Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Nonfiction
Admiral Sir Henry Morgan
Black Bart Roberts
Filibusters, Pirates & Privateers of the Early Texas Coast
From Forecastle to Cabin
Jean Laffite Revealed
Memoirs of Captain Sam Bellamy
The Notorious Captain Hayes
Pirates and Buccaneers of the Atlantic Coast
A Pirate of Exquisite Mind
Pirates of the Chesapeake
Sir Martin Frobisher
Treasure and Intrigue
The Whydah Pirates Speak
Admiral Albert Hastings Markham
Black Flag of the North
Dictionary of Pyrate Biography 1713-1720
Drake: For God, Queen, and Plunder
For God and Glory
If a Pirate I Must Be...
King of the Pirates
Lafitte the Pirate
The Last Days of Black Beard
The Life and Tryals of the Gentleman Pirate, Major Stede Bonnet
Man of War
The Pirate Hunter
The Pirates Laffite
Quest for Blackbeard
Real Canadian Pirates
Atrocities of the Pirates
The Barbary Pirates
The Best Pirate Stories Ever Told (includes some fiction)
Box Office Archaeology
The Buccaneer’s Realm
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and Their War Against Spain
Flying the Black Flag
The History of Newgate Prison
Hitler’s Secret Pirate Fleet
Ireland and the War at Sea 1641-1653
The Last Buccaneers in the South Sea 1686-1695
Lost Pirate Treasures of Saint Croix
Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits and Empires
A New Voyage Round the World
Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands
The Pirate Code
The Pirate Coast
The Pirate King
The Pirate Queen
The Pirate's Pocket-Book
Pirates: Predators at Sea
Pirates? The Politics of Plunder
Pirates and Privateers of the 18th Century
Pirates of Maryland
Pirates of the North Atlantic
Pirates on the Coasts of Peru 1598-1701
Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810-1830
A Privateer's Voyage Round the World
The Sack of Panama
Scourge of the Seas
Seafarers, Merchants & Pirates...Middle Ages
Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots
The Spanish Main 1492-1800
To the Walls of Derne
Treasure Island: The Untold Story
Trimming Yankee Sails
Under the Bloody Flag
Victory in Tripoli
Why We Love Pirates
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720
The Alliance of Pirates
At the Point of a Cutlass
The Barbary Wars
Black Flags, Blue Waters
Blackbeard's Last Fight
British Piracy in the Golden Age
British Pirates and Society, 1680-1730
Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates
Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers
Empire of Blue Water
The Everything Pirates Book
The Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy
How History's Greatest Pirates Pillages, Plundered, and Got Away with It
Hunting the Last Great Pirate
The Legal History of Pirates & Privateers
No Limits to Their Sway
Piracy: The Complete History
Pirate: The Golden Age
Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740
The Pirate Next Door
The Pirate Round
The Pirate Ship
The Pirate Soul
The Pirate World
Pirates: A History
Pirates: Truth and Tales
Pirates in the Age of Sail
Pirates in Their Own Words
Pirates of Barbary
Pirates of New England
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 Politics of Piracy
Privateers of the Americas
The Republic of Pirates
The Sea Rover's Practice
Vikings at War
Villains of All Nations
The World Atlas of Piracy
Blunders & Disasters at Sea
Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Eighteenth Century
Britain and the Ocean Road
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Catastrophe at Spithead
Command at Sea
Commanders of the Dutch East India Ships in the Eighteenth Century
Commodore Abraham Whipple of the Continental Navy
A Confederate Biography
Cornish Wrecking 1700-1860
The Cruise of the Sea Eagle
The Dictionary of British Naval Battles
East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages
East by Sea and West by Rail
8,000 Years...Maltese Maritime History
Fiddlers and Whores
French Warships in the Age of Sail, 1786-1861
The Gulf of Mexico
The Guide to America's Maritime History
Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry
How Britain Won the War of 1812
Hunting the Essex
In Pursuit of the Essex
Knights of the Sea
Life of a Smuggler
The Lost Story of the Ocean Monarch
A Mariner's Miscellany
Maritime Explorer...Age of Discovery
Maritime Museums of North America
Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
The Myth of the Press Gang
Naval Leadership and Management 1650-1950
The Naval Mutinies of 1797
Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects
The Real Jim Hawkins
The Riddle of the Caswell Mutiny
The Roles of the Sea in Medieval England
Shipping the Medieval Military
Shipwrecks...Treasures Outer Banks
Sink or Be Sunk!
The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
Splintering the Wooden Wall
Tales of the Seven Seas
The Terror of the Seas?
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 3
The Transformation of British Naval Strategy
The U. S. Navy Pictorial History of the War of 1812
View from the Masthead
Wolf of the Deep
Young Men and the Sea
1812: The Navy's War
Barons of the Sea
Bound for the East Indies
British Naval Captains of the Seven Years' War
Children at Sea
The Coffin Ship
Conquering the Pacific
Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail
The Dutch in the Medway
The Four Days' Battle of 1666
From Across the Sea
The Glorious First of June
History of Navigation
The History of the Port of London
HMS Victory: First Rate 1765
Hornblower's Historical Shipmates
How to Survive in the Georgian Navy
In the Shadow of Nelson
Inside the US Navy of 1812-1815
Jack Tar’s Story
Kings of the Sea
Lion in the Bay
The Lost Story of the William & Mary
Maritime Heritage ... Cayman Islands
Most Secret and Confidential
Mutiny on the Spanish Main
Nelson's Band of Brothers
Off the Deep End
The Palatine Wreck
The Royal Navy 1793-1800
The Shining Sea
Shipwrecks and Other Maritime Disasters of the Maine Coast
Ships of Oak Guns of Iron
Trading in War
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 2
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 4
Trafalgar Chronicle New Series 5
Tudor & Stuart Seafarers
Voyage to Jamestown
The War of 1812
The Way of the Ship
Whaling Captains of Color
What Ship, Where Bound?
Wooden Warship Construction
1812: A Nation Emerges
Ahoy Mates! Leadership Lessons ...
The Battle of New Orleans: "But for a Piece of Wood"
Convicts in the Colonies
Enemies of All Humankind
From Captives to Consuls
Government Manual for New Pirates
Hunting Pirate Heaven
The Last of the Great Swashbucklers
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
Pirate Ghosts & Phantom Ships
Pirates, Patriots, and Princesses
U.S. Navy Pirate Combat Skills
The War of the Spanish Succession
The Battle of New Orleans: A Bicentennial Tribute
British Pirates in Print and Performance
A Furious Sky
The Greatest Fury
Guide to Pirate Parenting
A Night at Devil's Tavern
The Pirate Primer
Pirates in History and Popular Culture
Raising Black Flags
Revolutionary War Law and Lawyers
American Privateers of the Revolutionary War
The Billy Ruffian
The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
Create Your Own Pirate Ship
Warships of the Ancient World 3000-500 BC
Warships of the Napoleonic Era
1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
American Privateers in the War of 1812
The Black Ship
Blackbeard's Sunken Prize
Bonhomme Richard vs. Serapis
Captain Kidd's Lost Ship
The Cutty Sark Pocket Manual
The Global Schooner
HMS Victory 1765-1812
The Master Shipwright's Secrets
The Pirate Ship 1660-1730
Sovereign of the Seas 1637
Spanish Galleon vs. English Galleon 1550-1605
Vasa: A Swedish Warship
The Barbary Corsairs
The Brutal Seas
Captives and Corsairs
Contemporary Maritime Piracy
Maritime Private Security
Piracy & Privateering ... Netherlands
Pirate of the Far East
Pirates of the 21st Century
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia
Saint-Malo Cap Horn
Violence at Sea
The War for Muddy Waters
|World & Modern
Contemporary...Piracy in Southeast Asia
Coping with Capture
The Desert and the Sea
Lords of the Sea
A Modern Plague of Pirates
The New Pirates
The Pirates of Somalia
Pirates, Terrorists, and Warlords
Private Anti-Piracy Navies
Skull and Saltire
Somalia, the New Barbary?
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson
X Marks the Spot
Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects
Nelson’s Navy in 100 Objects
By Gareth Glover
Frontline, 2021, ISBN 978-1-52673-132-6 US $49.95 / UK £25.00
reviewed by Irwin Bryan
Frontline, an imprint of Pen & Sword, has commissioned over two dozen coffee-table books of 100 Objects. While I am not familiar with any of the other books, I was certainly interested in this title and was curious to see which items would be presented and those that were omitted.
The result is a truly wonderful volume of naval history with gorgeous, mostly color, photographs. The author provides short essays regarding each chosen item to explain its significance. Some essays closely follow the objects shown while others are only casually related to the object.
Left: #68. Barrel of Salt Pork -- the weekly ration was 2 pounds (907 grams) per man
Right: #96. Lloyd's Patriotic Fund £100 Sword awarded for demonstrations of great valor
(Source: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects, used with permission from publisher)
There is no information about the selection policy of the objects or even who selected them. A former Royal Navy officer, Glover is a historian whose expertise on the Royal Navy and Napoleonic wars makes him a perfect choice to author this book. There is no apparent significance in being numbered object one or 100. After the first few items introduce organizations that controlled the Royal Navy, such as the Admiralty, Navy Board, and Transport Board, the remaining objects seem to be randomly distributed.
With 100 objects to evaluate, there are a few questionable items presented. I expected everything chosen would have been familiar to Admiral Nelson and pertain to the Royal Navy. Some objects do not meet that criterion. This includes a whaleship, a French explorer’s chronometer, and slave shackles. Then there are three items about HMS Trincomalee, a frigate not launched until 1817, twelve years after Nelson died. Two of these use the same photograph of the ship – one in color and one in black-and-white.
Some essays and pictures are also mismatches. The brig HMS Pickle has three pictures of three-masted vessels instead of two-masted brigs. The essay for the painting of the Battle of Basque Roads in 1809 tells all about fireships. Although fireships were used in the battle, the selected painting does not show any. One object is a captured water cask, but the essay is about fleet actions. “Contemporary View of the Naval Base at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1804” begins with the actual picture and a paragraph about the Halifax Station. The rest of the entry, however, concerns Bermuda and its base.
That said, many objects and their essays include information one might not expect or realize. An early example concerns the Royal Ordnance, which provided weapons to both the Army and Navy. The essay explains how foundry skills and technical expertise made cannons better and safer, but this also meant the Navy had no control over the weapons for the fleet.
The Gunpowder Magazine has a very detailed write-up that includes information about how much powder different barrels held and how much was needed for the various sized guns. Having a photo of the inside of this space provides an intimate view of a generally hidden place.
I expected to see some items that are not included. Although different cannons are shown, none of the implements used in loading and firing them are mentioned. The many ropes aboard ship need pulley blocks, belaying pins, and fife rails to manage these lines and control the sails. But these were also not chosen. At least, the inclusion of the Rope Walk at Chatham Dockyard explains how ropes were manufactured.
