more to examining pirates without rose-colored glasses.

Alluring as the pirate’s profession is, we must not forget that it had a seamy side, and was by no means all rum and pieces-of-eight. And there is something repulsive to a generous nature in roasting men because they will not show you where to steal hogs. (page 9)
For those whose budgets don’t permit them to purchase British Piracy in the Golden Age: History and Interpretation, 1660-1730 edited by Joel H. Baer, this is a wonderful addition to any pirate library.

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate Arrrt!

Cover Art: Pirate Arrrt!
Pirate Arrrt!
By Rob Mcleay
Ulysses Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-56975-663-8, US $14.95

Subtitled “Learn to Draw Fantastic Pirates, Treasure Chests, Ships, Sea Monsters and More,” this book provides insight into drawing pirates, their enemies, extras, and the pirate world. Mcleay opens with directions on perspective, generating ideas, and basics a potential artist needs in order to follow Pirate Arrrt! instructions. In chapter two he covers facial expressions, heads, and character angles, while the next chapter focuses on the various crewmembers that populate a pirate ship. Among the enemies you’ll find cannibals, members of the royal navy, magpies, sea monsters, zombie monkeys, and skeletons. The chapter on extras includes treasure chests, jewelry, weapons, faces and hair, hooks, eye patches, peg legs, and tattoos. The final chapter explores features of pirate havens, such as forts, dungeons, islands, and ports. While many drawings appear in black and white, two spreads of color depict finished pirate artwork.

This book is geared toward people with a serious interest in an art career, rather than children or doodlers. It’s advertised as being for children, but the audience is more for young adult or adult because of the language and complexity of the designs. The reader needs to have some familiarity with drawing before opening this book, but those artists who do will find a chest full of treasure that will help them draw delightful rogues and their world.

Visit the artist

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys & Miami 1513-1765

Cover Art: Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys and Miami
Documentation of the Indians of the Florida Keys & Miami 1513-1765
By Gail Swanson
Infinity Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0-7414-1638-7, US $12.95

This book combines a chronology with historical articles on the early history of the Florida Keys and Miami over a period of 252 years. Part one summarizes historical documents, which are divided according to whether they were written in the sixteenth, seventeenth, or eighteenth century. Eleven of these summaries concern pirates, and the entries vary from a single sentence to more than a page in length. The first one appears in 1565 and concerns John Hawkins when four of his ships anchored at the Dry Tortugas. At the end of part one are maps, illustrations, photographs, and facsimiles of original documents pertaining to the information in the entries. Included in this collection is documentary evidence of a large gathering of pirates at Key West in 1681.

The second half of the book is devoted to miscellaneous articles. Each begins with a short introduction that identifies the translator and/or explains sources for the information contained in the article. Of particular interest to pirate readers are “Looking for Sir Francis Drake” and “The Maravillas: Sunken Treasure, Salvors, Pirates and the Florida Keys Indians.” There is also an extensive section of endnotes after the articles.

Many documents pertaining to the early history of Florida are written in Spanish, some of which are located in foreign archives not readily available to most readers. This compilation and explanation provides people interested in Floridian, Native American, or piratical history with a single source that is easily read and accessible.

Read an excerpt and view documentation

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake

Cover Art: Enduring Juourney of the USS Chesapeake
The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake
Navigating the Common History of Three Nations
By Chris Dickon
History Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59629-298-7, US $21.99

The USS Chesapeake was one of the six original frigates built for the United States Navy. Launched on 1 December 1799, she set sail on 22 May 1800. She patrolled the Caribbean during the Quasi-War with France and participated in the blockade on Tripoli. Neither of these postings were remarkable, but in June 1807, the frigate made her first mark on history.

When Britain was at war, she needed men to man her naval vessels. Unable to entice men to willingly join, the navy used press gangs to force men to serve aboard the ships. Once the United States gained its independence from Britain, it wasn’t easy to tell who was an English sailor and who was American. Sometimes British seamen jumped ship and signed aboard American vessels where the pay and conditions were better. Documents to prove American citizenship were easily faked, so the British began stopping American ships and checking for British sailors. This was what happened in June 1807 soon after the Chesapeake put to sea. HMS Leopard fired on her, then sent an officer and men to board the Chesapeake and seize four men they claimed were British seamen.

Commodore James Barron, captain of the Chesapeake, faced a court martial. He was cleared of all charges except that of “neglecting on the probability of an engagement, to clear the ship for action.” He was suspended without pay for five years. One of those who sat in judgment of him was Stephen Decatur. The animosity between these two men would eventually result in a duel.

Relationships between America and Britain continued to simmer until war broke out in 1812. The following year, the Chesapeake encountered HMS Shannon. In the ensuing brief but bloody battle, 252 men were killed or wounded and the American frigate was captured.

But what happened to the USS Chesapeake? This is the astounding journey that Dickon reveals in a readable format accompanied by an abundance of photographs and illustrations. Firsthand accounts are interspersed with the narrative to form a more complete story of this frigate from her birth to her demise. A fascinating examination of what became of this early American naval vessel and some of the men who fought on her decks to protect our independence.

Visit the Enduring Journey
Visit the USS Chesapeake

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Patriot Pirates

Cover Art: Patriot Pirates
Patriot Pirates
The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution
By Robert H. Patton
Pantheon Books, 2008, 978-0-375-42284-3, US $26.00, CAN $30.00

Every school child in America studies the Revolution, but Patriot Pirates reveals a side that is often overlooked or omitted from that instruction. Patton admits from the start he was never impressed with this particular conflict until he began delving into privateering. The thirteen colonies didn’t really have a navy and George Washington was thwarted time and time again.

The emergence from that hodgepodge of some of the most intrepid mariners in American history highlights the strategic element of Revolutionary privateering, for they would spearhead what became a massive seaborne insurgency involving thousands of privately owned warships whose ravages on the enemy dwarfed those of the fledgling United States Navy.
Within the pages of this book, Patton explores the War of Independence from this perspective. He doesn’t concentrate on a particular port city, but presents the events in chronological sequence from various places of import at different times. The story unfolds in Machias, Maine in 1775 with the incident involving the Gaspee. From there readers visit Boston, Providence (Rhode Island), Brooklyn, Barbados, Penobscot, New London, Newfoundland, Portsmouth (England), and Guadeloupe. Not only does he show how these daring privateers helped win the war, he also examines the economics and how what these patriot pirates did impacted society and the conflict at large.

Patriot Pirates is a fascinating assessment of the role privateers played in the American Revolution. Readers meet the mariners, statesmen, and merchants whose daring, ingenuity, and patience were invaluable to gaining independence. A few of are well-known men like Benjamin Franklin and John Paul Jones, but the majority are people rarely mentioned in history books. Once you read this book, you’ll never think of our forefathers’ struggle against tyranny in quite the same light.
 
 

Book review Copyright ©2009 Cindy Vallar

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Treasure Wreck

Cover Art: Treasure Wreck
Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah
By Arthur T. Vanderbilt II
Schiffer, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7643-2739-1, US $19.95

Told tales of the pirate ship Whydah and her captain, Samuel Bellamy, as a child, Vanderbilt decided to explore the primary documents of the 1700s and discover the truth behind the legend of this pirate and the wreck of his ship off the coast of Cape Cod. The book opens with the tale of the 1643 Spanish fleet that encountered a hurricane and William Phips’ determination to locate the missing treasure that disappeared beneath the waves. Stories of his successful find spurred many, perhaps including Bellamy, to follow in Phips’ footsteps.

As is true with many pirates, Bellamy’s origins remain elusive until he steps onto the historical stage in 1716. Just the year before another treasure fleet had sunk off the coast of Florida, and Bellamy decided to attempt to reclaim some of the silver that was lost. Legend says he left to gain his fortune before he returned to reunite with the love of his life, Maria Hallett, but she has remained as mysterious as Bellamy’s life prior to his sailing. (That Halletts lived on Cape Cod is documented, but no record of Maria has yet come to light.)

Bellamy hooked up with Paulsgrave Williams of Newport, Rhode Island, and while they initially searched for the sunken bounty, the sea was reticent to divulge her secrets. They eventually teamed up with Benjamin Hornigold and began plundering ships. One of these was the Whydah, and once their fortunes were made, they sailed north for home. But a fierce storm blew up off Cape Cod, and the ship sank, taking all but a handful of men with her to their graves. Although many contemporaries attempted to recover the sunken treasure, little was found.

No book on Bellamy and the Whydah would be complete without the story of Barry Clifford and his crew discovering the shipwreck. The original edition of this book ended with proof positive that they had found her – the ship’s bell with the inscription “The Whydah Gally 1716.” This revision includes a tenth chapter that discusses what other “treasures” Clifford has uncovered, the court cases he fought, the conflicts between archaeologists and treasure hunters, and the establishment of a museum in Provincetown on Cape Cod to display the finds. My only complaint about the book is that this chapter’s different and noticeable format changes appear smaller in font size and lighter in print, which makes it more difficult to read and is jarring to the eye. While there are no footnotes, a section at the end of the book provides information on the author’s sources. A nice addition to this edition is an index, which makes it easier to locate information within the book.

Vanderbilt also incorporates a lot of pirate history unrelated to Bellamy into his tale, which provides the reader with a better understanding of both the time period and what it was like to be a sea rover. Treasure Wreck is a rousing adventure of pirate success and demise, and the wonder of locating treasure long after the Whydah took the lives of many men so long ago.

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Treasure Hunt

Cover Art: Treasure Hunt
Treasure Hunt
Shipwreck, Diving, and the Quest for Treasure in the Age of Heroes
By Peter Earle
Thomas Dunne, 2007, ISBN 978-0-312-38039-7
US $26.95 / CAN $31.25

The treasure galleons of Spain enticed pirates and adventurers who sought easy riches, but far more of these ships sank during storms than were successfully seized by scoundrels of the sea. Others, too, sought the lost cargoes of gold, silver, and jewels, but their searches and finds required the skills of divers, who oftentimes dove without any equipment. This book explores the shipwrecks, the divers, and the history of diving from the sixteenth into the early nineteenth centuries. Through the use of primary documents, readers meet the people who financed diving operations and risked their lives to salvage the lost treasures. The primary focus concerns England and her colonies. There are extensive footnotes and bibliography, and the book has a comprehensive index.

It is known that your islands are peopled by men who are intent rather on pillaging Spanish wrecks than planting, that they carry on their work by Indians kidnapped or entrapped on the coast of Florida . . . The sea ought to be free and the wrecks [belong to] the Spaniards. This quote is from Sir Thomas Lynch, Governor of Jamaica, who students of piracy will readily recognize, but pirates play only a peripheral role in history within Treasure Hunt and are often referred to in a general manner, rather than by specific name. (One exception to this is Laurens de Graff.) Nevertheless, this account of maritime history provides a unique perspective from early divers, who clutched stones and dove beneath the waves, to the men who devised diving bells and other equipment to allow divers to remain under water longer.

Read an excerpt

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Flying the Black Flag


Flying the Black Flag: A Brief History of Piracy
By Alfred S. Bradford
Praeger, 2007, ISBN 978-0-275-97781-8, US $49.95 / UK £27.95

Bradford, a specialist in ancient history, introduces readers to the history of maritime piracy. The book is divided into eight sections. Greek piracy explores the difference between Odysseus the hero and Odysseus the pirate, before examining the Greeks’ interaction with their countrymen, Barbarians, and Macedonians. Under the Romans, he looks at the actions they took against pirates, including the Cilicians, and how this scourge was effectively dealt with for a time. Part three, which covers the Viking period, discusses the first invaders, the Rus, and how converting to Christianity brought about the end of Norse piracy. The next era covered in this book is that of the Buccaneers, from their origins to Sir Henry Morgan to Captain William Kidd. Rather than cover the Golden Age pirates of the early 18th century, Bradford concentrates on first the Barbary pirates then the marauders of the south coast of China. Part seven investigates Algerian piracy and the Americans. Finally, he focuses on how people come to be pirates and piracy and terrorism.

Maps and illustrations are included. While passages aren’t cited with footnotes, a section at the back of the book identifies where quotations can be found. The bibliography includes both primary and secondary sources, and there is an index.

The idea for this book stems from the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. In the preface, Bradford writes:

Terrorists have operated throughout history, but their ability to attack across large distances with devastating effect and to take thousands of lives is a phenomenon of modern technology, and so an historical study of terrorism would not be particularly relevant to our present situation, but when I amended the question and asked, how should we respond to an attack by a group that is neither organized as a regular military force nor openly acknowledged by any formal government, I thought of pirates and the world’s response to pirates. Who became pirates? Why? And how did nations respond to attacks upon their citizens by pirates?
Answers to these questions are what Bradford provides as he scrutinizes the history of maritime piracy. And he does so in an easy-to-understand way that is informative and entertaining. Three aspects of this book set it apart from others: 1) ancient piracy, 2) Asian piracy, and 3) why people turn to piracy. Few volumes explore early Mediterranean piracy in much detail, and to have an expert in this period of time makes ancient piracy interesting and enlightening. Asian piracy differs from Western piracy, and the author provides an intriguing look into how China dealt with the problem. His chapter on what makes a pirate is a unique and solid examination of what makes the man or woman forsake society and its rules for a life a crime. My only question in reading the book was why Bradford chooses to refer to Cheng I Sao as “dragon lady.”

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Box Office Archaeology

Cover Art: Box Office Archaeology
Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past
Edited by Julie M. Schablitsky
Left Coast Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-59874-056-1, US $24.95

Who hasn’t watched at least a few of these films: The Mummy, The 13th Warrior, Captain Blood, Titanic, Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Glory, Gangs of New York, or Tombstone? Ever wonder how much is based on reality? For thirty-five years, historians have challenged Hollywood’s depiction of historical events and times, but history tells only a portion of the past. Archaeology shows us what life was like, and sometimes, much of what we know about a particular period comes almost totally from such exploration, rather than the historical record. In Box Office Archaeology, practicing archaeologists, professors of archaeology, and doctoral candidates in this field of study compare films and other media to their factual research.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters:

1. The Way of the Archaeologist
2. Unwrapping the Mummy: Hollywood Fantasies, Egyptian Realities
3. Vikings, Vixens, and Valhalla: Hollywood Depictions of the Norse
4. A Pirate’s Life for Me! But What Did That Really Mean?
5. Titanic
6. Voyage from Myth: Return of the Confederate Submarine H. L. Hunley
7. Pocahontas Unanimated: The Life of a Powhatan Princess
8. The Life and Times of the Ever-changing Hollywood Indian
9. Imagining Blackness: Archaeological and Cinematic Visions of African American Life
10. Five Points on Film: Myth, Urban Archaeology, and Gangs of New York
11. Western Boomtowns: The Lost Episodes
12. Contesting Hollywood’s Chinatowns
13. When the Legend Becomes Fact: Reconciling Hollywood Realism and Archaeological Realities
The first serves as an introduction to what archaeologists do, and those involved in the writing “hope that this book inspires the public, students, and scholars to recognize the differences between the mission of the archaeologist and the movie director, yet appreciate the way we learn more about our past from the study of crumbling ruins, dusty archives, and yesterday’s garbage.” The last is a summary of what the eleven chapters reveal and the need for archaeologists to find new ways to interest people in learning about the past and to make the information they uncover more accessible. Each chapter includes a list of resources the authors consulted. The book also includes an index and a section that explains why each author is qualified to write on his/her chosen subject.

Why did I select this book to review? I admit to being surprised when it came up in a search for pirate books, and its inclusion intrigued me enough to visit the publisher’s website to learn more. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Box Office Archaeology and I learned a lot I didn’t know. I’m not a stranger to the authors on the chapter about pirates, Charles R. Ewen and Russell K. Skowronek, for they edited X Marks the Spot. “A Pirate’s Life for Me!” looks at the stereotypes that pop culture has instilled in us, defines what a pirate is, introduces the Golden Age of Piracy, then examines the archaeological investigations into the shipwrecks of the Whydah and Queen Anne’s Revenge, as well as the exploration of Port Royal.

This book is one of those rare examples where archaeologists present their findings on a level that most people can readily understand, and in a way that makes the subject interesting. Anyone who wants to know more about reality versus Hollywood’s interpretation of our cultural past will find this book a compelling, eye-opening revelation.

Read an Excerpt

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Shipwrecks, Sea Raiders, and Maritime Disasters along the Delmarva Coast 1632-2004

Cover Art: Shipwrecks, Sea Raiders, and Maritime Disasters along the Delmarva Coast 1632-2004
Shipwrecks, Sea Raiders, and Maritime Disasters along the
Delmarva Coast 1632-2004
By Donald G. Shomette
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007
ISBN 978-0-8018-8670-6, US $60.00

The Delmarva Coast comprises the shoreline of three states: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Since 1632 many ships have been lost, and this book examines the stories behind these losses. Shomette has scoured historical records to piece together each vessel’s tale, and presents the information, where possible, from the perspective of those who played a part in the events. The chapters abound with stories about shipwrecks, pirates, wreckers, blockaders, and privateers, as well as the heroic efforts of the U.S. Life Saving Service, men who risked their lives to save others. There are also several chapters on the U-boats that patrolled off this coastal region during World War II. The final chapters examine “some of the legal, ethical, and cultural problems resulting from the enormous extant shipwreck population….”

Interspersed throughout these accounts are first-person excerpts of what happened. For example, in January 1650, the master of the Virginia Merchant marooned his passengers. Henry Norwood, a barrister, wrote:

In this amazement and confusion of mind no words can express did our miserable distress’d party condole with each other our being so cruelly abandon’d and left to the despairs of human help, or indeed seeing more the face of man. We entered into a sad consultation what course to take; and having, in the first place, by united prayers, implored the protection of Almighty God, and recommended our miserable state to the same providence which, in so many instances of mercy, had been propitious to us at sea… We beheld each other as miserable wretches sentenc’d to a lingering death, no man knowing what to propose for prolonging life any longer than he was able to fast. (page 12)
These types of quotes are treasures within this detailed account of shipwrecks and maritime disasters. One of the most poignant stories is that of the Faithful Steward, a vessel carrying emigrants from Ireland.

An appendix provides a chronological listing of ships lost on this stretch of coast. Even in a small print size, this index covers nearly twenty-two pages. Extensive chapter notes follow, as does a selected resource list, where readers may find additional information, and a detailed index.

Shipwrecks, Sea Raiders, and Maritime Disasters is well written and interesting. With the steep price, this remains more a scholarly work that provides invaluable research information in one volume, rather than a book for bedtime reading.

See Inside the Book

Review copyrighted © 2009 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate of the Far East 811-1639

Cover Art: Pirate of the Far East
Pirate of the Far East 811-1639
By Stephen Turnbull
Illustrated by Richard Hook
Osprey, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84603-174-8, US $17.95 / CAN $23.00 / £8.39

Part of Osprey’s “Warrior” series, Pirate of the Far East introduces readers to Asian pirates, with particular emphasis on the wokou or wako. This volume describes these sea raiders, their daily life, the elements of their raids, and how their victims attempted to defend themselves. Three specific examples of the wako in battle are also presented. Information about museum exhibits featuring piracy, other resources to consult, and an index round out this book. A significant number of maps, paintings, photographs, and scrolls illustrate Pirate of the Far East.

This is a concise, easy-to-read introduction to a subject often ignored in pirate history, even though Asian pirates predate the more infamous Caribbean rogues by centuries. Both the author and illustrator show how those of the Far East differed from later western pirates through example and description. For those interested in a region where piracy still intrudes into the safe navigation of the world’s waterways or those who wish to broaden their knowledge of history, I heartily recommend this book.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships

Cover Art: Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
By Thomas D’Agostino
Schiffer Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7643-2744-5, US $14.95

It’s said that pirates laughed in the face of death. They understood their lives tended to be short and merry. But what about after they died? Some, apparently, didn’t find restful repose. They continue to haunt the places where they perpetrated their crimes, and the islands and coast of New England seem to be particular favorites for these eerie specters. Sometimes, though, it’s not the ghosts that appear, but rather apparitions of sailing ships lost at sea. This collection of stories introduces readers to legendary hauntings, such as the Screeching Lady of Marblehead, Don Pedro and Ocean Born Mary, the ghostly crew of the Charles Haskell, and Samuel Bellamy and Maria Hallett.

Only a few of these tales will be known to most readers, which make them fresh and all the more eerie. Black-and-white photographs show where the sightings take place, and the fact that the author visited each one adds a touch of realism that makes you think twice about going yourself. Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships is a perfect book for reading and sharing on a dark and stormy night where a flash of light sends shivers up your spine or a loud clap makes you jump. Do you dare?

View Sample Pages

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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A New Voyage Round the World

Cover Art: A New Voyage round the World
A New Voyage Round the World
By William Dampier
1500 Books, 2007, ISBN 978-1933698-04-5, $19.95

Three times William Dampier sailed around the world, quite an accomplishment in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. On his first voyage (1679), he did so as a buccaneer and privateer, but it was the journal he kept that earned him his fame. Within its pages he recorded fascinating details about the flora, fauna, lands, and peoples he encountered, as well as his nautical and pirating adventures. He downplays the latter, for he admits to not taking “any pleasure in relating them,” doing so only to acquaint the reader with how he came to have the opportunities to acquaint himself with the former. He eventually returned to England and turned his journal into a book that was published in 1697.

This edition of Dampier’s work includes an introduction by Kris Lane and a list of books for those who wish to read more about Dampier, his times, the writings of fellow buccaneers, and the writings of other authors whom he influenced. Since his initial audience was English, he “used such names as are familiar to our English seamen, and those of our colonies abroad….” 1500 Books retains the original punctuation, abbreviations, and language Dampier used, but used modern spellings and capitalization, as well as large print, to make the book far more readable than Dover Publication’s 1968 reprint entitled Memoirs of a Buccaneer. It, however, lacks the chapter summaries, maps, charts, and index. Another plus for the 1500 Books’ edition is that this publisher used the sixth edition of Dampier’s original work, first published in 1717, whereas Dover’s comes from a 1927 reprint.

In spite of having appeared in print more than three centuries ago, A New Voyage Round the World remains as captivating and compelling a travelogue as it did when it first appeared in print. Opening the pages takes the reader back in time to an exotic world few people of Dampier’s time knew of, providing us with a fresh look at has become commonplace.

A Buccaneer More Interested in Nature than Gold
William Dampier: The Weather Pirate

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Eight Thousand Years of Maltese Maritime History

Cover Art: Eight Thousand Years of Maltese Maritime History
Eight Thousand Years of Maltese Maritime History
Trade, Piracy, and Naval Warfare in the Central Mediterranean
By Ayse Devrim Atauz
University Press of Florida, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8130-3179-8, $69.95

In recounting the maritime history of Malta, this book examines economic, military, political, and social facets to provide a comprehensive understanding for the reader. The islands’ strategic location means the country is often beset by invaders, be they pirates or soldiers. The 8,000 years begin with the Phoenicians who settled there through the 250 years that the Order of Saint John (commonly referred to as the Knights of Malta), who were headquartered on Malta, and beyond. The intended audience comprises anyone interested in Malta’s history from the general reader to scholars and historians. This volume’s primary focus is the people and islands, rather than the invaders, and the author examines archaeological and primary documents, as well as secondary and archival materials, to piece together this nation’s maritime history and whether it was as strategically important as history has lead us to believe.

The book is divided into seven chronological chapters, with particular emphasis on the period involving the Order of Saint John. The sixth chapter focuses on the islands’ population from 1530 through 1798 and the last chapter concerns the author’s conclusions based on her research. Interspersed throughout are tables, maps, and charts. An afterword discusses Malta’s history since the turn of the 19th century. This is followed by four appendices that look at an underwater survey in which Atauz participated, the ships of the Order, and its major naval activities and forces. The book concludes with extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index.

While there isn’t a particular chapter devoted to pirates, they are discussed throughout, and the reader should remember that at times members of the Order of Saint John can be so classified. The Maltese islands’ distance from major Mediterranean trade routes made it an ideal location for a pirate haven. Among the rogues discussed are Margarito of Brindisi, Giacomo de Pellegrino of Messina, and Ingarao and Antoni Desguanesch. Another fascinating aspect to the maritime history is the spread of bubonic plague during the 14th century and how Malta dealt with this crisis. This is an enlightening and interesting book to read and, when done, the reader has a far better understanding of the Maltese islands and their maritime history.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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The View from the Masthead

Cover Art: The View from the Masthead
The View from the Masthead
Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives
By Hester Blum
University of North Carolina Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8078-5855-4, $22.95

Remember back in high school when you had to read excerpts of American literature? They ranged from colonial offerings to those of the 19th or early 20th centuries. Most likely the only sea story in this collection was Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, yet many other maritime accounts exist. Hester Blum examines sailors’ accounts of their voyages and experiences, particularly during the first half of the 19th century. Divided into two parts, the book explores “The Sea Narrative and Sailors’ Literary Culture” and “Maritime Epistemology and Crisis.” Part one, which concentrates on history, contrasts early narratives of Barbary captives with those of later seamen, and discusses naval memoirs and the literary marketplace of the period. The second half of the book, which concentrates on the theoretical, explains the “Sea Eye,” writings on the Galapagos Islands and how maritime fiction evolved, and “Death and Burial at Sea.” She intersperses samplings from first-person narratives. The authors discussed are both well known and unknown: James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, William Dampier, Richard Henry Dana, Charles Barnard, Ned Buntline, Owen Chase, and John R. Jewitt.

This book gives voice to a body of works often forgotten or unknown, and in so doing, Blum introduces us to what it was like to have been a sailor from his perspective. She also explores his philosophical side, for being at sea provided him with periods of inner reflection. One particular discussion that interested me involved the “to use or not use nautical language” argument – a consideration maritime writers continue to face today. Also important in this study is that Blum concentrates on the narratives of working sailors (the common man), rather than ships’ officers. The inclusion of passages from this body of works enriches the reader’s experience. As she traces the evolution of sea narratives, Blum also introduces the reader to such changes in sailors’ lives as literacy and welfare. The View from the Masthead is a fascinating examination of a body of literature too long ignored. Who knows, maybe more of those students in American Lit classes would be captivated by the early literature if teachers incorporated tales of the sea into their studies.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Violence at Sea

Cover Art: Violence at Sea
Violence at Sea: Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism
edited by Peter Lehr
Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0-415-95320-0, US $125.00

Although some history books lead readers to assume that piracy ended by the twentieth century, it never really disappeared. Other topics merely took precedence because it wasn’t as major a problem as it had been in the past. In the last several decades, however, there has been an increase in pirate attacks. After September eleventh, fears that pirates and terrorists might combine forces have brought maritime piracy to a higher level of focus. This collection of eleven essays explores these topics from a variety of perspectives.

The first three essays discuss where the piratical threat is high and why. While political unrest is key, it remains only one factor that has led to the upsurge in attacks.

The next series expounds on how pirates take advantage of the opportunities that permit them to successfully – for the most part – conduct their raids. Several authors also compare and contrast those groups that feature aspects of both piracy and terrorism. The final four essays examine how governments and people have reacted to the increased attacks, and what the near future holds as it relates to piracy and terrorism. An essential component of this examination is whether or not the antipiracy measures that have been adopted have helped or hindered the worldwide efforts to suppress this maritime threat.
  All the essays are informative and cause the reader think about the problems facing mariners and nations. A few are pedantic, making it difficult for the reader to follow the discussion, but most are easy to understand. The question as to whether terrorism and piracy are the same or different is covered from both perspectives, allowing readers to formulate their own conclusions. Charts, graphs, resources, and an index are included, as are the contributors’ qualifications for their writing on these particular subjects. One caveat that readers should keep in mind is that some of statistics and facts aren’t up-to-date. This in no way detracts from the value of the book, especially for those who don’t keep abreast of modern-day piracy.