#18. HMS Victory's Gunpowder Magazine & Filling Room
(Source: Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects, used with permission from publisher)
Most people who are interested in the Royal Navy and Age of Sail will find Nelson’s Navy in 100 Objects a great introduction to many aspects of this time. There are objects from shipbuilding and the Royal Dockyards to feeding the crews and the provisions taken aboard each ship, as well as various armaments and weapons for boarding actions or repelling boarders. Whether someone comes across this book out on display or chooses to purchase it, they will enjoy the many photos and learning much about Nelson’s sailing navy.
Why We Love Pirates
Why We Love Pirates: The Hunt for Captain Kidd and How He Changed Piracy Forever
By Rebecca Simon
Mango, 2020, ISBN 978-1-64250-337-1, US $18.95
Have you ever read a book that holds your attention from beginning to end, but from time to time a statement strikes you as odd or wrong or leaves you wanting more clarification? Think about this while I introduce this recent addition to pirate lore.
Buried treasure. Eye patches. Peg legs. Walking the plank. These are but a few of the tropes we associate with pirates. Particularly those of the golden age of piracy. For the most part, these piratical associations are fictional and stem from a late 19th-century book – Treasure Island. So who were the real sea bandits and what did people think of them when they were most prevalent? How do they differ from their pop culture image? Is there one pirate, above all the rest, who most influenced those who came after him?
Dr. Simon believes Captain William Kidd “is responsible for pirates’ eternal fame in popular culture.” (20) He was ruthless, especially toward his own men, going so far as to kill one of them for defying him. He was a snappy dresser. He considered himself an honest man who got a bum rap. His actions, the worldwide manhunt he instigated, and the plethora of publications and rumors of buried treasure that he inspired serve as the intertwining thread of Why We Love Pirates. Simon’s goals are to investigate “piracy through the lens of Captain Kidd’s pirate life . . . discover exactly who pirates were and why people chose this profession . . . uncover the true story of Captain Kidd, and of how and why the British government sought to exterminate pirates at all costs . . . unbury how exploding print industry influenced public opinion about pirates and how cultural and social norms of the era made us love pirates so much. And . . . how their deaths gave them permanent infamy.” (21-22)
She begins by showing the complexity of one question: Who Were Pirates? This topic is not as simple as black and white. It depends on who was asked and what interaction they had, if any, with these marauders, as well as the historical events occurring at a specific time and place. From there, she delves into Captain Kidd, who he was, what he did, how he “became a martyr for the pirate community,” and the myths and legends that his exploits inspired. (57) Chapter three discusses government attempts to suppress piracy, as well as who the pirates were who came after Kidd. Subsequent chapters cover pirate codes, relationships, executions, alcohol, fake news and twisting facts to suit a purpose, execution sermons and last words, and portrayals in literature, film, and other media. The book also includes a Timeline of the Golden Age of Piracy, Cast of Characters, maps, illustrations, bibliography, and endnotes, but no index.
If you seek an introduction to the buccaneers and the pirates who followed them, this is an entertaining and engaging pirate history with contemporary quotes to illustrate the narrative. If you want to stimulate a lively discussion, Why People Love Pirates provides food for thought.
So why my opening question? There are several reasons. Some of Simon’s statements come across as facts when, in reality, they are assumptions that cannot be proven one way or the other. One example: she asserts that Anne Bonny and Mary Read were gay. There’s no historical proof of this. It’s a hypothesis that some historians believe and others do not. A few other sentences left me scratching my head. For example, she writes that Stede Bonnet “suffered a leg injury during his first battle alongside Blackbeard and was lame for the rest of his life.” (109) No other resource I’ve read over the past twenty years mentions this fact, and Simon doesn’t provide her source for this information.
Another reason for my reservations pertains to inaccurate statements, especially those pertaining to Captain Kidd, the underlying theme for this book. Most readers won’t pick up on these, but those familiar with pirate history will. Captain Kidd did not work for the British East India Company, although his commission to hunt pirates included those who preyed on their ships and one of his financial backers was the director of the New East India Company. After Kidd attacked the Quedagh Merchant, the book says that “as a compromise [the crew] let some of the hostage crew leave on the Adventure Galley. The ship immediately set sail to England to deliver the news.” (68) Kidd and his men sailed Adventure Galley back to Madagascar, where she was beached and burned because she was no longer seaworthy. Nor was he immediately arrested when he arrived in Boston in1699. He got there on 1 July, heard the Reverend Cotton Mather’s sermon on 2 July, met with Lord Bellomont on 3 July, and was finally taken prisoner on 6 July. His commission did not allow him to attack Dutch ships as stated on page 73; at the time, England’s king was Dutch and the two countries were allies. The commission gave Kidd the authority to attack French ships, which is why the passes he confiscated from the Quedagh Merchant were so important for his defense. Robert Culliford did not hang “for being associated with Kidd.” (150) Culliford got off scot-free after testifying against another pirate and disappeared from the historical record. Kidd was executed with one of his men and two French pirates.
Still, Simon achieves the goals outlined in her introduction. You may not agree with all her conclusions, but she is persuasive and spurs you to delve deeper into the real history of pirates.
Jean Laffite Revealed: Unraveling One of America’s Longest-running Mysteries
by Ashley Oliphant and Beth Yarbrough
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-946160-72-0, $20.00
Jean Laffite was a master of deception. He muddied the water to such an extent that separating truth from fiction is a monumental undertaking – one that often leads to disagreement among historians as to which “truth” is real. His time in New Orleans and Galveston is well documented, but even 200 years later some mysteries remain, especially as regards his life once he departed Texas. The authors of Jean Laffite Revealed believe that they have unearthed the truth about this period and it is up to readers to read and weigh the evidence in order to determine whether their hypothesis is correct.
Their search for Jean Laffite actually sprang not from an interest in this “gentleman pirate,” but from tales of another man, Lorenzo Ferrer, who lived in Lincolnton, North Carolina, from 1839 until his death in 1875 at the age of 96. Supposedly, this man was really Laffite. This book is a culmination of their research, detailing how they backtracked his true identity and what documentary evidence they uncovered to support their suppositions.
To conduct their research, they followed the protocol of any scholarly research, but they chose to write in the vernacular of a wider audience. As they pen in their preface, “Prepare yourself for one of the most unbelievable yet verifiably true stories you can imagine, a tale complete with international Freemason plots, double agents, explorers charging into open frontier, jail breaks, miraculous rescues, faked deaths, shady financial scams, and murder – all of it hinging upon control of the Gulf of Mexico and the sustainability of one of the most effective black market operations the United States has ever known. Parts of our hypothesis contradict commonly accepted Laffite historical chronology and challenge long-held beliefs about what ultimately happened to him. . . . Hang on to your hat because this is not our mama’s sleepy history book.” (xii)
Their investigation is divided into three parts. Part I summarizes the known facts about Laffite during his years as a pirate/privateer. They sift through two centuries of the best published resources to recount his life in Louisiana, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. Part II concerns when Ferrer first appears in Mississippi, since before then they find no documentary evidence to prove his existence. This section also discusses connections he made that eventually bring him to North Carolina, which is the subject of Part III. Here is where they delve into their theory and demonstrate that contemporaries of Ferrer’s began speculating about his true identity in the nineteenth century.
In addition to the narrative, the authors include a sampling of the documents they collected during their search. Unfortunately, the poor quality of some of these copies makes it difficult to see what they saw. Several appendices and endnotes are included, as is a list of the works they cite. The preface does include a cast of characters. What is missing is an index, which would make it easier for other researchers to find information.
This book requires readers to make a leap of faith, yet there is one segment for which there is no documentation in support of their hypothesis. It is this gap that is the most telling. Whether Laffite died at sea following a battle or he survived and lived a long life remains a matter of debate and conjecture. Since they have been unable to find any proof of Ferrer’s existence prior to his arrival in Mississippi, they believe he is Laffite. Yet there is no definitive evidence to prove this. They do point out similarities between these two men, who may well have known some of the same people. They did turn up an interesting clue in one letter that could be a code name for Laffite.
Jean Laffite Revealed is an interesting addition to Laffite history. Each reader must decide the veracity of what is proposed. The strengths of this book are the depth of research that the authors conducted and that they recognize this as a starting point for other seekers who wish to prove their hypothesis. This is also a great resource for those seeking information on North Carolina history and genealogy.
Review Copyrighted © 2021 Cindy Vallar
Elizabeth's Sea Dogs and Their War Against Spain
By Brian Best
Frontline, 2021, ISBN 978-1-52678-285-4, US $34.95 / UK £19.99
reviewed by Irwin Bryan
This new book is the latest in centuries of works about the English Sea Dogs who preyed on the wealth of Spain, including John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Martin Frobisher. Drake was a memorable figure in his own lifetime. He was known to his Spanish enemies as El Draco, "the Dragon." The English came to know him as a stalwart defender of Queen Elizabeth's realm.
Other leading men in England also took to the sea against Spanish ships and lands. For the most part, their stories are presented in chronological order starting with Hawkins and his young nephew, Drake. With so much treasure being produced in the Americas, there were several ways and varied locations to strike a blow and become rich in the process. Along the coasts they plundered unprotected merchant ships, headed into the jungle to ambush a silver mule train, or confronted a treasure galleon at sea with broadsides and boarders.
Drake's own rise to shipowner and captain of his own vessel shows how he prepared to lead an expedition into the South Seas. He was only the second person to oversee a circumnavigation of the the world, and the first leader to complete the trip. Unlike the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who died during his attempt, Drake's primary focus was to capture a Manila galleon. He returned to England a hero.
With knowledge of the Spanish intentions to send an armada against England, a preemptive strike on Cadiz was planned. Under Drake, a small fleet of ships carrying troops and supplies attacked and caused great damage and destruction to the vessels already gathered at the Spanish port. Coastal shipping was plundered and destroyed, including a full cargo of the staves and wood for building barrels. This critical loss helped postpone the Great Armada until the spring of 1588.
The author relates the actions against Spain and aftermath of the armada in a clear and complete manner. Other Englishmen who campaigned on land or sea have their own stories told, but only Hawkins, Drake, and Thomas Cavendish get their own chapters. The deaths of Hawkins and Drake are presented and the death of their queen in 1603 ends the story.
Black-and-white pictures depict the people and places mentioned in the text. Some maps and illustrations are also included. There is a brief bibliography and index.
This appears to be a well-researched tale, but without any notes or cited sources there is no way to know if what is presented is truth or conjecture. There are some statements in the text that I was not familiar with. These include that Drake's first ship was seized and destroyed by the Spanish, and that San Domingo in the "Dominican Republic . . . was the seat of government for the Spanish Main." (20) (I have since verified the latter.)