For me, one of the most thought-provoking statements in all the essays appears in Robert Snoddon’s “Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: Naval Responses to Existing and Emerging Threats to the Global Seaborne Economy.” It epitomizes how many people view piracy and explains why this threat remains a danger to anyone who sails the waters of our world. “[Maritime terrorism events] that have occurred have been particularly lethal, and the incidents have spurred governments into taking direct action, whereas reported acts of piracy appear to spur governments only to pontificate about who the perpetrators are. In some areas piracy is considered an annoying activity that is ignored in the hope that, sooner or later, it will go away.”

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures Outer Banks

Cover Art: Shipwrecks and Lost Treasure Outer Banks
Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures Outer Banks: Legends and Lore, Pirates and More!
By Bob Brooke
Globe Pequot Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7627-4507-4, US $14.95, CAN $18.95

Barrier islands stretching from Virginia to Cape Lookout, the Outer Banks have witnessed more than one hundred shipwrecks and is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” This collection of stories recounts twenty-four of those disasters between 1822 and 1912. It also provides a glimpse at the heroic deeds of those who helped rescue the victims. The final chapter discusses the wrecking of and search for the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s flag ship. Also included are a map depicting the locations of the shipwrecks, a glossary of nautical terms, and a list of additional resources. Paul G. Hoffman did the black-and-white illustrations that accompany the tales.

Rather than just a recitation of facts, these narratives unfold like short stories and mix dialogue with description. This makes the events more vivid and harrowing, and, for the most part, the author achieves his goal. A few stories, though, seem unfinished or lacking in suspense. They are presented in chronological order, which means the more gripping accounts are scattered throughout. Readers will need to read more than the first tale before being transported to the deck of a ship and becoming an eyewitness to the events that unfold.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Maritime Exploration in the Age of Discovery, 1415-1800

Cover Art: Maritime Exploration in the Age of Discovery
Maritime Exploration in the Age of Discovery, 1415-1800
By Ronald S. Love
Greenwood Press, 2006, ISBN 0-313-32043-8, $45.00 / £25.95

Written by an associate professor of history, this book is part of a series that examines historic events between 1500 and 1900. This particular volume concentrates on the search for a quicker passage to Asia and its exotic offerings, as well as the new territories those sea adventurers discovered in the process. It readily acknowledges that Europeans weren’t the first to venture far from their shores, or even to make astonishing discoveries, but they were the first to capitalize on them on a grand scale, and their achievements forever changed the world and impacted history. Prior to the voyages of the Portuguese and Spanish explorers, the various world cultures were isolated from each other. These discoverers, who ventured farther afield into new arenas, were the initiators of global commerce, which remains an important aspect of our lives today.

The book is divided into sections, the first being a timeline of noteworthy events from 1249 through 1791. Chapter one provides an overview, while the next four chapters examine “Portugal and the Search for a Sea Route to Asia,” “Spain and the Discovery of a New World,” “Circumnavigation and the Search for a Northern Passage to China,” and “Exploration of the Great South Sea.” While William Dampier is included in the narrative, he doesn’t appear in the “Biographies: Personalities of the Age of Discovery” section. Prior to the glossary, annotated bibliography, and index, Love shares a number of primary documents related to this period of history. These include a poem, letters, and excerpts from original manuscripts (including Sir Francis Drake’s The World Encompassed, Dampier’s A New Voyage Round the World, and Woodes Rogers’ journal).

Contrary to the more usual Eurocentric presentations on the Age of Discovery, Maritime Exploration provides a balanced approach while setting the subject within the historical context in which the events occurred. The book is geared toward students in high school and the early years of college, but is equally valuable to the general reader who wishes to learn about the men and voyages whose initial purpose was to find gateways to increase commerce, but eventually devolved into the quest for land, riches, and world domination. While an interesting presentation, enriched by the inclusion of primary resources, this isn’t an absorbing history. For those looking for a well-rounded examination of and having an interest in the Age of Discovery, this is an informative introduction.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Dead Men Tell No Tales

Cover Art: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Lives and Legends of the Pirate Charles Gibbs
By Joseph Gibbs
University of South Carolina Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57003-693-4, $29.95

In 1831 Charles Gibbs was hanged at Ellis Island for piracy. Between the time of his trial and execution, he allowed tidbits of information about himself to leak out. At one point he confessed that his real name was James D. Jeffers. Dead Men Tell No Tales attempts to separate the fact from the myth in an effort to learn about the real man behind the bloodthirsty legends that Charles Gibbs became. While documentary evidence concerning the trial and the final days of his life exists, it is far more difficult to step further back in time to determine the facts about his earlier life. Some question remains as to whether Jeffers was his real name. Even the information he supplied was laced with contradictions and inconsistencies. As the author writes in the epilogue, “James Jeffers claimed that his goal was not to cover his crimes, but to shield his identity. If so, he succeeded. Today the Jeffers name is little known in pirate history while Charles Gibbs still catches enthusiasts’ imagination.”

Sifting through historical documents to unravel facts from legends is tedious work, but sometimes the gems discovered make the diligence worthwhile. While the author’s journey leaves more questions than answers, and at times the account seems to get sidetracked, Dead Men Tell No Tales contains a wealth of information on Caribbean piracy in the nineteenth century. Few books explore this period of piratical history, and fewer still dare to compare the villains of this era with their counterparts a century earlier. Joseph Gibbs does both and does it well. The inclusion of footnotes, sources consulted, and a detailed index provide ready access to the history and people mentioned in the book. Readers seeking to learn more about the notorious pirate may be disappointed, but those yearning to become better acquainted with the Caribbean marauders of the 1800s will find their appetites sated.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Wolf of the Deep

Cover Art: Wolf of the Deep by Stephen Fox
Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama
By Stephen Fox
Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-4429-0, US $25.95, CAN $34.00

Semmes has been a wolf of the deep
For many a day to harmless sheep;
Ships he scuttled and robbed and burned,
Watches pilfered and pockets burned.

George H. Boker wrote these words in 1864 about the most successful commander of a notorious Confederate raider during the American Civil War. This verse, written by a Northerner, captures Union sentiments towards Semmes, whom they deemed a pirate, and his menacing vessel. Wolf of the Deep is the story of this Confederate captain and his vessel, and the impact they had on Union shipping and morale. It also showcases the opposite sentiments expressed by Southerners, as Edward C. Bruce did when he penned:

She bears the name of a noble State, and sooth she bears it well.
To us she hath made it a word of pride, to the Northern ear a knell.
To the Puritan in the busy mart, the Puritan on his deck,
With “Alabama” visions start of ruin, woe, and wreck.

Stephen Fox opens the story in July 1862 as Semmes awaits a ship that will take him to England, for that is where vessel 290 is being built. Although not a die-hard southerner – he lived in the border state of Maryland – Semmes eventually moved his family to Alabama. During one of the long separations from his wife, Anne – who came from an upstanding Northern family – he wrote, “But whatever may betide them [their sons] or me, my dear wife, you must keep ever present to your mind, that we are engaged in a holy cause, fighting for all that is dear to man.” When strangers met the captain, they were disappointed, for he never measured up to their images of an infamous pirate or dedicated officer.

Built in the Laird shipyard, the 290 was designed to remain at sea for long periods and carried sufficient armament for her to successfully attack Union merchantmen. She was powered by both sail and steam. When Semmes first saw her, he compared her to the “lightness and grace of a swan.” He named her CSS Alabama and convinced some of the British sailors to join him and his officers in their raids in exchange for shares of the plunder. In the first two months of their cruise, they burned twenty vessels and released three others because too many passengers were aboard or their holds carried cargo of neutral nations. To the North, the cruiser couldn’t be caught and was ghostlike, for she seemed to strike everywhere. His success impacted northern morale and disrupted Union commerce so much that many ship owners sold their vessels to foreign entities.

Semmes didn’t immediately resign his commission in the American navy, but he eventually embraced the war. Although principally a story of the man and his vessel, this book also tells the tale of American efforts (both for and against the Union) in Britain and how devastating his raids were on the Union. Fox also shows the differences in which Northerners and Southerners viewed the commerce raider’s actions and how Semmes’ success led to problems aboard his vessel. These would eventually cause her downfall at the hands of the USS Kearsage, but not before the Alabama had captured sixty-five vessels and traveled 75,000 miles all in the space of twenty-two months.

Wolf of the Deep is a fascinating examination of a man maligned in Union newspapers and heralded in Confederate ones. Quotes from primary and contemporary sources compel the reader to see the people and events from various viewpoints, rather than providing a narrow glimpse that is one-sided and prejudicial. Fox demonstrates that Semmes understood that to defeat the enemy, the Confederacy needed to strike where the Union was most vulnerable – its commercial shipping. The author dares to show how Semmes adapted to the changing times by depicting him as a person with foibles, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, rather than as either a hero or a villain. This book is a must read for fans of Civil War history and maritime history as steam began to replace sail.

Read an Excerpt
CSS Alabama Digital Collection

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Queen

Cover Art: The Pirate Queen by Susan Ronald
The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire
By Susan Ronald
HarperCollins, 2007, ISBN 978-0-06-082066-4, US $26.95, CAN $33.95

Divided into four parts, The Pirate Queen begins with Elizabeth’s ascent to the English throne on the death of Bloody Mary. She soon learns that her half-sister has bankrupted the royal treasury and with the kingdom in peril from outsiders – in particular the Catholic Philip, King of Spain – Elizabeth sets in motion policies to defend her country and people and to replenish her coffers. This book is primarily about the relationship between the queen and her Sea Dogs, and how she successfully “fuse[d] the colossal and diverging egos of her gentlemen and merchant adventurers while enforcing her personal will for the protection and security of England.” Within its pages the reader meets Richard Hawkins, Martin Frobisher, Francis Drake, and Walter Raleigh, among others. There are two appendices – Doctor John Dee’s essay on “The Petty Navy Royal” and a typical report on the “Flotilla of New Spain” – a glossary, bibliographical essay and suggested readings, and a substantial index.

Those readers seeking a biography of the Virgin Queen should look elsewhere, for there are only brief mentions of her life in this book. Those desiring to learn more about the Sea Dogs and their rise to power need look no further, for this is a comprehensive introduction to them and their adventures. It is also a rare, yet readable, look at the chess moves, failures, and successes that laid the foundation for England to become an empire and eventually rule the seas. Ronald’s source material for the book includes a myriad of primary and secondary resources, as well as thousands of letters that Elizabeth and her pirates exchanged.

Visit The Pirate Queen
Meet Susan Ronald

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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Caribbean Pirates

Cover Art: Caribbean Pirates
Caribbean Pirates: A Treasure Chest of Fact, Fiction, and Folklore
By George Beahm
Hampton Roads, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57174-541-5, US $16.95

Concentrating on pirates from the Golden Age, this book explores the myths and realities of piracy using the trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean movies to introduce the various topics the author explores. Section I comprises forty-one points of fact and fiction and highlights the articles of agreement crafted by John Phillips’ men. Section II covers the finer points of being a pirate and places where pirates can go to have fun on land and at sea. At the end of this section is a quiz to test your pirate I. Q. The final section, also called the appendix, features various ports of call in print, the media, and online.

The layout is easy on the eyes. The book is a fast read. Color photographs and black-and-white illustrations delight the eye and exemplify what the text explains. The I. Q. test is well conceived and tests a vast array of knowledge, although a few subjects aren’t really covered in the text. Sometimes the wording of questions is a bit hazy, but anyone who reads before he/she answers the questions can easily earn the rank of captain or quartermaster. The author is to be commended for including great explanations of the right answers, rather than just listing whether they’re true or false.

When you open a treasure chest, you never know what’s inside. You hope to find riches beyond your imagination, but sometimes the booty is a hodgepodge. This is the case with Caribbean Pirates. For me, it was a breath of fresh air because it’s unlike the usual historical pirate books I read. On the other hand, Wikipedia is not a reliable source for quoting information from, and I came across some factual errors that someone unfamiliar with pirates won’t realize are falsehoods.

In spite of these mistakes, Caribbean Pirates does a superb job in pointing out where Hollywood and reality differ. I often get asked by those who see one of the POTC movies whether something really happened. This book is a ready reference for answering those questions. It also contains some priceless lines, such as in the definition of a cooper:
He made casks and maintained them at sea to insure their integrity, since they were the principal means to store water, rum, food, and gunpowder. (Think Tupperware without its sealing advantages.)
The last sentence vividly creates an image that anyone today can readily understand. Something not covered in most compendia on pirates is cruises you and/or your family can take to get just a wee taste of life at sea. While the list of festivals, books, and films is by no means inclusive, I was surprised to see the omission of one movie classic, Captain Blood, starring Errol Flynn. The annotated list of websites is fairly extensive, and even includes Thistles & Pirates, for which I thank the author.

Caribbean Pirates is not for everyone. Those looking for histories should seek other resources. Those who are seriously considering taking on a pirate persona or are intrigued with the reality versus the myth in piratical movies will find a treasure chest full of information that will prove valuable for years to come.

Review copyrighted © 2008 Cindy Vallar

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The Spanish Main 1492-1800

Cover Art: The Spanish Main 1492-1800
The Spanish Main 1492-1800
by René Chartrand
illustrated by Donato Spedaliere
Osprey, 2006, ISBN 1-84603-005-6, US $16.95, CAN $23.95

The wealth Spain discovered in the New World brought pirates to the Caribbean. The buccaneers didn’t confine their attacks to the treasure galleons. They also raided land bases. This threat impacted how the Spanish protected their towns and citizens. The Spanish Main examines the fortresses, some of which can be visited today, and how they evolved over the centuries.

“Administrative organization” covers the viceroys, captains-general, and king’s engineers. “Castles in America” concentrates on the establishment of the various fortresses and town planning. “Corsairs, pirates and convoys” examines the treasure fleet convoy system, defense squadrons, the French Huguenots, and English pirates. Subsequent chapters look at the fortification plan of 1588, the Spanish Main in the 17th century, defense of the territory in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the garrisons that manned the defenses. Also included are a chronology, a brief look at the forts today, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. Diagrams, maps, and pictures accompany the text throughout.

This book isn’t for those searching for information on life in colonial Spain, but rather a concise examination of Spain’s defenses – design, technology, and history – in the New World. While pirates are not the primary focus, their activities greatly impacted how she protected her towns, people, and treasure, and they are examined in this context. The Spanish Main presents Latin American history from a different perspective than that usually found in books focusing on pirates. The colorful diagrams provide excellent glimpses into places lost or changed over time. This is a worthy read for those interested in the “other side.”

Book Review Copyright © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Quelch’s Gold

Cover Art: Quelch's GoldCover Art: Quelch's Gold (paperback edition)
Quelch’s Gold: Piracy, Greed, and Betrayal in Colonial New England
By Clifford Beal
Praeger, 2007, ISBN 978-0-275-99407-5, US $44.95, UK £25.95
Potomac Books, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59797-233-8, US $16.95

In 1703 the Charles, a brigantine, mysteriously set sail from Marblehead, Massachusetts. She returned ten months later, and her captain and most of her crew found themselves under arrest for piracy. Within the pages of this book, Clifford Beal explores the case of John Quelch and the government officials involved in his arrest and trial, for some consider what happened to be “the first case of judicial murder in America.”

Divided into three sections, the book explores the crime, the pursuit, and the punishment and reward. The account is absorbing and well-researched, but at times the author interrupts the flow to provide important information to help place the events into their proper time and place. Perhaps a different rendering might have enabled readers to better follow the story. In spite of this, Beal deftly weaves a tale of intrigue and abuse by authorities to prosecute Quelch for piracy.

View the Table of Contents and Read an Excerpt

Book review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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The Government Manual for New Pirates

Cover Art: The Government Manual for New Pirates
The Government Manual for New Pirates
By Matthew David Brozik and Jacob Sager Weinstein
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7407-6790-6, US $10.95

When you first pick up this book, you might ask yourself why the government would publish a how-to book for pirates? After all, pirates detest government – it goes against most of what they believe. It isn’t long before the scurvy dogs who penned this book explain that while “[t]he radish-eatin’ land Government don’t dare publish no manual for us, no, but the Pirate Government got no such qualms.” Of course, you’re off to a bad start in learning how to be a pirate if buy this book – true pirates only acquire treasure through stealing.*

Slightly larger than a pocket guidebook, this manual is divided into eight chapters of information every pirate-in-training needs to learn. Chapter 1 helps you locate pirates, including ways to avoid the land and where to find the best hot spots in Tortuga, Hispaniola, and other Caribbean islands. Chapter 2 addresses appropriate attire from heads to pegs, as well as accessories and what not to wear. Chapter 3 provides instruction in how to talk like a pirate, while the next one discusses pirate ships, covering such information as good and bad names, parts of the vessel, and dangers that lurk in the oceans’ depths. Chapters 5 and 6 recount the guidelines pirates should abide by and how to fight in true piratical style. The final two chapters explain how pirates amuse themselves and how they locate buried treasure. There are also four appendices – lyrics to popular pirate chanteys, a nontraditional chantey attributed to Po’beard, a favorite pirate recipe, and an eye patch. The book is indexed.

If you’ve not guessed by now, this manual is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of pirates. Many sections will have you smiling or laughing. A few might make you groan. There’s a fair amount of truth interwoven into the text, but the information about tricorne and bicorne hats is backward. (Golden age pirates would have worn the former, while Napoleon and Admiral Nelson sported the latter.) There are a few sections where it’s wise to stay alert, especially if the text starts to bore you, for that’s when you may discover a hidden message. My two favorite sections are “Speak in the Manner of a Pirate,” which includes “A Very Complex and Intimidating Statistical Equation,” and Appendix A, which has a new version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” (If you thought the old one was mind-numbing, wait until you sing this one!) Even the book’s cover contains important information for readers. Great for learning a bit more about true pirattitude – as long as you don’t take the advice too seriously.

Visit the Salt-Soaked Brotherhood o’ Pirates

*Disclaimer: As an author, I recommend purchasing this book or borrowing it from your library, rather than pilfering it. This paragraph merely recounts what the authors of the book wrote.

Book review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates? The Politics of Plunder, 1550-1650

Cover Art: Pirates? The Politics of Plunder, 1550-1650
Pirates? The Politics of Plunder, 1550-1650
edited by Claire Jowitt
Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, ISBN 0-230-00327-3, US $65.00

This book is not your ordinary exploration of piracy. Rather it attempts to put pirates into the context of their time period so we understand how people of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw them. Were they political or sexual radicals? Did they disrupt trade and culture as much as history says? Or were they mere players in a changing world where religion and politics were often inseparable? The ten scholarly essays also explore how one country’s privateers were another country’s pirates. These questions are answered by examining primary literary documents and books. Not only is the cultural phenomenon explored, but so are the pirates in different regions, including Ireland, the Americas, the Barbary States, Spain, and England. The essays also discuss how national politics and particular interest groups shaped how people saw pirates.

Divided into three sections, this collection first defines piracy then examines various perspectives with particular emphasis on politics and cultural works, and how pirates impacted society after they died.

1. ‘Hostis Humani Generis’ – The Pirate as Outlaw in the Early Modern Law of the Sea. Christopher Harding, a law professor at the University of Wales, examines the legal perception of piracy between 1550 and 1650. He compares how we define piracy today with how it was defined in the past, before pirates were seen as criminals against all mankind.

2. The Problem of Piracy in Ireland, 1570-1630. John C. Appleby, who lectures in history at Liverpool Hope University College, discusses the upsurge in piracy in Ireland, including social and economic aspects, and how England responded to the problem.

3. Piracy and Captivity in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Perspective from Barbary. Nabil Matar, an English professor and head of the Humanities and Communication Department at Florida Institute of Technology, provides a unique look at Barbary piracy – not from the perspective of Christian victims, but through the eyes of Muslim victims. He explains who the Muslim captives were and how their accounts have survived.

4. Crusading Piracy? The Curious Case of the Spanish in the Channel, 1590-95. Matthew Dimmock, a Lecturer in English at the University of Sussex, takes a little-known narrative and looks at methods of plundering as well as issues dealing with holy war and religious and national identities. In doing so he offers insights into politics, mercantilism, theology, and national concerns in England, Spain, and the Ottoman Empire.

5. Acting Pirates: Converting A Christian Turned Turk. A lecturer at the University of Reading, March Hutchings specializes in early modern theatre and drama in performance. His essay discusses the connection between piracy and religion by looking at a play about John Ward, a Christian who “turned Turk” and became a successful Barbary corsair. His focus is on the staging of the play and how acting and conversion helps us understand the play.

6. ‘We are not pirates’: Piracy and Navigation in The Lusiads. Bernhard Klein, a Reader in Literature at the University of Essex, sheds light on the charges and denials of piracy in an epic poem from Portugal about Vasco da Gama as he explored the African and Indian coasts.

7. Virolet and Martia the Pirate’s Daughter: Gender and Genre in Fletcher and Massinger’s The Double Marriage. Lucy Munro, a Lecturer in English at Keele University, on the other hand, looks at the links between gender and piracy in a play that incorporates a female pirate and involves her in issues dealing with politics and tyranny.

8. Sir Francis Drake’s Ghost: Piracy, Cultural Memory, and Spectral Nationhood. Mark Netzloff, Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explores the various images of Drake that existed during his lifetime and how these conflicting images were used for competing political ends.

9. Scaffold Performances: The Politics of Pirate Execution. Claire Jowitt is an English professor at Nottingham Trent University, who explores the behavior of and words spoken by pirates prior to their executions as they pertain to politics, either supporting or undermining the government.

10. Of Pirates, Slaves, and Diplomats: Anglo-American Writing about the Maghrib in the Age of Empire. An English Professor at the University of York, Gerald MacLean goes beyond the time parameters of this book to discuss how American literature, written soon after independence, appropriated Elizabethan images of piracy and attitudes toward Barbary Corsairs to influence America’s foreign policy with Algiers.

There is much to learn here, although the scholarliness of the essays at time makes it difficult to comprehend what the authors are saying. Many of the documents examined and the accounts related aren’t found in other works. It is an excellent examination into how the world viewed piracy from a variety of perspectives from 1550 to 1650. The weakest chapter, as regards inclusion within this tome, is the last because it strays outside the historical framework of the book. Readers with either a particular interest in this time period or literature will find much to satisfy them, as long as they understand this is a scholarly work. The notes and selected bibliography allow readers to further explore varying aspects of piracy and early literature.

Book review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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The Brutal Seas

Cover Art: The Brutal Seas
The Brutal Seas: Organised Crime at Work
by Douglas Stewart
AuthorHouse, 2006, ISBN 978-1-4259-8710-7, $14.50
(Also available in German under the title Piraten)

A solicitor and author, Douglas Stewart explores the world of maritime piracy and organized crime in this non-fiction book that begins:

Even as you read this book, mariners somewhere are being attacked by armed pirates, their faces masked and the weapons deadly. Some may be murdered, tortured, seized as a hostage or simply dumped overboard to sink or swim. Attacks have become increasingly violent, the profits of crime ever greater. International law enforcement has yet to show sufficient concerted will to beat organized crime at sea.
The idea for this book came about as he was researching a novel. It is one of the few books on maritime crime that explores piracy, terrorism, and organized crime syndicates in a single volume.

The book is divided into ten chapters:

To gather background and information about this topic, Stewart spoke at length with Eric Ellen (retired Chief Constable of the Port of London Police Authority and the founder the International Maritime Bureau), Shiao Lin (a former Taiwanese Police Inspector and a key investigator for the IMB), and Captain Pottengal Mukundan (current Director of the IMB).

The weakest part of the book is the inclusion of mv Estonia because there is no solid evidence to categorize the sinking of the car ferry as a criminal act. I discussed this with the author and he says, “I remain of the view that this ship was sunk for commercial or political reasons by a serious conspiracy and was therefore mass murder at sea.” It remains an interesting case and some decisions that were made certainly seem to indicate that somebody didn’t want the facts to become known, but because it appears as the second chapter, it slowed the pace and made me wonder constantly whether I should keep reading. I did, and subsequent chapters proved to be on point and quite interesting.

Since the author is British, there are occasions when a word or the spelling of a word may seem strange to Americans, but most readers will have no problem understanding the text. There are instances, however, where the text would have benefited from a copyeditor’s proofing. Acronyms are not spelled out the first time they are used, which makes it difficult for the uninitiated to know what they mean.

In spite of these drawbacks, The Brutal Seas is an intriguing glimpse into piracy, organized crime, and terrorism in the maritime world. It also examines how the criminals are pursued and punished, when possible. Perhaps best of all, though, it demonstrates the difficulties law enforcement encounters when pursuing and prosecuting these people.

Learn more about the author and read an excerpt from the book

Book review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Pirate Fever!

Cover Art: Pirate Fever!
Pirate Fever!
by Eleyne Austen Sharp
Austen Sharp, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9652589-5-5, $10.95

Subtitled “The Buccaneer’s Guide to Tales, Trails, and Treasure in North America,” this book is a compendium of pirate biographies, films and books on piracy, hosting a buccaneer bash, and ports of call. The author does warn that “While e’ery attempt has been made t’ ensure accurate information…dealin’ wi’ pirates means yer bloody likely t’ get some exaggerated tales, due t’ thar legendary consumption o’ rum.” She also provides readers with a glossary of contractions she uses throughout the text, for it has a definite piratical flavoring to it.

After a brief introduction to piracy, she introduces readers to sixteen of the more infamous rogues. Among these are Henry Avery, Samuel Bellamy, Cheng I Sao, Jean Laffite, Grace O’Malley, and Thomas Tew. The usual felons of the Golden Age are also included. “The Fever Spreads” includes lists of films and books, as well as the actors who have played famous swashbucklers, such as Captain Blood and Captain Jack Sparrow. There are also articles on pirates in cyberspace* and shipwrecks and treasure. Often forgotten, but equally important, are those who entertain us – re-enactors, tour guides, DJs, ship modelers, singers, historians – and an interview with Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy who made September 19th famous.

“Buccaneer Bash” explains how to throw the best pirate party. One begins with the outfit and the language. Next come recipes for grog, hard tack, salmagundi, and Mother Bluebeard’s famous scurvy meat pie. For entertainment Sharp provides the words to several sea shanties and some dreadful pirate jokes. The final section of the book provides regional information for American and Canadian piratical attractions, events, organizations, and treasure quests. Each grouping begins with real pirates of the region. Black-and-white photographs abound and a list of resources and an index complete the book.

Once you get the hang of pirate speak, this is an entertaining book. What sets this book apart from others is the ingredients for a swashbuckling party and where to go for pirate fun. There are a few errors – such as Stede Bonnet’s death date (December, not 10 November 1718), William Kidd never confessed to any wrongdoing, a fair portion of Laffite’s biography, and Mary Read wed a soldier rather than a sailor – one must remember that Pirate Fever! is written in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way to amuse and fascinate the reader. Nor is it a history book. Rather it is a fast-paced and rousing introduction to the Golden Age of Piracy with information for anyone who wants to become a pirate or wants to learn where other pirates can be found.