As sea stories go, there is enough that occurs on a ship or during a voyage for this qualify as one. This book is ideal for someone unfamiliar with the history of these times or the ways of the sea. Much of England's post-medieval history is clearly told, such as the court intrigue and different people trying to ascend to the English throne. Anyone interested in this era or the early Age of Sail should consider this the perfect introduction to read before England's enemies shift to the Dutch and French.
From Captives to Consuls: Three Sailors in Barbary and Their Self-Making Across the Early American Republic, 1770-1840
By Brett Goodin
Johns Hopkins University, 2020, ISBN 978-1-4214-3897-9, US $49.00
The early days of a fledgling nation are a time of birth and rebirth, a time to establish both the identity of one’s nation and an individual. Such was the case when the United States shed its colonial yoke and emerged into a world where national character and liberty were relatively new concepts. It was also a time when the definition of manliness and intrusions into society’s hierarchical elite began to evolve. Freedom, however, came with consequences, one of which involved the hazards of maritime trade. Before the revolution, American sailors were protected by British treaties. After the war, seamen found themselves fair game for the corsairs who prowled the Mediterranean in search of slaves because the United States hadn’t paid annual tributes to safeguard their citizens. Three such Americans were Richard O’Brien (1758-1824), James Cathcart (1767-1843), and James Riley (1777-1840), who found themselves in this predicament. During their servitude, they had to learn to adapt and redefine themselves in order to survive. Each was eventually ransomed and published a narrative about his time and suffering in Algiers. From Captives to Consuls examines their experiences and writings to showcase how adaptation and reanalysis allowed them to weather captivity, as well as to subsist once they returned home to a country where nationhood, masculinity, and liberty continued to change.
From Captives to Consuls, the most recent title in the Studies in Early American Economics and Society series, is divided into six chapters that explore these men’s ability to adapt during the evolution of these three key concepts.
Introduction: Victims of American IndependenceGoodin examines their lives before, during, and after captivity, as well as their narratives. He shares snippets from their correspondence, diaries, and government reports, and, when history is scarce, he supplements these with examples from other captivity narratives. He also incorporates maps and pictures into the text and includes an Essay on Sources, endnotes, and an index.
1. Farmers, Privateers, and Prisoners of the Revolution
2. Diaries of Barbary Orientalism and American Masculinity in Algiers
3. Captivity in Correspondence
4. From Captives to Consuls and Coup-Makers
5. Accidentally Useful and Interesting to the World
6. Sailing the Inland Sea
Conclusion: Opportunities of Empire
This is not an exploration of maritime history or piracy; rather, it is an insightful and scholarly analysis of what it meant to be a self-made American at a time when the nation and its place in the world were being defined. These three sailors who sold into slavery serve as the anchor that allows Goodin to accomplish this. O’Brien and Cathcart were taken when their ships were captured, but Riley became a slave after the ship he commanded wrecked on the African coast. After their releases, they became authors, diplomats, and politicians. Goodin deftly demonstrates how these men, time and again, overcame adversity to their benefit, showing others that it was possible to better themselves contrary to the prior belief that they must remain in the station of life into which they were born.
Meet the author
Read Riley's Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce
Read O'Brien's Remarks and Observations in Algiers
Read Cathcart's The Captives
Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar
Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars
By Jamie L. H. Goodall
History Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-4671-4116-1, US $23.99
Also available in e-book formats
Sometimes people turn to piracy strictly because they want easy money. Other times they are driven to piracy. The latter is what happened to the first documented pirate of the Chesapeake Bay, a man named William Claiborne. His felonious activities occurred during the 1630s and are discussed in the introduction to Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay. Contrary to what this title suggests, Goodall describes her book as “a collection of stories that follow some of the Chesapeake’s most notorious pirates and valiant privateers and the local residents, merchants and government officials who aided, abetted and sometimes captured them.” (23) Her goals in bringing these individuals together in a single volume are to (a) identify who took part in these piratical acts and what role did they play; (b) locate where the nefarious exploits occurred; (c) explain why the Chesapeake Bay was both a haven and a target of piracy; and (d) identify what caused the depredations in this 200-mile region that extends from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Virginia Beach, Virginia to be suppressed. Of course, this supposes that all the depredations described within are acts of piracy. In actuality, they are not.
To achieve these objectives, she divides the book into five time periods: colonial (1630-1750), the Revolutionary War (1754-1783), the War of 1812 (1805-1815), the Civil War (1860-1865), and the Oyster Wars (1865-1959). (The latter is really about poaching, rather than piracy, although contemporary newspapers referred to those involved as “pirates.”) The majority of people mentioned will be unknown to most readers: Richard Ingle, Joseph Wheland Jr., George Little, John Yates Beall, and William Frank Whitehouse, among many others. A few – Lionel Delawafer (better known as Lionel Wafer, the pirate surgeon), William Kidd, Sam Bellamy, and Thomas Boyle, for example – are often discussed in books about pirates and privateers. Readers will also find a timeline of major conflicts, maps, pictures, glossary, notes, bibliography, and index.
This is an interesting summary of piratical and privateering activity in a vital, but often overlooked, region that introduces readers to individuals rarely discussed in other maritime history books. That said, some missteps call into question this historian’s research. For example, on page 36, the vivid description of a body gibbeted in May 1699 in the Thames River is identified as being that of Captain Kidd. Four pages later, the text reads, “On May 23, 1701, Kidd ultimately met his fate at the end of the hangman’s noose.” (In 1699, Kidd was in American colonial waters trying to clear his name after sailing the Quedah Merchant to the West Indies.) On page 45, Sam Bellamy’s first victim is identified as the Whidah. He had already captured at least two vessels the previous year after going on the account. In fact, when he captured the Whidah, he was aboard the Sultana, which he had taken in December 1716. Nor did the pirates run Whidah aground, as stated on page 47. A severe nor’easter drove her ashore. The final paragraph states: “Sam Bellamy and his few surviving crewmembers were imprisoned, condemned and executed for piracy. They met their makers at the end of the hangman’s noose.” While several members of Bellamy’s crew were hanged, Bellamy was not one of them and they weren’t aboard Whidah at the time that she sank. He died in the shipwreck. Only two men survived Whidah’s sinking; Thomas Davis was acquitted while John Julian was sold into slavery.
Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar
Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks and People, 1297-1825
By Ian Friel
Pen & Sword, 2020, ISBN 978-1-52673-836-3, UK £25.00 / US $49.95
Also available in e-book formats
If you seek information about shipwrecks, this book isn’t for you. If your interest lies in the victims and survivors of such wrecks, you’re likely to find more information in other volumes. If, however, you want a fascinating and outside-the-norm presentation of British maritime history, Britain and the Ocean Road may prove the perfect cup of tea. Presented in a chronological sequence, beginning in 1297 and ending in 1825, this first in a two-volume set explores that history using a particular shipwreck of a specific period as a facet of the development of the country’s dominance of the sea. Yet it’s not just a tale about ships and oceans; it’s also the story of England through the centuries, as well as her place on the world stage. Nor does it omit the people who played various roles in that history. During the voyage, readers discover tidbits about the oceans, weather, trade, naval warfare, and merchant shipping.
The first chapter, “Wine, Herrings and Blood,” discusses medieval seafaring, which was a combination of naval, merchant, and piratical shipping. It explores the rise of the Cinque ports, as well as the Anglo-French war during King Edward I’s reign that culminated in the destruction of the St Cross and twenty-two vessels from Great Yarmouth in 1297.
“Flimsy Cells” examines ships and pilgrims making their way to and from the Holy Land in 1446. Little is known about the men who died or the Cog Anne, one of the few ships to sail directly to the Mediterranean, and her final voyage. This necessitates the use of other firsthand accounts to recount what pilgrims endured on their inbound and outbound journeys during the Middle Ages.
The story of Henry VII’s royal warship Regent and the origins of the Royal Navy are the focus of chapter three, “Like a Volcano.” She was one of the earliest vessels built specifically to wage war at sea, and her size necessitated a new shipyard that eventually became the Portsmouth Naval Base. The chapter is principally about the development and technological advancements during a period when sailors, soldiers, and gunners comprised the crew of a warship. Life at sea, conditions aboard ship, and wages earned are also discussed, as is the Regent’s demise during the Battle of St. Mathieu in 1512.
“Trade, Not War” tells the story of the expansion of British commercial shipping beyond the Atlantic. The pride of the infant East India Company (EIC), Trade’s Increase, was the largest merchantman when she was launched in 1609. Five years later, she was gone, but it was merely the last in a series of stumbles that began on that day. Her birth and loss serve as the backdrop for exploring the rise of London as the dominant port in foreign trade, the origins and early years of various trade companies, and what it was like to be a sailor serving aboard an EIC ship.
The latter half of the seventeenth century is the age of buccaneers and chapter five uses “The Pirates of the Resolutions” to delve into piracy in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
“Line of Battle” is the focus of chapter six, which uses the 74-gun Berwick to discuss the similarities and differences between the Royal Navy and France’s Revolutionary navy between 1795 and 1805. The reason this particular ship stands out is because she began life as a British warship, but was captured in 1795 and taken into the French navy, only to be retaken at Trafalgar a decade later.
Chapter seven relates the story of “The Middle Passage” through the last voyage of the slave ship Eliza in 1806. With her colonies, England was a significant player in the selling of slaves, but Friel also shows that some Africans played complicit roles in these transactions. This chapter covers the voyages between Africa and the Caribbean, Liverpool’s rise as a center for the trade, conditions aboard the ships, Olaudah Equiano and John Newton, the abolition of the slave trade, and the Royal Navy’s role in suppressing slavery.
The final chapter, “‘In the very silence there is a deadness’,” recounts the story of HMS Fury. The difference between her voyage, which takes place in 1825, and the better-known Franklin Expedition two decades later, is that Captain William Parry and all but two of his men made it home. History has forgotten both him and the Fury while remembering the disappearance of Franklin’s, even though both dared to explore the Arctic’s unforgiving conditions in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage.
Throughout the book, Friel provides “see” references so readers know where certain information is discussed in greater detail or where pictures can be found. He includes maps, engravings, artwork, photographs, and diagrams. Nautical terms are described within the text, allowing readers to understand without having to search for a glossary. Also provided are endnotes, an index, and a bibliography.
The author’s purpose in writing this book is to introduce lay readers to England, the British, and the maritime world in which they played significant roles over the course of centuries. This volume covers the Middle Ages through Britain’s climb to the pinnacle of maritime dominance. The second volume, slated for release in May 2021 and entitled Breaking Seas, Broken Ships, will cover the years 1854 through 2007. It will examine not only the decline of Britain’s control of the seas, but also how humans have impacted that environment.