Learn more about the author and the book

*It was an honor to discover Pirates and Privateers among the sites and references listed.

Book review copyrighted © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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The Sack of Panama

Cover Art: The Sack of Panama
The Sack of Panama: Captain Morgan and the Battle for the Caribbean
By Peter Earle
St. Martin’s, 2007, ISBN 978-0-312-36142-6, US $25.95; CAN $31.95

Legendary and auspicious, the sack of Panama was a pivotal moment in history. Over 2,000 privateers and buccaneers under the leadership of Henry Morgan sailed aboard thirty-eight ships. These daring men made the arduous trek across the Isthmus of Panama to attack one of Spain’s colonial cities. In spite of hunger and disease they defied the odds, but the success of the venture did not begin in 1671. Five years of struggle between Spain and England preceded this daring raid, and had Morgan not succeeded in the endeavor, the future of the Caribbean might well have evolved differently.

What makes Earle’s account unique is that he examines the raid from two perspectives –the privateers who defended Jamaica and the Spanish victims – to give readers a well-rounded examination of the historical events that transpired and the people responsible for them. He vividly recounts what happened before the sack of Panama to ground the reader in the time, the place, and the political situation and provide him/her with a better understanding of what happened. The author’s intent is to not only retell a story often told, but also provide a new perspective to it, and he succeeds admirably in this attempt.

Read an excerpt from The Sack of Panama

Book Review Copyright © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Create Your Own Pirate Ship

Cover Art: Create Your Own Pirate Ship
Create Your Own Pirate Ship
By Jim Litchko
Know Book Publishing, 2006, ISBN 978-0-9748845-4-7, US $34.95

Ever want to jazz up your lawn at Halloween with a spooky pirate ship, but didn’t know how? Jim Litchko has solved your problems. Using PVC pipes and fittings, some tools, and glue, he shows you step-by-step how to build a collapsible pirate ship measuring 10 feet high by 12 feet long by 3 feet wide, for $200 to $300 with just 24 hours of labor.

The book is spiral-bound, so it lays flat for easy reference while working. The contents are arranged in a logical order, beginning with tools, building components, building techniques, and ship’s plans, and ending with assemblage instructions and how to accessorize your pirate ship. There are warnings and cautions, as well as recommendations throughout. What makes the design worthwhile is that you can reuse the ship over and over again whenever you want.

Since the instructions seem a bit daunting at times, this project is geared more toward people who like to build things from scratch, rather than rookies with no experience. I suspect those with less experience will actually take longer to construct the ship. Although there is some humor, for the most part the writing style is dry and technical. Some errant word choices and misspellings point to the need for a copyeditor. The combination of blueprints, diagrams, and illustrations enhance the written directions, making them easier to follow and understand. There is a complete list of needed materials (459 parts and 500 feet of covering), which allows you to see the full scope of the project from the start. The author frequently reminds the reader that this ship is for display purposes only. It’s neither a toy nor something children can climb. The inclusion of websites on plastic pipes and knot-tying are helpful. The price is a bit steep, but for those with a hankering to build a pirate ship or who like to create displays different from the rest of the neighborhood’s, Create Your Own Pirate Ship may be just the thing!

View video clip of ship
I.C.E. Guy Special Agent Workbook
(teaches children about handling emergencies)

Book Review Copyright © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages

Cover Art: Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages
Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages
by Dirk Meier
translated by Angus McGeoch
Boydell Press, 2006, ISBN 1843832372, US $37.95 / £19.99

Books abound on buccaneers and pirates of the Golden Age, but what about those of other time periods? Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages explores the maritime world several centuries earlier, particularly from the 10th through the early 15th century. While the British Isles are included to some extent, especially in the chapter on Vikings, primary emphasis is on northern Europe. One strength of this scholarly work is that it explores this time period in a more rounded fashion than most books because it looks at how sailors, merchants, cities and towns, and pirates interacted and how they impacted history. Through primary documents, illustrations, and information from archaeological finds, Dr. Meier presents a logical and easily understood explanation of the medieval seafaring world.

Divided into eleven chapters, this book explores early navigation and how advances in navigation during this time allowed people to venture farther from shore. Readers will also learn about shipbuilding and its development. Dr. Meier next explores the various trading ports on the North and Baltic Seas and the rivers of Russia. Two chapters discuss the Viking pillaging expeditions and explorations in the North Atlantic. The history and power of the Hanseatic League is detailed, as are the pirates who plagued the region in the later Middle Ages. Also included are a glossary, reading list, and index.

While I would have liked more information on the pirates, this book is a good introduction to the maritime world and developments in it during medieval times. Headings and subheadings provide easy access to what’s covered in the chapters. Captioned black-and-white illustrations and maps, interspersed with ones in vivid color, complement the narrative and provide readers with excellent visuals for points of reference. The inclusion of primary documents allows readers to see how people of the time period saw their world. The only drawbacks to the book, and they are minor ones, are misspelled words and a few translated sentences that required me to reread them once or twice until I understood what was written. Some information on ships, sailing, and navigation is the best presented and easiest to understand that I’ve encountered in researching maritime history. Those interested in the Middles Ages, particularly those concerned with trade and piracy, will find this a worthy addition to their collections.

Book Review Copyright © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Maritime Museums of North America

Cover Art: Maritime Museums of North America
Maritime Museums of North America
by Robert H. Smith
C Books, 2006, ISBN 978-0-941786-07-2, US $19.95 / Can $22.50

Unless a museum has a famous ship or other noteworthy item of historic maritime importance, it often is overlooked in national visitors’ guides. Most of us aren’t even aware of this oversight. I discovered it because of a summer trip I needed to plan. A conference takes me to Albany, New York in June 2007 and when I’m in new regions of the country, I like to visit maritime museums and explore sailing ships, as well as see places of historical and piratical importance. Neither the AAA Tourbook or the sights-to-see information the conference organizers provided made mention of the Half Moon Visitor Center and New Netherland Museum. Smith’s guide did, and since the Half Moon is a replica of Henry Hudson’s ship, I felt it should have been mentioned. Another example of what you’ll find within Maritime Museums of North America that is sadly missing in other guides is the Expedition Whydah in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Any self-respecting pirate knows about this museum, sea lab, and learning center, for this exhibit relates the story of Black Sam Bellamy, the fateful night when his pirate ship sank in a storm, and Barry Clifford’s discovery of the wreck of the Whydah.

So what’s in this guidebook? The main portion is divided into two sections: United States museums and Canadian museums. These are subdivided by states/provinces and cities. Using the entry of Expedition Whydah as an example, Smith provides the address, phone number, and e-mail address for the museum, and gives information on its location (in this case MacMillan Wharf, Provincetown, MA), the highlights of the museum, and its website URL. What follows is a more-detailed explanation of what’s in the museum (as it pertains to the maritime world), including history and special features (such as videos with Walter Cronkite and National Geographic). Some entries (for example, Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA) provide information on activities – educational programs, library collections, visitor centers, and cafeterias. All entries include admission data (whether there is an entry fee or not and days and hours of operation).

An added bonus to this edition of the guidebook is the inclusion of a CD that contains more than 400 pictures of the 600 plus ships, museums, and lighthouses detailed in the entries. Also of importance are indices, which provide access to the listings alphabetically by name and according to subject classifications: bed and breakfasts and overnight encampments, boat and ship building, gift shops and book stores, halls of fame, libraries, lighthouses, locks and canals, navy yards, collections of newsletters and periodicals, pirate museums, scrimshaw, ship chandlers, ship models, specific ships and boats (and general information on these types of vessels), and whaling. There is also an index to the photographs on the CD*, which is organized by state/province. Robert Smith also gives readers the chance to add a museum or correct an entry.

I found Maritime Museums of North America an invaluable resource for planning my trip this summer. Now, I know what museums are in each state or province and what I’ll find there. I suspect that I shall be consulting this resource often, and I highly recommend it for inclusion in any mariner’s (or pirate’s) collection. It doesn’t matter whether your preferences are sailing ships, iron clads, tugboats, racing yachts, submarines, fishing boats, or any vessel in between from colonial times through the 20th century. This book provides access to them all.

Purchasing Information:
C Books
P. O. Box 76
Del Mar, CA  92014-0176
(858) 755-7753
cbooks@san.rr.com
(Discounts available when 4 or more copies are purchased.)

Visit Smith’s Master Index of Maritime Museum Websites

* One note about the CD, there were a couple of pictures that I couldn’t access because my computer didn’t know what program to use.

Book Review Copyright © 2007 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses

Cover Art: Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses
Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses: The Art of Howard Pyle
Edited by Jeff A. Menges
Dover, 2006, ISBN 0-486-44832-0, US $15.95 / CAN $23.95

Born to a Quaker family in Delaware in 1853, Howard Pyle became an accomplished artist whose works continue to inspire and astound. He also wrote and illustrated historical novels and stories. Eventually, he opened his own school of art, and some of his students achieved equal success. Some of his most revealing paintings are of pirates, whom he portrayed with realism and authenticity rarely achieved before. Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates, first published in 1921, is still in print, and many children are first introduced to buccaneers when they read this book. Pyle drew many other pictures of historical subjects, medieval knights, and creatures from fantasy and myth.

This book, which provides a brief introduction to the artist and each group of paintings, gathers some of Pyle’s most famous and lesser-known works into one book. Jeff Menges is particularly adept at succinctly showing why Pyle was so skilled at drawing what he did. The text makes fascinating reading, but the pictures in this collection will entertain the reader for hours. This worthy addition to any piratical collection will soon become cherished like treasure itself.

Fans of pirate art will enjoy these works of art:

Walking the Plank, 1887
The Combatants Cut and Slashed with Savage Fury, 1894
How the Buccaneers Kept Christmas, 1899
Kidd on the Deck of the “Adventure Galley,” 1902
Extorting Tribute from the Citizens, 1905
The Buccaneer Was a Picturesque Fellow, 1905
So the Treasure Was Divided, 1905
An Attack on a Galleon, 1905
Captain Keitt, 1907
Marooned, 1887 and 1909

Learn more about Howard Pyle

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Trimming Yankee Sails

Cover Art: Trimming Yankee Sails
Trimming Yankee Sails: Pirates and Privateers of New Brunswick
by Faye Kert
Goose Lane Editions, 2005, ISBN 0-86492-442-9, US $12.95 / Can $14.95

Volume six of the New Brunswick Military Heritage series examines the Canadian privateers of the War of 1812. This maritime port played an important role in nineteenth-century history, and the information here covers “[m]istaken identity, collaborating with the enemy, false colours, phony captures, smuggling, blockade running and profitable prize making”. This was the only war in which New Brunswick played an active role in privateering. Although the United States declared war in June 1812, Britain didn’t do so until mid-October. This presented problems for the seamen and fishermen on both sides of the border since New England traded a lot with Canada.

Chapter one deals with New Brunswick during 1812 prior to Britain’s declaration of war. Chapter two examines the privateering ventures during the next two years, with particular emphasis on the Dart (their best-known privateer), because that vessel’s log still exists, and Caleb Seeley, the town’s most successful privateer captain. Chapter three covers the Cheaspeake Affair, during the American Civil War.

This is a much needed resource, for few books cover Canadian privateering, especially during the War of 1812. The glossary and index make the information easily understood and accessible. The pictures help to clarify points in the text or identify who’s who. The inclusion of the chapter on Confederate privateers/pirates is of particular interst since this topic is rarely covered. This book serves as a comprehensive introduction to a particular place’s maritime history where privateering played a vital role in maintaining commerce during war time.

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Command at Sea

Cover Art: Command at Sea
Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control Since the Sixteenth Century
by Michael A. Palmer
Harvard University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-674-01681-5, $29.95 / £19.95 / E 27.70

Naval commanders, like most leaders, have a natural tendency to control via centralization. Yet many naval engagements, most famously Nelson’s at Trafalgar, are won through the commander’s willingness to decentralize command and trust the instincts of his subordinates. Decentralization succeeds when the commander thoroughly educates his subordinates before each engagement so they can act instinctively carry out his intentions, rather than await orders that may be impossible to see or hear during the “fog of war.”

History professor Michael Palmer examines the processes and technologies of more than four centuries of naval command, as well as the key leaders and battles of each period. Whether wind or nuclear fuel power a fleet, the universal constraints of warfare remain to be tamed by how the leader chooses to command that fleet. Written fighting instructions lay out the recommended techniques in several possible situations. Yet battles have been lost when subordinates missed, misinterpreted, or misunderstood signals from the flagship; at their worst, situations might call for a signal not conceived of in the fighting instructions.

Rapid advances in communications have had several contradictory results in naval command. While officially espousing decentralized control, the U. S. Navy since World War II has used radio and satellites to monitor war progress from headquarters and effectively micro-manage both tactics and operations. U-boat captains during World War I received wireless telegraph messages from central German commanders who coordinated their movements, but such signals were subject to enemy interception. Thus the very technology that could give them superiority over their foes became unreliable or even dangerous at crucial mission times.

Those commanders who were slaves to the classical centralized model utilized the well-ordered line-ahead formation, executed only pre-planned maneuvers, and deviated only upon one of several discrete flag signals communicating the commander’s wishes to the fleet. In contrast, decentralizers, such as Horatio Nelson, imparted their tactical wishes to their subordinates and were able to yield control during even a pell-mell mêlée and expect success.

Ship captains and pirate captains both have the same goal: using the unique talents of their crews to best advantage to achieve victory at sea. Command decisions are critical whether the prize is booty or an enemy nation.

Professor Palmer’s thorough research and extensive footnotes do not get in the way of telling a spellbinding history through the eyes of those who stood on the decks of some of the most famous ships of the past. A dozen battle maps and an extensive index enhance the text’s usability.

Table of Contents

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Thomas Vallar

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Seawolves

Cover Art: Seawolves
Seawolves: Pirates & the Scots
by Eric J. Graham
Birlinn, 2005, ISBN 1-84158-388-X, £16.99

At first glance one might think this book is about Scottish pirates, and the reader meets a number of them here, but this is a mistaken impression. Rather Seawolves is about pirates, their attacks on Scottish ships, and how the Scots dealt with pirates found near their country’s shores. What sets this book apart from other pirate books is that much of the information comes from the records of the Scottish Admiralty Court, an overlooked resource in the study of maritime piracy. While major emphasis is placed on the Golden Age of Piracy (1690-1730), this account includes information on the last pirates in Scottish waters in 1822.

Table of Contents:

1. Captain Macrae and the Pirates
2. Lord Archibald Hamilton and the Pirates of New Providence
3. Robert Louis Stevenson and the Pirates
4. The Pirates of Craignish Loch
5. The Scottish Slavers and the Pirates
6. John Gow: the Orcadian Pirate
7. The Scots and the Pirate Crews
8. Daniel Defoe, Sir Walter Scott and the Pirates
9. The Company of Scotland and the Madagascan Pirates
10. The Piracy Trial of Captain Green
11. Heaman and Gautier: the Last Pirates in Scottish Waters
12. Conclusion
In addition to this information, Seawolves includes numerous illustrations, a glossary of 17th- and 18th-century maritime vocabulary, a who’s who of pirate captains that includes their ships, and an index.There is a selected bibliography, but the book lacks footnotes citing the sources used.

This is a rousing account of piracy that reads like a novel. The inclusion of materials from eyewitnesses and primary documents enriches the experience.

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Drake by Stephen Coote

Cover Art: Drake
Drake: the Life and Legend of an Elizabethan Hero
by Stephen Coote
St. Martin’s, 2003, ISBN 0-312-34165-2, US $27.95 / Can $40.95

Francis Drake, “a man of no particular distinction of birth or ancestry”, became a legend in his own time--feared by the Spanish, a favorite of his queen, Elizabeth I. He learned from his mentor and kinsman, John Hawkins, the ropes of sailing and the requirements to be a leader of men. Drake’s exploits earned him social standing, wealth, and fame. Stephen Coote recounts the many sides of this extraordinary man, who lived his motto: from small beginnings great things may come.

Within the pages of this compelling biography, Coote introduces readers to a young Drake, the events in his life that affected him, and the decisions he made. Divided into chronological chapters, the book discusses Drake’s piracy, circumnavigation of the world, privateering, and defense of his country and his faith. To complement the story, the author incorporates explanations of world events, politics, and discoveries provide the reader with a better understanding of Drake’s motives and actions.

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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A Mariner’s Miscellany by Peter H. Spectre

Cover Art: Mariner's Miscellany
A Mariner’s Miscellany
by Peter H. Spectre
Sheridan House, 2005, ISBN 1-57409-195-6 USA, $19.95
ISBN 0-9547062-1-8 UK, £12.95

This compendium is a collection of folklore, writings, poems, drawings, and advice for mariners and those with a love of the sea. As the author explains, it is “a combination of the tangible and the intangible – practical information about boats, anchors, rope, and ballast, cheek by jowl with poetry, legend, lore, superstitions, language of the sea, art, thoughts about literature, and more.” The “more” includes life at sea, sea songs, salty advice, sailors’ food and drink, navigation, communication, the weather, the captain, the naming of vessels, and historical events and ships.

Although pirates are absent from this book, it’s a wonderful collection of information that will educate and remind readers of many aspects of the sailing world both past and present. If you enjoy Mr. Spectre’s annual desk diary The Mariner’s Book of Days, you’ll enjoy this book even more.

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Victory in Tripoli by Joshua E. London

Cover Art: Victory in Tripoli
Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates
Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation
by Joshua E. London
John Wiley & Sons, 2005, ISBN 0-471-44415-4, US $24.95 / Can $31.99 / £15.99

In the fall of 1800, Dey Mustafa of Algiers asked Captain William Bainbridge to ferry the Algerine tribute to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. Bainbridge, as well as Consul General Richard O’Brien, vehemently refused the request, but the Dey made it clear that not acceding to his “request” would be tantamount to declaring war. To further humiliate the fledgling American navy, Alergine naval personnel boarded the USS George Washington on 9 October 1800, took down the American flag, and replaced it with the flag of Algiers. This incident, the capture of American merchantmen sailing the Mediterranean Sea, and the enslavement of their crews initiated a long conflict between the United States and the Barbary States. It also resulted in the establishment of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps.

According to Mr. London, “The story of America’s struggle against the terror of piracy in the Mediterranean stands as testament to the essential American attributes that have given rise to American exceptionalism: the problem-solving mind-set of the individual overcoming life’s difficulties through brains and talent, faith and strength of purpose, and guts and perseverance.” Yet, this story doesn’t unfold in a vacuum. At the same time, the United States found itself struggling to maintain its independence and vying with Old World nations to be recognized as a new country with a right to trade freely, while confronting the political problems facing Europe.

While 2005 saw the publication of three books on this topic, each sheds light on different aspects of the Barbary Wars. Richard Zacks’ The Pirate Coast concerns the covert operation William Eaton led against Tripoli and the role American Marines played in that battle. Frank Lambert’s Barbary Wars covers the entire period of the Barbary Wars with particular emphasis on Algiers. Joshua London covers these topics, but his primary emphasis is on the naval aspects of the period and the early history of the U.S. Navy. Victory in Tripoli is a concise and understandable retelling of the political battles waged between presidents and Congress over the need for a navy and the cost of having one, the failures and successes of the naval war against the Barbary States, and the naval heroes who emerged to renew honor and pride in this young country. It is an inspiring account of America’s first attempt to end the paying of tribute and to deter terrorism.

See the Table of Contents
Pirate Coast Campaign Was U.S.'s First War on Terror, Authors Say
Willie Drye's interview with Richard Zacks and Joshua E. London
National Geographic News, 2 December 2005

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Young Men and the Sea by Daniel Vickers with Vince Walsh

Cover Art: Young Men and the Sea
Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail
by Daniel Vickers with Vince Walsh
Yale University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-300-10067-1, US $35

There is an element of romanticism to sailors and life at sea during the Age of Sail. But why did boys and men really go to sea, and what was life for them like both aboard ship and in port, especially for those who grew up and lived near the coastline of American shores? These are the questions Daniel Vickers sets out to answer in this book, concentrating on seafaring life and changes in maritime commerce in Salem, Massachusetts from 1620 through the nineteenth century. When people hear of Salem, they tend to think only of the witchcraft trials that took place there, but this village seaport was involved in various types of shipping throughout its history. Also, it was small enough to allow historians to use local records to trace individual mariners and what they did over long periods of time.

This scholarly work is not for readers looking for details of colonists who turned to piracy or abetted pirates. Nor does it dwell much on privateering. Rather Young Men and the Sea examines how a coastal village founded by landsmen developed into a vital seaport and how its inhabitants chose to go to sea rather than work the fields. In addition to the analysis of seafaring careers, Dr. Vickers also looks at maritime life ashore, including sailors’ wives, and the laws that regulated life at sea. Appendices include primary sources, graphs, and ship’s logs. Maps and black-and-white drawings illustrate the text, and a detailed index and notes accompany the book.

Book Review Copyright © 2006 Cindy Vallar

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Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands by Virginia W. Lunsford

Cover Art: Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands
Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands
by Virginia W. Lunsford
Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 1-4039-6692-3, US $65.00

The sea was an integral part of Dutch history and culture, especially from the late sixteenth century through the seventeenth. Those who waged war against other countries, such as Spain, in defense of the Dutch Republic played a vital role in establishing the country’s independence. Although laws existed to draw the line between piracy and privateering, reality wasn’t always so clear cut. The Sea Beggars--“a ragtag assemblage of Dutch aristocrats, ultra-Calvinists, and riffraff”--were a prime example of those warrior mariners who strayed between legal and illegal seizures of ships.

Divided into three parts, this book examines the complexity and ambiguity of how the Dutch treated pirates and privateers from their country as well as those from other countries. The first section examines the laws and activities defining plundering and what society thought of these men and what they did. Part II examines the cultural aspects of national identity, the economic effects of piracy and privateering, and the importance of maritime life and trade to the survival of the Netherlands. The interpretation of maritime laws and the disparity in meting out punishment are analyzed in the final section of the book. Also of value are the glossary, chapter notes, and appendices, which include privateer instructions, income earned, privateer captures, and sailors captured by Algerian corsairs.

This comprehensive and scholarly examination sheds light on a topic long neglected, in part because of a devastating fire in 1844 that destroyed much of the archives of the Dutch Admiralty. As in other countries, the Netherlands enacted stringent laws that defined what constituted piracy and privateering, but their implementation strayed into murky waters. Lunsford expertly navigates what documentation still exists to provide readers with a better understanding of how men who skirted the law could become heroes rather than villains. She captures the essence of this dilemma from the outset with the tale of Claes Compaen, a privateer who became an infamous pirate, then rejoined society and became a law-abiding citizen. She also introduces readers to naval heroes, privateers, and pirates of the Netherlands, including the infamous Rock Brasiliano.

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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Saint-Malo Cap Horn by Peter Meazey

Cover Art: Saint-Malo Cap Horn
Saint-Malo Cap Horn: La Route de l’Argent
by Peter Meazey
Astoure, 2005, ISBN 2-84583-108-0
8 Euros

Pirates and privateers from England are most often discussed in books dealing with marauding adventures around South America. Peter Meazey’s book covers the French privateers, in particular those from Saint Malo, who also ventured around Cape Horn to seek their fortunes. The opening chapters explain why this city was a haven for corsairs; the historical and legal framework within which they sailed during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; and the difference between them and pirates. Few outside of France may know their names, but Meazey introduces readers to Jack Walsh, René Duguay-Trouin, François Massertie, and Jacques Gouin de Beauchesne. Several English pirates--Thomas Stradling, William Dampier, and Alexander Selkirk--are also included in the narrative. The author incorporates information about French ships, trade between Saint Malo and Cadiz, England’s attempts to destroy this vital port, and how trade via the Cape of Good Hope led to the demise of this vital maritime center.

Rather than being a scholarly work, this book is written for the general public. The short chapters include many black-and-white illustrations and maps, as well as passages from first-hand accounts. The inclusion of what happened to who ties up loose ends. For those who can read French, Saint-Malo Cap Horn is a captivating introduction to one facet of privateering history.

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks

Cover Art: The Pirate Coast
The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805
by Richard Zacks
Hyperion, 2005, ISBN 1-4013-0003-0, $25.95
Hyperion, 2006, ISBN 1-4013-0849-X, $15.95

When the United States gains its independence from England, American sailing vessels become vulnerable to seizure by the Barbary corsairs. For a time the government negotiates treaties and pays tribute money to the rulers of the countries of North Africa to protect trade in the Mediterranean. Then in 1801 Tripoli declares war against the United States. When the USS Philadelphia runs aground and her officers and men become slaves, President Thomas Jefferson enlists William Eaton and a small contingent of Marines to undertake a daring secret mission that results in the American flag being planted in foreign soil for the first time. The details of what happened are long forgotten, but the deed itself is forever immortalized in the Marine Hymn.

The Pirate Coast details the events that led up to the secret mission and the arduous journey to see it through, the diplomatic negotiations that endangered Eaton and his men, the details and effect of the new peace treaty, and the eventual downfall of the Barbary corsairs. At the same time Zacks interweaves accounts from the men of the Philadelphia during their captivity in Tripoli.

Zacks presents a readable and intricate tale of America’s first covert mission on foreign soil. Readers experience Eaton’s frustration and anger at ineptitude and duplicity, as well as the hope and joy of the men from the Philadelphia after Stephan Decatur and his team blow up the ship.

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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Hitler’s Secret Pirate Fleet by James P. Duffy

Covert Art: Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet
Hitler’s Secret Pirate Fleet
by James P. Duffy
University of Nebraska Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8032-6652-9, US $15.95

During World War II, Hitler used two types of vessels in an attempt to cripple Britain. Most people know about U-boats, but Auxiliary Cruisers, also known as surface raiders, disrupted maritime trade and diverted the Royal Navy with false radio reports of enemy raider activity. Converted cargo vessels, the raiders hid various weapons to seize and destroy any vessel except a large warship. They sailed under flags of neutral or friendly nations, while those aboard altered the ship’s profile and repainted her to maintain the vessel’s disguise. After capturing a prize, they confiscated what they could use and, if circumstances allowed, sent her to a German port with a prize crew aboard. If not, they sank her. Prisoners were housed aboard the raider and treated well.

Although the tactics of these raiders mirrored those of pirates, Duffy points out that those who served aboard these vessels were neither pirates nor privateers, but loyal members of the German navy. Before firing the first shot, they revealed their true identities as German warships. These accounts of nine raiders include Atlantis, the first and most successful raider; Orion, whose travels equated to five circumnavigations of the world; Widder, whose captain was only one of two naval commanders convicted of war crimes; Thor, the only raider to complete two tours of duty; Komet, which attacked an enemy land base; and Michel, the last German warship in operation.

This book is not for pirate fans per se, but for those who want to see how others took the tactics pirates used and implemented them during a war. Those interested in World War II naval operations will also want to read these accounts. Each chapter includes a map showing the locations of where prizes were taken and short sidebars that relate events elsewhere related to the war. Appendices provide the raiders’ original names and German identities, technical data (length, beam, tonnage, etc.), and their armament and war records. Also included is a photo essay, information on a controversy regarding the Kormoran and the HMAS Sydney, a bibliography, and index. The only drawbacks to the narrative are the tendency to repeat Japanese treatment of prisoners turned over by the surface raiders in and near the Pacific and the inclusion of the same sidebar in different chapters. The book does end on a high note, though, with a recounting of the sea battle between the Stier, Stephen Hopkins, and Tannenfels.