While Friel uses shipwrecks as the focal point of each chapter, readers need to understand three things about the use of this word. Here, “shipwreck” simply means a ship that is lost. Second, the known information about the individual vessels may be scant. Third, few people will be familiar with these ships. While each chapter teaches facets of Britain’s maritime history, often including tidbits rarely addressed in more thorough accounts of the subject, the author succeeds to greater and lesser extents in providing a riveting maritime history while teaching readers about the people, ships, dangers, and environment in which this history has evolved. For example, chapter two suffers from an excess of repetition and, while the discussion on pilgrims and pilgrimages is interesting, it’s not until the final paragraph that readers understand the true significance of the topic’s inclusion in this book: “English ships would not transport large numbers of passengers again until the seventeenth century, with the exception of soldiers carried for military campaigns.” (39) Chapter three provides the best demonstration of how shipwrecks serve as a device to discuss a grander topic under a unifying theme. Of all the chapters, seven provides the most information about the ship highlighted in the chapter title, although modern thoughts and opinions infiltrate the historical recounting. Chapter eight focuses specifically on the ship and the expedition, yet digresses into a discussion on the contact with and treatment of the Inuits.
Of the eight chapters included in the book, chapter five is perhaps the weakest. Much of the information provided here comes from the testimonies of seven pirates. Assumptions more than historical facts are provided to readers, and not all of the assumptions are correct. The reason that the captured pirates were transported to London in 1684 had nothing to do with authorities feeling that that city was the better place to hold their trial. The law said that all pirates had to be transported to London to face an admiralty court, and admiralty courts weren’t established in the colonies until 1701. Nor was it surprising for pirates to elude the hangman’s noose; in fact, prior to Henry Every’s capture of the Gang-i-Saway in 1695, captured pirates were rarely executed. The pirates in this chapter seem to acquire items through purchase rather than pillaging, and while pirates found that slave ships made tempting targets, they were more inclined to convert them into pirate ships than sail in consort with slavers. This chapter, by recounting the tale of three ships named Resolution and her four captains and their crews, supposedly reflects common piracy during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. This may be true during the 1600s, but there are many other pirates and their ships, some of which became shipwrecks, that would be more reflective of the golden age. Also, there were decided differences between the buccaneers of the seventeenth century and the pirates of the eighteenth. As for the inclusion of information about modern-day pirates, that information belongs in the second volume rather than being included in this chapter.
Those readers who venture within the pages of this book will find it readable and, at times, engrossing. No prior knowledge of maritime history is needed, because Friel does a commendable job entwining the necessary background information with the maritime history. Britain and the Ocean Road is perfect for anyone seeking information on English history from less common perspectives. Along the way, don’t be surprised if you discover answers to questions that you’ve not uncovered solutions to in reading other maritime texts.
Review Copyrighted ©2021 Cindy Vallar
Pirates of the North Atlantic
By William S. Crooker
Nimbus, 2019, ISBN 978-1-4930-5136-6, US $18.95 / UK £14.95
e-book ISBN 978-1-4930-5156-4, US $18.00 / UK £13.95
Many accounts of piracy focus on the period in which these sea marauders were the most prolific (1650 to 1730) and in the region where they were most prevalent (the Caribbean). Crooker shows that this was neither their only hunting ground nor the only time when they prowled. They also plied their “trade” in the North Atlantic along America’s eastern seaboard. He introduces readers to pirates of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries who left indelible footprint on history, with particular emphasis on those whose attacks took place in Canadian waters.
Some of the pirates included in this volume are well-known: Edward Low, Blackbeard, William Kidd, and Bartholomew Roberts. Others are lesser-known, but still conspicuous for one reason or another: John Phillips, Edward and Margaret Jordan, Samuel Hall, Thomas Pound, and Peter Easton and Henry Mainwaring. A trio of incidents are remembered for what occurred on ships – Saladin, Mary Celeste, and Zero – rather than for the pirates themselves. A fourth chapter involves a piratical mystery on Canada’s Isle Haute and the maritime historian and pirate raconteur, Edward Rowe Snow.
This is the second edition of the book, which was originally published in 2004, and includes a glossary, occasional illustrations, and a bibliography, but no index. As the back cover claims, this is “a thrilling collection of stories,” yet it is not without a few imperfections. Crooker presents the myth of Blackbeard having thirteen wives as fact. He states that the Royal Navy’s encounter with Bartholomew Roberts took place in the West Indies; in reality, it occurred off the west coast of Africa. The chapter on Thomas Pound, who pretended to be a pirate to free an imprisoned governor and ended up becoming an actual pirate, is a bit confusing to follow. While the mystery of the Mary Celeste still fascinates readers, this chapter provides no evidence of piracy; one sentence near the end merely mentions that rumors and suspicions existed.
Even so, Pirates of the North Atlantic is one of the rare accounts of piracy in northern waters available today. It also provides information on the gruesome deeds of Canadian pirates, who are mostly ignored by other authors. Crooker entertains and informs readers with accounts of greed, mutiny, murder, barbarity, and a touch of romance.
Pirates: The Truth Behind the Robberies of the High Seas
By Nigel Cawthorne
Arcturus, 2019, ISBN 978-1-78950-844-4, US $9.99 / UK £7.90
Also available in e-book formats
Since the first trading boats traveled by sea, piracy has plagued mankind. As early as 694 BC an Assyrian king attempts to suppress the marauding, but still it continues. More than one man, including Miguel de Cervantes, suffers because of pirates. Whether in the past or today, these sea rogues endanger passengers and seamen alike, yet of all the various time periods in which it has been rife, piracy reached its zenith from the west coast of Africa to the Spanish Main, from Canadian waters to the South Seas during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This historical period, often referred to as the “golden age,” is the focus of this book.
Unlike many volumes on these pirates, this one opens with the victims. It includes some firsthand accounts, such as those experienced by victims of George Lowther or Aaron Smith – a man who tangled with pirates twice, was forced to accompany one group, and was tried three times for piracy.
From there, the book delves into privateering and the buccaneers. This period begins with Jean Fleury’s astounding capture of Spain’s treasure-laden ships – an event that confirmed rumors of fantastic wealth and spurred other countries to explore for these riches. According to the subheading within privateering, those of England are featured. Yet half the chapter focuses on the French Huguenots, while the remainder concentrates on the exploits of Sir Francis Drake, concluding with a snippet about the Dutch, especially Piet Heyn.
Other chapters examine Port Royal, the weapons and ships of the pirates, what life was like for one of these marauders, the lure of oriental riches, tactics, and attempts to stop piratical depredations. The usual suspects can be found within these pages – Bartholomew Roberts, William Kidd, and Blackbeard to name a few – as well as lesser-known ones, such as Charles Gibbs, Robert Waal, and François le Clerc (better known as Pie de Palo or Peg Leg). Mention is also made of two primary sources: Captain Johnson’s A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates and Alexandre Exquemelin’s Bucaniers of America.
This is a highly readable introduction to piracy. The majority of the presented information is factual, although source citations are omitted for the most part. Readers should be aware, however, that there are occasional statements that aren’t true or supported by facts. For example, not everyone believes that Daniel Defoe and Captain Johnson are one and the same; in fact, there is supporting evidence to suggest someone else as the author. Or that Blackbeard frequently strangled and tossed his female victims overboard; in reality, there is little historical evidence to support such violence, although he was a master of intimidation. A third example is the blanket statement that the majority of pirates were homosexuals without any supporting documentation to back up this claim.
In spite of these caveats, Pirates is an entertaining and informative romp through the golden age of piracy. Additional kudos to the author for giving victims first priority in this account, when many volumes often give them secondary or even lesser attention. Combined with a list of titles for further reading, an index, and occasional pictures, Pirates is also a good jumping off point for readers who want to dip their toes into the history of sea marauders before diving deeper.
Meet the author
Review Copyrighted ©2020 Cindy Vallar
Catastrophe at Spithead: The Sinking of the Royal George
By Hilary L. Rubinstein
Seaforth, 2020, ISBN 978-1-5267-6499-7, $32.00 / £25.00
reviewed by Irwin Bryan
This new book looks at a tragic incident that befell a Royal Navy ship of the line in August 1782. The heavy loss of life included the families of crewmen and members of the public, who were visiting the ship at its home port.
The Royal George was Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s flagship, and sadly, he was also lost. His career included several naval battles, and he was an innovator whose improvements to flag signals greatly expanded the words and phrases which could be sent between ships.
The opening chapter details the design and construction of the Royal George and how she was armed with 100 guns. The loss of the ship is described along with some eyewitness reports of the tragedy. But it is the loss of Kempenfelt that is chiefly lamented here.
Admiral Kempenfelt’s life and service history are detailed in the next three chapters. (Although his future flagship is present at some of his battles, it is only the Admiral’s story that is told.) On 7 April 1782, his flag was hoisted on Royal George. After a few months off Brest, an outbreak of illness caused his fleet to return to England. On 14 August, they arrived at Spithead, the fleet anchorage. Fifteen days later, the ship was lost.
Only after this eighty-page biography does the author go into greater detail regarding the ship’s demise. Why and how she sank is explained, and many survivors’ stories are shared. These tell what those final seconds aboard were like for those who survived. There was a frenzied attempt to launch boats by the other ships in the fleet in an effort to save lives; most individuals who escaped the wreck drowned because they could not swim. The eyewitness accounts identify where each was at the time of the sinking, what they were doing, and how they came to be rescued. These survivors were from the Royal George’s crew and officers; family and visitors belowdecks had no chance to escape the tragedy.
Whenever a naval vessel was lost, a court-martial was held to investigate what happened and determine who and/or what were responsible for the loss. At the court-martial delving into the loss of the Royal George, Waghorn, the ship’s captain, gave a prepared statement describing the circumstances that led to the loss. He claimed neither negligence nor impropriety led to the sinking. (His entire statement is included in the text.) Acting Lieutenant Durham, as officer of the watch, also testified at the court-martial. The proceedings, as well as the court’s judgement, are discussed in the book’s next chapter.
There is also a more detailed and scientific look into the catastrophe. This includes what the nearby ships’ logs say about the sea and wind conditions at the time, whether there were possible defects known about the vessel – other than that which was being addressed when the tragedy occurred – and what it might have taken to cause or prevent what happened.
Rubinstein shares poems written, and memorials erected to honor and remember the ship, her admiral, and her crew. Although there were many plans and attempts to raise the ship over the years, none came to fruition; only some of her cannons were ever brought to the surface.
Along with the text, a color plate section includes diagrams and illustrations of the ship’s plans and construction, the Royal George in action and the day she was lost, and portraits of the admiral and Acting Lieutenant Durham. A section of notes and an extensive bibliography are followed by the index.
Here is a book with a lot of appeal for those interested in the Royal Navy, the Age of Sail, and shipwrecks. I would have preferred to learn more about the ship’s history and less about the admiral’s career. Events are described clearly and without technical jargon. Anyone fortunate enough to read this book will gain a complete understanding of this historical event and the tragedy that ensued.