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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Admiral Sir Henry Morgan by Terry Breverton

Cover Art: Admiral Sir Henry Morgan
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan: King of the Buccaneers
by Terry Breverton
Pelican, 2005, ISBN 9781589802773, US $14.95

During the seventeenth century, Spain rules the Caribbean and Latin America, but other countries, particularly England, also wish to partake of the treasures these lands offered. In 1655 twenty-year-old Henry Morgan, a Welshman, arrives in Barbados as an ensign in Cromwell’s army. Their orders are to invade Cuba or Hispaniola. While they fail to carry out this task, they do seize Jamaica, where Morgan settles and eventually marries. The island also serves as his base of operation, from which he launches numerous attacks on Spanish towns and ships. In time he becomes the lieutenant-governor and commander of the naval forces that protect Jamaica and British interests in the Caribbean.

Breverton clearly warns readers from the start that he is biased in Morgan’s favor--that he was “the most famous buccaneer of all time…a superb tactician and strategist” who succeeded in campaigns “against massive odds.” Breverton also demonstrates how Esquemeling sometimes got his facts wrong when he wrote Buccaneers of America, against whom Morgan sued for libel and won.

While Morgan “was a saint” compared to L’Olonnais, the author refers to Morgan as a buccaneer. This contradicts what Breverton steadfastly denies: Morgan was not a pirate. A buccaneer, however, was a term that referred specifically to Caribbean pirates of this time period. For the most part Morgan sailed under a legitimate letter of marque, which made him a privateer, yet peace negated such documents and any acts he committed thereafter were acts of piracy. This book provides a good introduction to Sir Henry Morgan and his life, but it is neither a definitive study of the man nor does it provide the reader with an unbiased account.

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny by Séamus Breathnach

Cover Art: The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
by Séamus Breathnach
Universal Publishers, 2003, ISBN 1581125771, $25.95 / E-book $9.00

In July 1876, two men face each other in a courtroom in County Cork, Ireland. Both have served aboard a merchant ship named the Caswell. James Carrick, an Englishman, testifies that Christos Bombos, a Greek, participated in a mutiny that results in the deaths of five men.

When the Caswell sets sail from Glasgow in July 1875, sixteen men are aboard. What happens on the trip to South America is unknown, but once the ship docks in Buenos Aires in September, most of the crew opt to find other berths for the return journey. George Best, the captain of the Caswell, has to find a new crew, and strives to find men of various nationalities--English, Greeks, Maltese, Irish, and German. On December 4th, they set sail to search for a cargo before returning home. Even before they depart for Queenstown on January 1, 1876, the German and the Irishman jump ship, never to be seen or heard from again.

Three days later, the Greeks and Maltese mutiny. Big George Peno stabs the captain twice before Guiseppe Pistoria shoots Best twice in the head. Next, Peno shoots the second mate, Allan McLean, in the arm, then Cristos Bombos stabs him twice in the back and Gaspari Pistoria stabs him while singing. Nicholas Morellos and Big George stab first mate William Wilson, after which Giuseppe shoots him. Giuseppe next shoots the eighteen-year-old steward, Emmanuel Griffiths, then “cut[s] out his left breast.” Gaspari Pistoria shoots him in the ear. After the killings, they weight the bodies with anchors and toss them overboard.

The surviving crewmembers, including two young apprentices, are British, and they bide their time. After the Pistoria brothers take one of the boats and sail away in February, the British stage a mutiny of their own, killing Big George Peno and Nicholas Morellos, but sparing Cristos Bombos. Under the command of James Carrick, the Caswell sets sail for Queenstown, arriving on May 13th.  Bombos is tried for murder twice--the first trial ending in a hung jury. The second time the jury convicts him. Only one other mutineer ever stands trial for his crimes, Giuseppe Pistoria, but not until three years later.

The author begins the book with the intent of trying “to piece together…the events, which led to the mutiny--and to shed some light on its antecedents as well as its awful consequences.” While he fails to achieve that goal, he does hypothesize as to why the foreigners mutinied rather than the British sailors. Breathnach’s research and knowledge of the case, the law, the time period, and life at sea aboard a sailing ship are quite evident, but in attempting to explain what happens and why, he sometimes spends too much time examining peripheral points, as he does when he devotes an entire chapter to the man who hangs with Bombos, or when explaining the business of hanging. At times, too, the author’s opinions on terrorism and jurisprudence intrude in the telling of the story. Those interested in mutinies, the legal system in Ireland, and unsolved mysteries will find this an intriguing puzzle of a mutiny rarely heard about in the annals of maritime history.

View Documents, Table of Contents, and Introduction
Irish Criminology, the author's web site

Book Review Copyright © 2005 Cindy Vallar

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The Cruise of the Sea Eagle by Blaine Pardoe

Cover Art: Cruise of the Sea Eagle
The Cruise of the Sea Eagle: the Amazing True Story of Imperial Germany’s Gentleman Pirate
by Blaine Pardoe
Lyons Press, 2005, ISBN 1-59228-694-1, US $22.95 / CAN $31.95

The Pass of Balmaha set sail from New York with a cargo of cotton destined for Russia. She was a “ghost from another century,” for the start of World War I in 1914 brought a quick end to the age of sailing ships. Captain Scott believed America’s neutrality would protect him through the British blockade of the North Sea, but he was wrong. A cruiser of the Royal Navy ordered her to put in at Kirkwall and installed an officer and six marines aboard the Pass of Balmaha to see that she did. The British officer insisted she fly the Union Jack rather than the American flag.  Doing so negated her neutrality and made her a target. The next day the U-36 captured her and sailed her to Germany where she was refitted and armed as a sea raider -- one that could stay at sea for long periods of time and didn’t require constant restocking of her coal supplies as the steamship raiders did.

Rechristened the Seeadler (Sea Eagle), she slipped through the British blockade in late December 1916 under the command of Count Felix von Luckner, a mariner skilled in the ways of sailing ships. Rather than keep captured prizes, as was the custom among privateers of the past, supplies and valuables were seized and the crews imprisoned aboard the Seeadler before the Germans sank the prize. Through a combination of luck, skill, and daring, she maintained anonymity while becoming a legendary sea raider of the war. Once her identity and that of her captain became known, she also became the most hunted vessel on the sea.

Blaine Pardoe does a commendable job separating the facts from the legends about the Seeadler. His riveting recounting of her adventures is also a story of her captain, and the extraordinary means he took to protect his ship, his crew, and the prisoners forced to endure captivity in the midst of their enemy. Few today may have heard of either the Sea Eagle or Count von Luckner, but none will be disappointed in this tale of a gentleman pirate and a windjammer turned privateer.

**Note to reader: Technically, Count von Luckner was neither a pirate nor a privateer. He was an officer in the German Navy.

Book Review Copyright ©2005 Year Cindy Vallar

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Blunders & Disasters at Sea by David Blackmore

Cover Art: Blunders & Disasters at Sea
by David Blackmore
Pen & Sword Maritime, 2004, ISBN 1-84415-117-4, £19.99, $38.18

Throughout history those who travel the seas have faced a multitude of hazards. Some weren’t avoidable, as we lack the ability to control Mother Nature. Others resulted from countries warring against each other. Human error and bad luck account for more mishaps. This anthology examines the more notable incidents around the world from ancient times to present day. Each entry includes background information, what happened, the causes, and the consequences of the tragedy. Although this book doesn’t concern pirates, one entry discusses the Barbary corsairs in 1803.

The depth and amount of research the author has done is apparent from the start. His presentation is straightforward and easy to read, and the appendices provide additional information regarding certain incidents. The subdivisions and index provide quick access for those who know what they seek. Any reader will find the entries interesting and thought provoking, and will learn something in the process about the dangers inherent in sailing. For writers seeking story ideas for maritime works, this is a treasure trove.

Book Review Copyright ©2005 Year Cindy Vallar

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Black Bart Roberts: the Greatest Pirate of Them All by Terry Breverton

Cover Art: Black Bart Roberts
By Terry Breverton
Pelican Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-58980-233-0, $16.95

Perhaps the most successful pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy, Bartholomew Roberts never achieved the lasting infamy of Blackbeard and few people today would recognize his name. Yet, he seized more ships than any other pirate and his hunting grounds ranged from the Caribbean and South American coast to Canada to Africa. For three years (1719-1722) he terrorized mariners from England, France, Holland, Portugal, and Spain. Rough estimates put the total worth of ships and goods he confiscated at £100,000,000 in today’s currency.

Black Bart Roberts is the story of Bartholomew Roberts. The first two chapters are devoted to Howell Davis, the pirate who introduced Roberts to the brotherhood. Of particular interest is the reprint of Captain Snelgrave’s account of his capture by Davis, which was published in 1734, for it provides a telling portrait of life as a pirate and how they treated prisoners. Four of the seven chapters concentrate on Roberts’ life, his voyages, and his demise and that of his crew. The final chapter is about John Phillips, a pirate aboard one of Roberts’ ships.

Too much emphasis is placed on Howell Davis, however, and the chapter on John Phillips seems out of place. The level of inconsistency is also disturbing. Sometimes sources are cited, while other times they are lacking. Discrepancies about factual details on ships surface. For example, thirty-two ships make up the Lisbon fleet in one paragraph and in the next the count is forty-two. The Royal Fortune, one of Roberts’ ships, has forty-eight guns, then two sentences later it has forty-four. At times the author draws conclusions without verifying facts. The most glaring of these is when he states that Roberts’ “red silk outfit, with the large diamond cross, gave him the epithet by French merchants and pirates of Le Joli Rouge, probably the origin of The Jolly Roger.” Le joli rouge predates Roberts and, while “Jolly Roger” may stem from this French phrase, the first occurrence of pirates flying the Jolly Roger dates to 1701, almost two decades before Roberts became a pirate. Even so, this is an interesting introduction to a pirate that writers often neglected .

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana and Michael Preston

Cover Art: A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
by Diana and Michael Preston
Walker & Co., 2004, ISBN 0-8027-1425-0, $27

Published in 1697, A New Voyage Round the World, caused a sensation in England. Within nine months it went into three printings, and was translated into several foreign languages. This travel book was the first of several volumes William Dampier wrote. His observations of nature and indigenous peoples and their cultures influenced the writings of Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift, the studies of Charles Darwin, and the maritime education of Lord Nelson and Captain Cook.

In spite of his achievements and his influence on others, Dampier remains a relatively obscure individual. Much of what is known of his life comes from his books, which are based on his journals, the originals of which are lost. The Prestons sifted through early copies of his works, legal documents, and letters to recreate William Dampier, the man. They also visited the places he explored to gain a better understanding of what he saw and experienced during his twelve-year voyage around the world. To complete the picture, they consulted the journals of fellow buccaneers and privateers, as well as the writings of men he influenced long after his death.

This well-rounded biography provides a detailed portrait of a man who did extraordinary things fraught with danger and survived to share his experiences with others. The Prestons succinctly explore the complexities and contradictions of a man who was an adventurer, buccaneer, traveler, celebrity, and sailor. In the process they have written a compelling narrative that allows the reader to experience the excitement and perils of life during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, while learning about a man whose writings made a profound impression on writers, mariners, and scientists who came after him.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast by Edward Rowe Snow

Cover Art: Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast
by Edward Rowe Snow
Commonwealth Editions, 2004, ISBN 1-889833-71-1, $21.95

Edward Snow, a consummate storyteller, combines his knowledge of New England’s maritime history with tales of pirates who visited these shores. This particular volume, originally published in 1944, chronicles their exciting exploits while attempting to show their true nature, which was often cruel and violent. The author includes such well-known pirates as Bellamy, Tew, Lowther, Roberts, Kidd, and Blackbeard. He also writes of lesser-known pirates and women pirates, including Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Cheng I Sao. The book concludes with several chapters on buried treasure, and is illustrated with more than thirty photographs and maps.

Jeremy D’Entremont, the editor, provides notes and summaries to clarify erroneous facts, including information unearthed through recent investigations. The new detailed index allows readers to more easily access the wealth of information found within these pages. While Snow sometimes obscures the facts in favor of writing a rousing adventure, this book remains a good introduction to pirates for readers who might not otherwise read a history book.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Ahoy Mates! Leadership Lessons from Successful Pirates by Robert G. Garrow

Cover Art: Ahoy Mates!
By Robert G. Garrow
Book Coach Press, 2003, ISBN 0-9680347-3-X, $13.95 USA and $18.95 CAN

Ed Mast, President of Applied Technology Incorporated, has a problem. Some of his divisions are profitable and others aren’t. Something needs to change, but Ed isn’t sure how to go about making those changes. While he waits for his top executives to arrive for a board meeting, he looks through an old logbook, which he recently received from his dearly departed uncle Charlie. The log belonged to an ancestor named Captain Bob, a successful pirate. As Ed listens to his people talk about sales, he wonders how Captain Bob would handle the situation--and the pirate instantly appears!

This book is for managers who want to implement change through innovation and employee participation. Robert Garrow, who conducts workshops in management and leadership development and strategic thinking and planning, utilizes the world of pirates to explore three classic management themes: mission and strategy; quality, excellence, and productivity; and creativity and innovation. The twist that separates his book from all the others is a time-traveling pirate who uses his knowledge of what makes a successful pirate operation to help a company become more profitable and productive.

While I read this book, I couldn’t help but think how much more interesting all those staff meetings I endured would have been. I definitely would have paid more attention, and perhaps my employers wouldn’t have had to rehash the same topics year after year. My husband, who reads books like this all the time, enjoyed Ahoy Mates! He particularly liked the highlighting of tasks in boxes and the chapter summaries, or anchor points, which were concise and to the point. A good selection of references on creativity are included in an appendix, but my husband would have liked more references on leadership. Something I particularly liked was the presentation of pirate tactics to insure a successful attack!