The War for Muddy Waters
The War for Muddy Waters: Pirates, Terrorists, Traffickers, and Maritime Insecurity
By Joshua Tallis
Naval Institute Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-68247-420-4, US $34.95
To truly understand this book’s content, it is essential to understand three points. First, the term “maritime security” lacks a definitive meaning; it connotes one thing to some, another thing to others, depending on who is explaining what it encompasses. Second, the word “littoral” once referred to the water surrounding a nation’s coast. At one time this extended three miles from the shore; later that distance was extended to twelve. But it encompasses more than just the water, coming to incorporate a portion of the land, people, and economy near the water. For example, if a littoral extends 200 miles inland, this means that “75 percent of the world’s population, 80 percent of capital cities, and practically ‘all major centres of international trade and military power’” lay within this littoral, which turns this area into a more inviting target for terrorists and other criminals. (3)
Third, “broken windows theory” is a way of explaining the connection between the growth of crime in and the decay of urban neighborhoods. For example, if the window of an establishment is broken and then repaired, those who live there take pride in their community and flourish. If, however, the broken window is not repaired, it can lead to other windows being broken, a lack of caring, a growth of fear in the inhabitants, and a rise in crime because those breaking the law know there is little or no policing. What the author attempts to do in this book is to apply broken windows theory to littoral regions of the world to show that this criminological principle can be effectively applied to maritime security and thus, provide those tasked with maritime security, such as the United States Navy, with an out-of-the-box method of addressing a danger that all nations already do or will face in the future.
In the past, the navy’s traditional role has been to safeguard its nation’s interests at sea and far from land. This is no longer the case, since nowadays the highest threats impacting nations can be found much closer to home. For example, Tallis recounts the November 2008 attack on Mumbai, India when Pakistani terrorists hijacked a fishing trawler, killed the captain, and successfully infiltrated the city and killed 100 people and wounded many more.
But applying a theory originally deemed as an appropriate means of policing crime, doesn’t automatically make it applicable to addressing issues of maritime security. This is what Tallis sets out to do in this book. He shows how this theory can be and has been applied to trafficking crimes, as well as how it can impact other types of crimes, such as money laundering and corruption, that are integral to successful criminal enterprises. Then he tests his hypothesis by showing how it can be applied to two regions where maritime piracy threatens maritime security. To achieve his goals of showing that broken windows theory is applicable and to spark new conversations in strengthening maritime security, he begins by exploring the current literature on maritime security and the challenges strategists face. Then he focuses on the theory itself and elucidates the key themes of the book.
The second part of the book focuses on the Caribbean and the trafficking of cocaine and crimes tangentially connected to drug smuggling. By the conclusion of these three chapters he successfully provides readers with the necessary foundation to test his conclusions in part three, where he integrates piracy into the broken windows theory. This section is divided into two chapters, one that examines West African piracy – a relatively new region for this crime – and then moves to Southeast Asia, which has been combatting piracy with varying degrees of success for centuries.
Tallis readily admits that his book isn’t geared toward the general lay reader. He identifies his audience as being either researchers or naval strategists. This doesn’t make the material less interesting to other readers, but it is written in a more academic style than a down-to-earth book on modern maritime piracy, such as John Burnett’s Dangerous Waters or Jay Badahur’s The Pirates of Somalia. What makes The War for Muddy Waters an invaluable addition to collections on modern piracy is that Tallis uses a different approach to examine and address dangers that navies and nations face today and in the future. Since pirates and terrorists have access to modern technologies and tend to think outside normal parameters to achieve their goals, it makes sense that those who study maritime security issues and devise strategies to address these issues should do so as well.
Review Copyrighted ©2020 by Cindy Vallar
The Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History
By John S. Sledge
South Carolina Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-64336-014-0, US $29.99
Since 1550 this body of water, which contains over 600 quadrillion gallons and ranks tenth in size worldwide, has been known as el Golfo de Mexico or the Gulf of Mexico. It began to form when the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart approximately 200,000,000 years ago, but the oval-like shape we recognize formed far more recently (5,000 to 10,000 years). Today, it covers 600,000 square miles and its shores include numerous lesser bodies of water (such as bays and lakes, as well as rivers that feed into it) and land (such as shorelines, deltas, and barrier islands). Elizabeth Custer likened the Gulf to “almost always a tempest in a teapot” when she accompanied her husband, Captain George Armstrong Custer, to his new assignment in New Orleans. (7)
Others have written about the Gulf of Mexico, but Sledge offers a history that is geared toward the general reader and encompasses far more than the narrow focus of the water itself. He includes information on the people whose livelihoods and existence depend on it, as well as the various boats and ships that have plied the water since the days when Mayans, Seminoles, Calusa, and other Native Americans lived near and relied on the fruits of the Gulf to survive. He discusses European explorers, pirates and smugglers, fishermen, loggers, and many others. Among those of particular note are William Dampier, William Bartram, Juan Ponce de Leon, René Robert Cavalier, Laurens de Graff, the Laffite Brothers, and Commodore David Porter. Also incorporated into the narrative are details on the flora and fauna, cultures, conflicts, memories (personal and firsthand), and historical events. Examples of the last topic cover conflicts – Seven Years’ War, Pastry War, Mexican War, and American Civil War to name a few – and natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The book is divided into eight chapters that present the history of the Gulf in a chronological sequence. These are comprised of Indian Shore, Spanish Sea, Colonial Crossroads, Pirates’ Haunts, King Cotton’s Pond, Violent Sea, American Sea, and Blowout! Maps, illustrations, and two sections of color plates enhance the reading experience. Notes, a bibliography, and an index provide readers with sources consulted and where to find additional information.
Readers seeking an all-encompassing, entertaining introduction to the Gulf of Mexico will enjoy Sledge’s book. No matter how much or how little you know, you will come away from the experience having learned something new about the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, and gaining a new appreciation for a body of water that “is by turns beautiful, bountiful, frightening, and destructive.” (8)
Review Copyrighted ©2020 by Cindy Vallar
Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots
The Whydah Pirates Speak
Smugglers, Pirates, and Patriots: Free Trade in the Age of Revolution
By Tyson Reeder
University of Pennsylvania, 2019, ISBN 978-0-8122-5138-8, US $45.00 / UK £39.00
Also available in ebook formats
The War for Independence in the American colonies during the second half of the eighteenth century issued in a new age, one that has become known as the Age of Revolution. That conflict inspired other nations to seek freedom from tyranny as well, and in the first decades of the following century, republicans in the United States felt that one way to fight against monarchies and their empires was through free trade. This is the focus of this book, which shows the interconnections between smugglers, pirates, and patriots, especially as it relates to the way Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in the nineteenth century.
The book is divided into four parts: Negotiating Empire, Regulation and Revolution, A Liberty of Trade, and “Connexions of Commerce and Liberation.” What soon becomes clear is that those who advocated free trade did so not just to help others achieve independence but to also influence the growth of commerce in ways that were to their best advantage. Americans believed their model was the right one, but not everyone agreed, and this is best shown in the struggle between Brazil and Portugal, especially since during part of the nineteenth century, the Portuguese monarch resided in Brazil and, in the end, the Brazilians chose a monarch over a president.
These struggles focus on both commercial changes and networks, as well as politics. Empires instituted a number of laws and edicts to limit trade, which then resulted in the growth of smuggling contraband. When the monarchy chose to lift some, if not all, of these restrictions, free trade prospered and smuggling died. This plays a crucial role in why history unfolds as it did in Brazil, as Reeder aptly demonstrates. He provides numerous examples of commodities, both illicit and legal, such as wine, sugar, gold, flour, and slaves. Aside from smugglers, pirates and privateers are also discussed, in particular those who sailed under letters of marque from the revolutionary leader José Gervasio Artigas. Since his government never acquired recognition from other nations, these men plied their trade in the murkiness of legal privateer or illegal pirate.
Scattered throughout the book are maps, graphs, tables, and illustrations to show points Reeder makes in the narrative. The Notes section provides citations for sources consulted or quoted, as well as additional information on particular topics mentioned in the main text. The extensive bibliography lists manuscript collections in Brazil, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States; newspapers and periodicals; primary sources; and published works. There is also an index.
Readers with a special interest in Brazil and its relationships with the early United States, as well as those seeking information on maritime commerce, will find this book particularly interesting. Those seeking a rousing account of maritime piracy and privateering may want to look elsewhere. Reeder does discuss both throughout the narrative, especially in chapter eight, and does mention North African corsairs (91) and the suppression of piracy in the 1820s (211), but his primary focus is on trade, traders, and trade networks and their effects on the shaping of Brazil as it strove toward independence. He does an excellent job of providing readers with a good understanding of the Monroe Doctrine and how it evolved.
Review Copyright ©2020 by Cindy Vallar
Reviewed by Irwin Bryan
The Whydah Pirates Speak Volume Two
By Laura Nelson
Independently published, 2019, ISBN 978-1096132448, $9.95
Also available in e-book format
This book is a collection of articles originally appearing on the Pirates and Privateers website (www.cindyvallar.com). All of the material deals with men who were part of pirate Samuel Bellamy’s crew, including two men that survived the Whydah’s destruction and several others that also wrecked in a captured prize.
As this book is the second volume in a series about the Whydah pirates, you would hope to see all new material. Unfortunately, there’s a limited amount of new information presented and much of it deals with the pirate Oliver Levasseur and his career after parting with Bellamy. Although the chapters are new, many cover the same stories that appeared in Laura’s first book. Once again, the details of John Julian and John King becoming pirates are given, as is the entire testimony of the pirates’ trials.
There are also repetitions of the text within this book. Thomas South was a carpenter forced to join Bellamy’s crew. In trying to have him released, South’s captain was told the pirates “would shoot him before they would let him go.” (33) The same quote is also found in a new chapter just three pages later.
Another example occurs in the chapter on Levasseur when describing his trial in 1730, thirteen years after the Whydah sank. His punishment included having him “make amends in front of the main door of the church of this parish, naked in a shirt, a rope around his neck and holding in his hand a burning torch . . . and there to declare with loud and intelligible voice, that maliciously and recklessly he made for several years the job of piracy of which he repents.” This lengthy quote is found on page 111 and again in the next paragraph on page 112.
Shortly after being chosen as pirate captain, Bellamy and crew went to La Blanquilla, a small island north of Venezuela. When they were ready to leave, Nelson says, Bellamy and Williams decided to “head back towards the Leeward Islands and the Windward Passage.” (37) This is confusing. Being close to Venezuela means the entire Caribbean Sea is to the north. The Windward Islands are close by to the east; the Leeward Islands are north of the Windward Islands. But the “Windward Passage” is between Cuba and Hispaniola, over 800 miles from the nearest Leeward Island.
As it turned out, they stopped in Spanish Town, on Virgin Gorda, and took shelter from a storm at St. Croix. After this, they did head to the Windward Passage and capture the Whydah, in February 1717.
Some tales offer contradictory versions of the same subject. Bellamy joined Paulsgrave Williams to search for wrecked Spanish treasure. On page 43 it says, “Historians agree that it was probably Williams who had the money to finance the trip.” But on page 65 it says Bellamy “managed to persuade . . . Williams . . . to join him.”
There are even differences in the stories of the wreck. In the first version, after capturing the Whydah, the pirates head north to America and are caught in a storm off Cape Cod. But another story about Bellamy says they first sailed to Maine, where they performed maintenance and built a fort, before sailing south from Maine and wrecking in the storm.
Supporting the text are footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. The last is useful for searching for people and vessels, but no geographic locations are included.
If you missed Nelson’s first volume or are interested in learning about Sam Bellamy, the Whydah, or Barry Clifford’s recovery of pirate treasure, you are encouraged to read this book as an introduction to the full tale and the treasure still waiting to be recovered. More information can be found by reading Barry Clifford’s Expedition Whydah: The Story of the World’s First Excavation of a Pirate Treasure Ship and the Man Who Found Her or A.T. Vanderbilt’s Treasure Wreck: The Fortunes and Fate of the Pirate Ship Whydah.
Visit The Whydah Pirates Speak website
Convicts in the Colonies
Convicts in the Colonies: Transportation Tales from Britain to Australia
By Lucy Williams
Pen & Sword, 2018, ISBN 978-1-52671-837-2, $39.95 / £19.99
Here is a book that looks deeply into the lives of some of the convicts who were sentenced in court to be transported to Botany Bay, the first colony established in New South Wales, Australia. Through their lives we learn about criminal justice and punishment in Great Britain. We delve into the places where convicts were kept, conditions on the ships that transported them across the oceans, and the dangers they faced along the way. Readers are told about life in the different colonies that were eventually formed and how free convicts lived out their years as members of a developing country.
Our guide is an author who works on a major project to create individual histories for as many as possible of the 168,000 people transported to Australia between 1787 and 1868. In a lengthy introduction she explains her background as “a social historian of women, crime, and deviance,” (xii) and that stories of female convicts are used wherever possible. An added caution reminds readers that any implied compassion expressed for these convicts does not mean the victims of their crimes should be forgotten.
The opening chapter takes a close look at the criminal justice system. This includes information about trials, sentencing, and waiting for years before being shipped out of the country. Male criminals, including juveniles, were mostly kept in hulks, old wooden warships that had the masts and cannons removed and were modified to house prisoners in one room below the upper deck. The longer a prisoner was kept on a hulk the more their health deteriorated before the long voyage to Australia. Women were mostly kept in the same gaol they were in before trial and transported with other women on ships just for women convicts.
Next, the dangers faced on the voyage are explored. These include rampant disease and death from the conditions onboard and a diet that didn’t include fresh food or vegetables for a prolonged time. Convicts were lost in several shipwrecks and even a mutiny.
The stories of three convict women are told. One involves a lucky escape with several male convicts in an open boat. The second woman became a wealthy businesswoman. The third had twenty-one children and thousands of descendants who helped to populate the country.
There were three different colonies where convicts were shipped: Botany Bay (relocated to Sydney), Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), and Western Australia (Freemantle). A chapter is devoted to each colony.
Conclusions are then presented by the author. These include the costs and benefits Australia experienced during the eighty years of transportation and for at least another seventy years when the last convict passed away.
One appendix features the texts of quoted letters showing the original spelling and lack of punctuation. Another appendix lists many resources that can be used to trace transported convicts and their stories.
There is a section for suggested reading and an index as well. The inset has twenty-four, mostly color, images of the places convicts were housed and some of the convicts mentioned in this book.
Anyone with an interest in the development of Australia or the transportation of convicts can learn from this text and enjoy the up-close look at the individuals whose own words are used to describe what they saw and experienced.
Review Copyrighted ©2019 Irwin Bryan
The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714
By James Falkner
Pen & Sword, 2018, ISBN 978-1-78159-031-7, UK £25.00 / US $49.95
Also available in ebook formats
One of the most compelling questions on every monarch’s mind in the last decade of the seventeenth century was: Who will succeed King Carlos II of Spain? His empire stretched from the Iberian Peninsula to the Americas and included lands in the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg today), North Africa, and the Philippines. To rule these required a firm hand, yet he had neither offspring nor siblings to ascend the throne.
Although lesser claimants existed, two men from two different countries could make strong cases as to why they should be the next king of Spain. One was Philippe, Duc d’Anjou and grandson of King Louis XIV of France. The other was Archduke Charles of Austria. At the time, no one wanted to go to war and eventually, many ruling monarchs agreed that Philippe would become the next king of Spain. But succession questions where no direct heirs exist were never an easy thing to resolve, especially when the contenders and neighboring countries had their own goals and desires.
Then Louis, who rarely made unwise choices, sent soldiers into the Spanish Netherlands in February 1701. The move was supposedly to protect his grandson, who was now Philip V of Spain, but the Dutch were highly incensed over this move. In early September, England, Holland, and Austria joined together to form the Grand Alliance; soon after Denmark and the German states agreed to assist them. Two additional moves on Louis’s part tipped the scale on the side of war. He refused to allow English manufactured goods to be imported to France, and he recognized the Catholic son of the deposed James II as the rightful ruler of England and Scotland. The Grand Alliance declared war in May 1702.
What became known as the War of the Spanish Succession was a conflict that encompassed much of Europe, the West Indies, and even Canada. While most of the war occurred on land, the navies engaged in sea battles and privateering played a significant role. Although peace negotiations began early, nothing was resolved until 1713, 1714, and 1715, years in which the various parties eventually signed treaties. During more than ten years of fighting, numerous elements impacted its outcome: issues of who would command the armies, harmony amongst allies and commanders, conditions of the troops, court rivalries, and distractions at home (such as insurrection in southern France and the bitterly cold winter of 1709). In the end, all parties got what they initially wished and the Spanish people, who never had a voice in the matter, gained a king worthy of their respect and trust.
James Falkner, who specializes in this time period and this conflict, covers all this and more in a volume that presents an unbiased overview of the diplomacy, politics, and military initiatives that took place during the War of the Spanish Succession. He includes numerous maps, illustrations, and a chronological time line to assist readers. There are three appendices. The first two provide the main terms of the 1702 Treaty of Grand Alliance and the Treaties of Utrecht, Baden and Rastadt, and Madrid (1713-1715). The third appendix provides brief biographies of Key Military Figures, their careers, and what became of them. Among those included are James FitzJames, Duke of Berwick; Prince Eugene de Savoy-Carignan; Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt; John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough; Camille d’Houston, Duc de Tallard, Marshal of France; Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, Duc de Vendôme; Claude-Louise-Hector de Villars, Marshal of France; and François de Neufville, Duc de Villeroi, Marshal of France. The book concludes with end notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Falkner provides a good grounding for readers about how the question of succession becomes an issue, who the principal claimants are, and why their claims are the strongest. Those seeking detailed analysis of the various battles and sieges, however, need to look elsewhere, for The War of the Spanish Succession merely summarizes these actions. Also missing are events that take place outside of Europe and the Mediterranean. Privateers garner only a scant mention, yet the plethora of these men will have a major impact on history once the war ends. Although the text is highly readable, it doesn’t always hold the reader’s interest and lay readers may become easily confused as to who’s who and for which side they fight. Readers with a particular interest in this war and military history during the eighteenth century, however, will delight in this one-volume overview.
By Ben Hughes
Westholme, Sept 4 2018, ISBN 978-1-59416-287-9, $28.00 / £25.00
Anyone with even the briefest knowledge of pirate history knows about Port Royal – the “wickedest city” in the world during the 17th century. Yet this is just a small part of its tempestuous history. Originally a Spanish possession, Jamaica fell to the English in 1655. In the early years, Port Royal became a haven for pirates and privateers, the only ones who could protect the island and its residents from the likes of Spain and France. As time passed, the sugar planters gained prominence and power sufficient to turn away the scoundrels and make Port Royal a place where respectable men and women settled, worked, and socialized. This prosperity, however, came at a price – the enslavement of thousands – and it is into this world that readers step when they enter Port Royal with the newly appointed governor, William O’Brien, the Earl of Inchiquin, in 1689.
When this short-tempered Irishman entered Port Royal, the pirates were long gone. Nor would he have suffered their presence for long; he had lost an eye while a captive of Algerine pirates, who finally exchanged him for a £70,000 ransom. The city was comprised of more than 2,000 structures, stone forts, and a number of streets, while on the outskirts of town were the sugar plantations. Port Royal’s population numbered 6,500, nearly 4,000 of which were white; the rest were mostly African slaves.
Although the opening chapters include a brief summary of Port Royal’s pirate history and her most famous buccaneer turned lieutenant-governor, Sir Henry Morgan, Apocalypse 1692 is predominantly a story of slavery, rebellion, and the cataclysmic events of earthquake, flood, and disease that began the slow demise of the wealthiest mercantile center in the New World. Hughes also includes information on the French invasion of the island in 1694 and the city’s decline to the small fishing village that it is today.
Using quotations from period documents and contemporary accounts, Hughes vividly and accurately recreates Port Royal and Jamaican life in the 17th century. He further enhances the experience with a chronology of events in early Jamaican history, illustrations, maps, and chapter notes, and includes a bibliography and index to assist readers in locating additional information or finding specific references within the text. Apocalypse 1692 is a worthy addition to any collection focusing on Jamaican history, slavery, and colonial life in the second half of the 1600s.
Anne Bonny: The Infamous Female Pirate
By Phillip Thomas Tucker
Feral House, 2017, ISBN 978-1627310451, $22.00
Ask for the name of a female pirate and Anne Bonny will inevitably be given. History has left us two main sources of information about this woman – Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates and the account of her trial in Spanish Town, Jamaica in 1720. The former isn’t an entirely accurate history of famous pirates and the latter covers only a short period in Anne’s life that is primarily seen from the victims’ perspectives. Anne herself left no journal or diary detailing her life. Over the centuries, a number of books, mostly collections about women pirates, have included Anne, but author bias and cultural interpretations have sometimes intruded into these biographies. Dr. Tucker’s goal is to separate the mythology from Anne’s story to resurrect the real Anne Bonny and place her within the world in which she lived.
Anne Bonny begins in 1698 and lays the framework for who her parents were, how she came to be born, and how circumstances in Ireland eventually led to Anne and her parents emigrating to South Carolina. Subsequent chapters cover her life in that colony, her marriage to James Bonny, her move to the Bahamas, her love affair with Calico Jack Rackham, her life as a pirate, and her capture and trial. The account of her life concludes with what happened to her after she vanished from her gaol cell until her death in 1782. The narrative ends with a conclusion and endnotes. Maps and other blank-and-white illustrations are included throughout the book.