Visit the Author's Web Site

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Jefferson's War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801-1805 by Joseph Wheelan

Cover Art: Jefferson's War
By Joseph Wheelan
Carroll & Graf, 2003, ISBN 0-7867-1232-5, $27.00

After centuries of warfare, privateering, and piracy, the Barbary States along the coast of North Africa imposed a national policy on all nations trading in the Mediterranean. Unless a country paid tribute to each state’s ruler, the Barbary corsairs attacked and plundered that nation’s maritime trade. Any crew and passengers aboard such vessels found themselves sold into slavery. As a fledgling nation, the United States had to decide whether to abide by these rules or cease trading in the region. In the waning years of the eighteenth century, many Americans were tired of war, and while the treasury could ill afford to negotiate and pay such demands, America paid the tributes. Thomas Jefferson felt the only way to deal with the Barbary States was to fight, and when he became President of the United States, that’s exactly what he did.

Jefferson felt war was the only way to deal with such blatant blackmail and terrorism. Although the country lacked much of a navy and few men experienced in waging war at sea and on hostile soil, he vowed America had not thrown off one tyrant only to submit to a lesser one. The ensuing Barbary War led to the establishment of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. It made men like Stephen Decatur national heroes, and proved to more powerful nations that America was a force to be reckoned with and respected.

Joseph Wheelan writes a compelling and keen account about a period in American history rarely studied in history books. He concisely lays out the framework that resulted in war, from introducing the key players, the history behind the war, the steps needed to defend the nation and her honor, and the warts that kept the war going far longer than it should have. He breathes life into the men who fought the war and those who suffered enslavement. They do not remain mere names on a page. Wheelan does all this without digressing into a diatribe on religion or cultural differences. Readers will go away with a better understanding of why fighting terrorism is necessary and why one country’s forefathers dared to take on the struggle against all odds.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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Treasure and Intrigue by Graham Harris

Cover Art: Treasure and Intrigue
By Graham Harris
Dundurn Press, 2002, ISBN 1-55002-409-4, $15.99 US, $22.99 Can

On 23 May 1701, Captain William Kidd was hanged for murder and piracy at Execution Dock in London. Prior to his death, he claimed to have buried treasure from the Queddah Merchant in the Indies, but that treasure has never been found. Or has it? Mr. Harris puts forth this thesis in this book, believing that the noblemen who backed Kidd's antipiracy venture retrieved the treasure several years after his death with the assistance of some of his crew, who bargained their knowledge in exchange for their lives.

At times the book seems like a collection of essays rather than having a natural progression from start to finish. The author discusses Kidd’s hanging, piracy in the Indian Ocean, the Adventure Galley, the seizure of the Queddah Merchant and her treasure, Kidd’s association with Robert Culliford (a pirate who was pardoned), seventeenth-century navigation, the Kidd-Palmer Charts (maps denoting where Kidd buried the treasure), William Dampier, Captain Charles Johnson, Kidd’s testimony and letters, and who recovered the treasure. Additional details can be found in the appendix, list of references, and index.

While Treasure and Intrigue is an interesting proposal about the whereabouts of Kidd’s treasure, and readily acknowledged as the author’s speculation, there are several points that may make the reader wary as to the veracity of the author’s thesis. First, he treats Captain Misson as a real person, even though no evidence exists that this pirate ever existed. Second, his claims clearly show his bias on the subject rather than keeping to the facts. Third, minor facts are omitted or inaccurate, such as when he lists how mariners died. He mentions that some were shipwrecked, swept overboard in storms, sunk in battle, or slain by pirates. What he doesn’t include is that the majority of mariners died from disease. An example of inaccuracy involves Kidd, who didn’t hang from a gallows with a trap door. Readers with a passion for treasure hunting and an interest in piracy, though, will enjoy this treasure hunt.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1480-1580

Cover Art: The Barbary Corsairs
By Jacques Heers
Translated by Jonathan North
Greenhill Books (UK) / Stackpole Books (US), 2003, ISBN 1-85367-552-0, $34.95

Although we refer to the pirates of the Barbary Coast as the Barbary Corsairs, 16th-century Christians never used those words. Instead they were Moors, Saracens, or on rare occasions, Africans. The Italians first coined the word “Barbary” around 1500, but used it to refer to any barbarian – a word that didn’t describe the Barbary Corsairs. Eventually, writers popularized the word and it became synonymous with the Barbary Corsairs, pirates who played a pivotal role in the holy war between Christians and Muslims.

The focus of the book is on the century in which the corsairs were at the height of their power. Six chapters unveil the story of the Barbary Corsairs: Before the Barbarossa Brothers, Lepanto, The Barbarossas and the Turks, The Africa of the Corsairs, Slavery, and War and Propaganda. The two most interesting chapters are the third, which provides eyewitness accounts of the cities and people, and the last, which discusses the myths and realities of the corsairs in literature. Throughout this insightful book, which is well researched and provides abundant resources for further study, the author incorporates anecdotes from primary sources to bring the past alive. Maps, black-and-white illustrations, and chronologies further assist the reader in understanding this important aspect of medieval history.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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The Billy Ruffian: the Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon, the Biography of a Ship of the Line, 1782-1836

Cover Art: The Billy Ruffian
By David Cordingly
Bloomsbury, 2003, ISBN 1-58234-193-1, $25.95

Sailors referred to this 74-gun Royal Navy ship of the line as the Billy Ruffian, but her actual name was Bellerophon, the hero who tamed Pegasus in Greek mythology. After her launch in 1786, she was the first to engage the French Navy in the Battle of the Glorious First of June.  She helped destroy the enemy fleet at the Battle of the Nile and fought in the Battle of Trafalgar. She blockaded the coast of France, and escorted convoys to and from North America, the Caribbean, and the Baltic. She brought Napoleon Bonaparte to England, then transferred him to the ship that took him into exile on St. Helena. In spite of such glorious honors, she served her final duty to her country as a prison hulk for murderers and thieves until her demise in 1836.

Sir Thomas Slade designed the plans upon which the Bellerophon was built at the shipyard owned by Edward Greaves on the River Medway in England. Wood from more than 3,000 oaks formed her hull and 2,700 sheets of copper protected that hull from the ravages of being at sea for long periods of time. When she put to sea, 550 officers and crew sailed aboard.  She proved to be one of the fastest ships in the navy.

What makes this biography so fascinating is that David Cordingly provides an intriguing look into the Age of Wooden Sail. This is not simply a recounting of a ship’s life--from the laying of the keel, to the battles she fought in, to the breaking up of her hull. Interspersed between birth and death, he examines the shipbuilding industry, the care and feeding of wooden ships, a seaman’s life, Lord Horatio Nelson, Napoleon’s rise and fall, and the monotony of a prisoner’s life.  Combined with the illustrations and extensive bibliography, The Billy Ruffian presents a compelling look into the British Navy during the Napoleonic Era.

Learn about Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson KB
Learn about Nelson and his Navy

Book Review Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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Splintering the Wooden Wall: The British Blockade of the United States, 1812-1815

Book Cover: Splintering the Wooden Wall
By Wade G. Dudley
Naval Institute Press, 2003, ISBN 1-55750-167-X, $32.95

The wooden wall refers to the ships that patrol the coasts of a country to curtail maritime commerce, the lifeblood of any nation. In 1812, the Royal Navy has mastered this strategy to perfection, having blockaded French ports in two wars. The fledgling nation, These United States, dares to declare war against the mightiest nation on sea and land. At the time the American Navy consists of a few ships. Those of the Royal Navy total 607. To bring a swift conclusion to the war, the British Admiralty institutes a blockade of the American coast from New England to the Gulf of Mexico.

The purpose of the blockade is to isolate American naval and commercial ports. The loss of trade will cause severe shortages among the populace. Also, the Royal Navy preys on enemy merchant vessels, seizing both the ship and the cargo, which impacts America’s imports and exports. According to Dudley, “The actual mechanics for blockading seem simple--sail back and forth off the port, watch for enemy naval activity, and seize all legal prey in sight.” Theory and reality collide, however. The logistics of carrying out the blockade and the geography of the United States make a simple order extremely complicated. Even so, naval historians have long believed that the British blockade “proved highly effective, pinning American naval forces in their ports, destroying virtually all American commerce.”

Wade Dudley, however, challenges that interpretation in this scholarly work about the blockade from its inception until after the Battle of New Orleans. He provides a comparative analysis of the naval blockade in theory and practice. Through the use of charts, maps, and illustrations developed from primary documentation, he demonstrates that the blockade was anything but successful.

Aside from providing an overview of blockading strategies and how they developed, Dudley examines each year of the war and how the Royal Navy accomplished or failed to accomplish its orders to erect a wooden wall. He also compares this blockade to two other British blockades, both against France. Sources are cited throughout the text and a substantial bibliography of primary and secondary resources are included.

While primarily a work that concentrates on the problems and effectiveness of this particular naval stratagem, the book looks at the privateers who play a significant role in the war, particularly on the side of the Americans. Readers will also find significant information about life at sea in the Royal Navy and during the Age of Sail.

Book Review Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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Sink or Be Sunk!

Cover Art: Sink or Be Sunk!
By Paul Estronza La Violette
Annabelle Publishing, 2002, ISBN 0-9673936-3-9, $24.95

Most people think of the Battle of New Orleans as a single battle, but in reality it consisted of a number of skirmishes that preceded the final battle on 8 January 1815. One that receives short shrift, but was of strategic and tactical importance to Andrew Jackson's victory, was a naval battle at St. Joe Pass on 14 December 1814.

Lieutenant Thomas Ap Catesby Jones, of the fledgling United States Navy, commands a fleet of gunboats patrolling the coastal waters from Mobile Bay to New Orleans. His primary mission is to observe, delay, and prevent any attempt by the Royal Navy to land troops in Louisiana. Whichever side controls New Orleans controls the Mississippi River, and will determine the outcome of the War of 1812. In late 1814, Jackson arrives in the city intent on preventing it from falling into enemy hands, even if he has to burn the city to do so.

Commander Nicholas Lockyer of His Majesty's Royal Navy receives orders from the fleet admiral to destroy the American gunboats no matter the cost. Previous attempts to control the region have come to naught and this is the British forces' last chance to gain the upper hand. Having played a role in those unsuccessful endeavors, Lockyer is keen to win this time around.

This retelling of the events leading up to and including this unusual naval engagement reads like a well-paced maritime novel. All primary players are introduced in such a way that they become three-dimensional beings and La Violette has done painstaking research to learn the details of these men's lives--before, during, and after the battle. Although the lack of a good copyedit is evident throughout the book, these minor flaws fail to detract from the engaging account of what transpired.

Piracy plays no part in this story, but those interested in Jean Laffite should take particular note of this book. The principal players crossed paths with Laffite and the Baratarians. Lockyer delivered the packet of letters to Laffite, offering him a captaincy in the Royal Navy and promising him other perks if he aided the British in their attempt to capture New Orleans. Jones participated in the destruction of Barataria after some New Orleanians doubted the authenticity of the British letters and Laffite's offer to aid the Americans. Commandant Daniel Todd Patterson, Jones' commanding officer, engineered the attack on Barataria and also enlisted Laffite's men to help crew the Carolina and the Louisiana prior to and during the Battle of New Orleans.

Read an Excerpt
View the Table of Contents

Book Review Copyright ©2003 Cindy Vallar

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Selkirk's Island: the True and Strange Adventures of the Real Robinson Crusoe

Cover Art: Selkirk's Island
By Diana Souhami
Harcourt, 2001, ISBN 0-15-100526-5

While Defoe’s Crusoe was fictional, Alexander Selkirk inspired the tale. In 1703 this Scotsman signed aboard William Dampier’s expedition to capture the Spanish treasure fleet. Obstacles and disagreements haunted the privateers from the start, and climaxed at an island over three hundred miles off the Chilean coast where Selkirk was marooned. He prayed the captain would return. Instead four years passed before another English ship ventured near the island.

This is a historical account of man’s survival on a remote island with only goats and seals for companions and nature and Spaniards for enemies. Yet, it goes far beyond a telling of Selkirk’s life. It is also the island’s story from its creation to the present day. Ms. Souhami also recounts the privateering ventures that led to Selkirk’s marooning and rescue. To complete the story, she relates how reality became fiction and what happened to those who encountered Alexander Selkirk throughout his life.

Well-researched and accompanied by passages from primary documents, the book is a spellbinding historical account that provides glimpses into the times and adventures of a marooned man who’s often lost in the myth created by Daniel Defoe. Winner of the 2001 Whitbread Biography Award.

Originally reviewed for Historical Novels Review, May 2002
Book Review Copyright ©2002 Cindy Vallar

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Hunting Pirate Heaven: In Search of the Lost Pirate Utopias of the Indian Ocean

Cover Art: Hunting Pirate Heaven
By Kevin Rushby
Walker & Company, 2001, ISBN 0-8027-1423-4, $25

To commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the New East India Company’s first voyage, Kevin Rushby decides to follow the routes of the pirates who preyed on these treasure-laden ships. His goal is to locate pirate havens long since forgotten around the western coast of Africa. The journey begins in Deptford, England and ends in Madagascar, where he hopes to locate some remnant of Libertalia, a pirate utopia discussed in Captain Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious Pyrates (1724).

This travelogue of Rushby’s journey details his thoughts, experiences, and historical background about the areas he visits. While he intersperses tidbits about the pirates into his tale, the majority of the narrative has little to do with piracy and much to do with the history and economics of western Africa, including the impact of the slave trade on the various populations. At one point he may have encountered modern-day pirates, but this episode is as murky as his quest for a utopia that may only exist within the pages of Johnson’s book. Hunting Pirate Heaven is an interesting journey to a part of the world rarely visited by most people, but Rushby’s conclusions came as no surprise.

Book Review Copyright ©2004 Cindy Vallar

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