This book has a number of weaknesses. The absence of an actual bibliography and index make it difficult to locate information within the narrative. The format of the endnotes causes confusion as to which part of the narrative provided either the subject discussed or the quotation. Also, a few of the source materials cited here fall under the category of primary documentation. The majority are either secondary or tertiary resources; a few, such as Wikipedia and Answers.com, are questionable resources. Dr. Tucker incorporates source citations within the endnotes, but only the first usage includes the author, full title, and publication date. If the resource is a website, a URL is never provided and trying to locate it using a search engine is nearly impossible from the limited information that is provided.
Equally frustrating is the frequent use of language conveying hypothetical conclusions, such as likely, might, possibly, perhaps, maybe. In a non-fiction book that purports to set the record straight and to fill in the gaps, how can this be achieved without providing definitive historical evidence to back-up these claims? A subsection of chapter two is “Dynamic Irish Women”, yet the first woman role model discussed is Joan of Arc, who was French. If Anne knew of Grace O’Malley, who was Irish, her story may have inspired Anne as Dr. Tucker claims.
Several of his points also raise red flags. On page 49, Anne was “unaware that piracy was a most dangerous profession.” Captain William Kidd’s imprisonment, trial, and execution in 1701 were big news back then and Anne was not illiterate. Newspapers and broadsheets often carried tales of pirate attacks. The zenith of bringing pirates to justice and executing them may not have been reached at the time Anne became a pirate, but she was associating with them in the taverns of New Providence when Woodes Rogers was tasked with the job of ridding the pirates from the Caribbean. How could she not have known piracy was dangerous?
Two other examples pertain to Edward Teach or Blackbeard. On page 56, Dr. Tucker writes, “Some scant evidence exists that even Edward Teach . . . was of mixed black and white ancestry.” Ten pages later this becomes a rumor and that he was “a light-skinned mulatto,” yet no evidence is provided to support or discount this – why include a rumor in the first place? As to Dr. Tucker’s claim that Anne “might well have seen Blackbeard on the sandy streets” of Nassau, this is highly improbable. Anne didn’t arrive there until November 1718 and in November Blackbeard was in the environs of the Carolinas and was slain on 22 November.
On the other hand, this book provides an interesting perspective of Anne and how cultural influences and societal attitudes may have influenced her life and her decisions. It also shows her as a typical teenager, experiencing the angst of growing up and living in patriarchal societies where religion and on which side of the tracks you were born played a role in who and what you could be, especially if you were female. Dr. Trucker also does a commendable job expressing why society feared Anne and what she represented.
Fiddlers and Whores
The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
Fiddlers and Whores: The Candid Memoirs of a Surgeon in Nelson’s Fleet
By James Lowry
Seaforth, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5267-0147-3, £9.99 / US $17.95
In 1798 Admiral Nelson described Naples, Italy as “[a] country of fiddlers and poets, whores and scoundrels.” This quote, which appears on the title page, explains the book title’s origin and is also a good summation of its subject matter.
Lowry’s first ship, HMS Vanguard, is part of a fleet that lands troops in Egypt to attack the French. He is sent ashore to treat the wounded for this entire campaign. After a forced landing and initial assault, his “ears were saluted with the lamentations of the wounded and dying . . . and [he] was incessantly employed.” (73) When the commander-in-chief, General Sir Ralph Abercrombie, fell, Lowry says there were so many wounded it was “impossible for the medical gentlemen to render them all assistance in good time.” (81) So ends the description of his medical service on behalf of the King’s soldiers and sailors.
Instead, he writes this delightful memoir of his travels and adventures to share with his brother. As you read, it seems as if his brother is sitting beside you listening to Lowry’s tale.
There is plenty of detail in this memoir. While the British pursue the French to Alexandria, he devotes half a page to describe date trees. Pages of text paint word pictures of the places he visits. His telling of treks to holy sites and antiquities includes the Roman and Greek mythology associated with them, the history of each site, and his experiences getting there and back.
He was fortunate to have been to these places during the war and especially during the Peace of Amiens when he could travel more freely and take lodgings ashore. Among the many places he saw were Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Rome, Palermo, Malta, and Naples. He attended a grand ball and supper given by the Queen of Naples, saw the pyramids of Egypt, and climbed the active volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily.
On his appointment to each of his four ships – first as Surgeon’s Assistant and later as Ship’s Surgeon – he provides scant, if any, details about these vessels other than their names: Vanguard, Swiftsure, Pigmy, and Weazel. (Naval enthusiasts, such as myself, would prefer to know more about these vessels and life aboard them.) The only time Lowry mentions any firing of his ship’s guns is in one paragraph on page ninety when HMS Swiftsure is chased, engaged and captured.
The only time he writes more about a ship concerns one to which he is assigned but never serves on – the ill-fated Queen Charlotte. While at Leghorn she catches fire and explodes, killing all but forty of her large crew. Although anxious to join this ship, he is grateful for the delay which saves his life.
After being a prisoner of war in Toulon, France, Lowry was hoping to head home, but decided to continue active service and accept a promotion to Ship’s Surgeon aboard HMS Pigmy. He was appointed to Weazle when Pigmy returned to England during the peace. Weazle was sent to survey various navigational hazards, which gave him chances to travel inland to see many sites. These places and his experiences took up a fourth of the book.
His service ends with drama, danger, and hardship, which he covers in detail. Afterwards he has difficulty getting a ship home and travels overland through Spain and Portugal to board a vessel in Lisbon. He arrives in England, passes the Surgeon’s examination, and heads to his home in Ireland. Still the happy traveler, he provides further anecdotes until his arrival in Dunaghmore.
The subtitle of this book, first published in 2006, may lead readers to believe this is both a narrative of Lowry’s experiences as a naval doctor and his adventures during his years of service. Anyone looking for information about life on a navy vessel from 1798 to1804, and the challenges a young doctor faces in treating the wounded are advised to look elsewhere. Instead, readers in search of a first-person, contemporary travelogue of the Mediterranean will be overjoyed to read Lowry’s memoirs of his adventures to these exotic places.
The History of Newgate Prison
The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution
By Steven Park
Westholme, 2016, ISBN 978-1-59416-267-1, US $26.00 / £19.99
In June of 1772, HM Schooner Gaspee ran aground while chasing a suspected smuggler. In a display of the increasing anger towards the British government, American colonists removed the crew and set afire the revenue vessel.
As indicated in the title, Park focuses on two topics in this publication. One is the destruction of a vessel used to enforce the King’s Customs. The other is a detailed look at the various laws, courts, and governments that created and adjudicated these trade regulations and the manner in which the colonists obeyed or objected to efforts of enforcement.
Taken separately, the telling of the Gaspee incident begins with a decision after the Seven Years’ War, to use Royal Navy ships and men on the North American station as Customs enforcers. The Gaspee is one of six sloops assigned this task. With shallower drafts these small vessels are better for patrolling coastal waterways than square-rigged warships.
Molasses brought from the Caribbean is especially vital for the rum produced in Rhode Island. During the war, Boston and Rhode Island merchants traded with enemy French and made huge profits as smugglers. When Admiral Montagu takes command of the North American station in August 1771, he assigns these sloops to patrol New England waters.
Even before Gaspee arrives, colonists attack the other sloops, firing on the St. John and destroying Liberty. When Gaspee reaches Rhode Island, she is commanded by Lieutenant William Dudingston of the Royal Navy and now rigged as a schooner. All the vessels Gaspee stops in the ensuing months anger the colonists and delight the Admiral. One such incident occurs on 17 February, 1772, when Dudingston confiscates a cargo of rum, Jamaica spirits and brown sugar belonging to Jacob and Nathaniel Greene. Park states this seizure by Dudingston “would embroil him, his crew, and his schooner in one of the most significant events of the American colonial era.”(10) The author’s reason for making this assertion is unclear; nor does he ever clarify how this seizure leads to the attack on Gaspee.
The second chapter is called “The Gaspee Incident” and the reader looks forward to reading how the vessel becomes grounded and about subsequent events. Park states that on 9 June 1772, Captain Benjamin Lindsey of the Hannah sees the Gaspee is alone and, despite having hardly any cargo on board, leaves the Newport docks headed to Providence. Gaspee gives chase. With an even shallower draft than Gaspee, Hannah passes over Namquid Point, but Gaspee runs “aground at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”(15) All of this information occurs in one paragraph at the opening of the chapter.
It seems the author wants us to believe that Lindsey intended to trap Gaspee and this was his only reason for sailing. But both Hannah and Gaspee had over thirty miles to travel before reaching Namquid Point. These vessels would have to sail almost the entire length of Narrangansett Bay, passing several islands along the way, and then enter the narrow entrance to the Providence River before coming to the narrows between Bullocks Point and Namquid Point. How could anyone, including Lindsey, have known they would both sail so close to each other and Namquid Point?
It seems more likely that Dudingston made an error of judgment or sail-handling to have been that close to the Point. The middle of the river was the safest place to be, especially if he didn’t have a local pilot. Even then that wouldn’t excuse him from fault unless he hit an underwater sandbar in the middle of the river!
Also left unexplored is just what happened during Gaspee’s three-hour chase of Hannah. Did Dudingston order his gunners to fire on her? Was she damaged as a result? Were any members of her crew killed or injured? Was there anything about this particular chase that especially angered John Brown, the ship’s owner, and caused him to seek revenge before the Gaspee was floated on the next incoming tide? Or was this just a crime of opportunity too easy to pass up?
By only writing in detail about what happens from the moment the Rhode Islanders approach the Gaspee until she is set on fire, Park never answers these questions about the chase and her grounding. Instead, the majority of this book is about the ways colonists obeyed and objected to English rules and laws, and the investigation of the Gaspee incident.
Illegal trade with the enemy throughout the eighteenth century is the first topic explored. Rhode Island merchants even abused the use of Flags of Truce and prisoner exchanges during the Seven Years’ War by pretending to carry prisoners in order to trade with the French.
When George Grenville becomes head of the Treasury Department after the war, he considers how to address England’s wartime debt. He wants to increase revenue and curtail colonial smuggling. By getting the Royal Navy involved, he thinks these goals will be addressed. The next important activity is to revise the customs laws.
The “Navigation Acts” governed trade within the British Empire. In 1673 an act was passed that appointed customs collectors to America. In 1696 new acts gave them enforcement powers and created ten Vice-Admiralty Courts, where colonial cases could be tried without juries. Rhode Island wouldn’t have its own vice-admiralty court until 1758. This functioned until 1767. After that Boston had jurisdiction and the judge was not generally sympathetic to Rhode Island’s merchants.
The three chapters that follow the burning of Gaspee discuss jurisdictional disputes between the civil authorities in Rhode Island and Boston, the Customs Service, and the Royal Navy, as well as rumors that anyone accused faced shipment to England for trial. Park presents a detailed background on each arm of the judicial system and precedents of laws to support statements. He also carefully dissects interviews and hearings.
Finding out who attacked the Gaspee then and why was not easy. Any and every attempt to question witnesses, apprehend suspects, or investigate what actually occurred was frustrated by the local sheriff and Rhode Island Governor Wanton. Lieutenant Dudingston and the Royal Navy did the same by keeping Gaspee’s crew silent. In England, the colonists’ attack on a Royal Navy vessel was considered an act of treason. The lack of significant information from the colony and no apprehension of suspects led King George to order a Royal Commission.
Park provides the history of these Royal Commissions and the precedents for holding trials back in England. Then he presents every detail of this particular commission’s hearings along with commentary. Since Governor Wanton is appointed to the commission little is accomplished. Many people ignore the summons to appear. Gaspee’s crew is never interviewed. Most witnesses questioned are not reliable. As a result, the identity of the perpetrators is never learned. Lieutenant Dudingston’s less-than-truthful version of the story doesn’t falter and he is cleared for the loss of his vessel.
With attitudes towards England becoming unfavorable, citizens, newspapers, and preachers talk about efforts of the English to make Americans more subservient and ruin the growing economy with laws and tariffs. Many reference the Gaspee incident and Royal Commission to prove their statements. Park devotes the last chapter before his conclusions to one example of this – Reverend John Allen’s Thanksgiving sermon delivered to the congregation at the Second Baptist Church of Boston in which “the Gaspee and Royal Commission of Inquiry were mentioned seven times.”(85)
In his conclusion Park points out other how events of the times overshadowed the Gaspee incident. Most Americans have never heard of this attack, but all have heard of the Boston Tea Party. Ironically, it is thought that the failure to punish anyone for burning the Gaspee may have emboldened those who participated in the Boston Tea Party in December 1773.
By now you may realize I wasn’t thrilled with this book. There’s no question it is well-researched and well-presented. But this is not a sea history. At the end of his introduction Park mentions that his book is just a study of “events in a single colony, surrounding the fate of a single schooner.” (ix) He believes this study to be a worthy contribution “in the larger context of the scholarship of Atlantic history.” (ix) I’m not sure he meets his mark. This book contributes more to the history of jurisprudence in early America than it does by providing an account of the Gaspee Affair.
Review Copyrighted ©2017 by Irwin Bryan
The History of Newgate Prison
By Caroline Jowett
Pen & Sword, 2017, ISBN 978-1-47387-640-0, £12.99; US $24.95
Also available in e-book formats
Although this book involves piracy on a peripheral basis, two infamous pirates – William Kidd and John Gow – spent time within the walls of this notorious prison. Divided into seven chapters, The History of Newgate Prison explores its history from its medieval beginning until its demolition in the first decade of the twentieth century. Even though the Central Criminal Court of the Old Bailey now sits where Newgate Prison once stood and the prison has been gone for more than a century, people still remember this “hanging prison.”
Each chapter focuses on a specific period in the prison’s history: its earliest years, crimes and punishments, its existence under the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, effects of the Great Fire, the “republics” that sprang up in the first half of the eighteenth century, its rebirth in the second half, and prison reforms. In addition to being a history of Newgate, this book also traces the development of the English penal system from the days when the Normans occupied the country to its reformation during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Three appendices discuss Newgate’s more famous inmates, such as Robin Hood and Captain Kidd; depictions of the prison in art and literature; and the inmates’ secret language. Jowett also includes an index, a center section of illustrations, and a bibliography.
Even though there are only a few mentions of pirates, readers will find this book to be a fascinating account of what it was like to be a prisoner across the centuries. Entering the fortress prison’s gates didn’t necessarily mean an inmate had committed a crime; for many centuries it played host to debtors like Daniel Defoe and their innocent families. Chapter five dramatically explores a condemned person’s day of execution or what it meant to receive a sentence of transportation.
We think of prisons mostly as public institutions of incarceration, but Newgate was privately run and those imprisoned there had to pay for the “privilege” of entering, leaving, and residing within its walls. Jowett provides vivid descriptions, sometimes in her own words and sometimes in those of people who experienced it. By book’s end it’s easy to understand why this long-gone prison remains an indelible memory of times past. One may also comprehend why some chose to follow the short, but merry, life of a pirate instead of living within. When the back cover closes, readers will be thankful they were never “treated” to the experience of being a Newgate inmate.
Enemies of All Humankind
In Pursuit of the Essex
Enemies of all Humankind: Fictions of Legitimate Violence
by Sonja Schillings
Dartmouth College Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5126-0016-2, paperback US $40
Also available in other formats
The concept of hostis humani generis dates back to Cicero, when he used this phrase to describe pirates as the enemies of all humankind. What Schilling does in this latest volume in Darmouth’s Re-mapping the Transnational series is to show the evolution of this concept and the application and use of legitimate violence to defeat these enemies from when it was first applied to pirates up to today’s terrorists, particularly as it pertains to the growth and maturation of America.
The author divides the book into four parts and uses both fiction and non-fiction to showcase her argument.
IntroductionThe book also includes a list of abbreviations, end notes, an extensive list of the works cited, and an index.
Part I. The Emperor and the Pirate: Legitimate Violence as a Modern Dilemma
1. Augustine of Hippo: The City of GodPart II. Race, Space, and the Formation of the Hostis Humani Generis Constellation
2. Charles Johnson: A General History of the Pyrates
3. Charles Ellms: The Pirates’ Own Book
4. Piratae and Praedones: The Racialization of Hostis Humani GenerisPart III. The American Civilization Thesis: Internalizing the Other
5. John Locke, William Blackstone, and the Invader in the State of Nature
6. Hostis Humani Generis and the American Historical Novel: James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer
7. The Frontier Thesis as a Third Model of CivilizationPart IV. “It Is Underneath Us”: The Planetary Zone in between as an American Dilemma
8. The Democratic Frontiersman and the Totalitarian Leviathan
9. Free Agency and the Pure Woman Paradox
10. The Foundational Pirata in Richard Wright’s Native Son
11. The Institutional Frontier: A New Type of CriminalConclusion
12. Who Is Innocent? The Later Cold War Years
13. Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the War on Terror
Victims of violence rarely control what happens to them, but over time, especially in Western tradition, the idea of legitimate violence – the use of force to subdue aggression – has been employed to defend innocent targets. What Schilling does in this book is show how the theory of legitimate violence has developed and evolved over time; how discussions on hostis humani generis are and have been maintained throughout the history of the United States; and how the parameters of both have changed over the centuries to warrant the protection of new victims.
Who are the perpetrators who fall under the umbrella of hostis humani generis and against whom legitimate violence is permitted? The initial enemies were pirates, but the passage of time has also permitted slavers, torturers, and terrorists, as well as any group that commits crimes against humanity, to be so labeled. While the concept of hostis humani generis is actually a legal fiction, its close association to piracy often leads scholars to believe they must first understand the pirate in order to comprehend why such people warrant the labeling of enemies of all humankind. But Schilling disagrees with this belief for two reasons. First, the definition of “pirate” changed over time, and that flexibility introduces inconsistency into such an analysis. Secondly, other perpetrators of violence replaced pirates as such enemies. This is why she refers to hostis humani generis as a constellation, a group of people related by their violent acts against innocent people.
The first two parts of this study are of particular interest to those who study and read about pirates, although Barbary corsairs, Somali pirates, and comparisons to the sample texts in chapters two and three are mentioned elsewhere. In the first section, Schilling discusses the origin of hostis humani generis and Saint Augustine’s broadening of the concept. This constellation finally comes into its own in the 16th century as European countries extended their borders to include territories in the New World. The second section focuses more on the law and invaders such as the renegadoes from the Barbary States.
While many readers will clearly understand that some of the texts that are used here to support her argument fall definitively into either non-fiction or fiction, Schilling doesn’t clarify that Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates and Ellms’ A Pirates’ Own Book are actually a mix of both. These two authors interwove facts with imagination to better capture their readers’ interest. Overall, Enemies of All Humankind is a thought-provoking, scholarly examination that will stimulate interesting discussion on a topic that has particular relevance not only to the study of the past, but also to global events unfolding every day in our own world.
Review Copyrighted ©2017 Cindy Vallar
A Confederate Biography
In Pursuit of the Essex: Heroism & Hubris on the High Seas in the War of 1812
By Ben Hughes
Pen & Sword, 2016, ISBN 978-1-47382-364-1, $46.95 / £25.00
This account of the famous battle between the USS Essex and HMS Phoebe opens with ‘A Prodigious Slaughter’, a prologue describing the final minutes aboard the American warship in Chile’s Valparaiso Bay on 28 March 1814. But this encounter begins in the waning years of the previous century with the building of these two ships. Designed by Sir John Henslow and launched in 1795, the Phoebe was 926 tons, just shy of 143 feet long and just over 38 feet wide. A sleek and elegant Royal Navy frigate, she carried longs guns (twenty-six 18-pounders and four 9-pounders) and carronades (fourteen 32-pounders, one 18-pounder, and one 12-pounder). Her crew numbered 274; most were in their mid-twenties, while the youngest were in their early teens and the oldest was fifty-two. Although she didn’t carry her full complement, those aboard were one of the most experienced crews to man a frigate.
Enos Briggs began building Essex in 1797. Her measurements were 138 feet long, 37 feet wide, and 850 tons. She cost $150,000, half of which was paid for by the people of Essex County, Massachusetts. Her armament included six 12-pounders and forty 32-pound carronades. The youngest member of her crew was twelve years old, while the oldest was around sixty-four. Although a few had served in the Quasi-War with France and one fought during the Revolutionary War, most of the 319 men had been aboard less than a year when she set sail in September 1812. Two weeks before that departure, she had captured the first Royal Navy vessel, a sloop-of-war, during the War of 1812.
Thirty-two-year-old David Porter, Captain of the Essex, first joined the US Navy in 1798 as a midshipman aboard the Constellation. Before that he served as a merchant marine and twice escaped being pressed into the Royal Navy. While posted to the USS Philadelphia, he found himself a captive of Tripoli corsairs. His Royal Navy counterpart was forty-four-year-old Captain James Hillyar, who first saw service at the age of ten during the American Revolution. Faith played an important role in his life, and he and his men strictly observed the Sabbath when at sea. He also believed the lash helped to maintain discipline at sea.
When Porter left the United States, he was ordered to rendezvous with Commodore Bainbridge. After twice failing to find him, Porter decided to take advantage of being on his own to attempt a dream – to be the first American naval ship to venture into the Pacific. Once there, he would attack British whalers in hopes of decimating that trade. But there were risks, especially since Spain’s colonies wanted their own independence; Spain was Britain’s ally in the struggle against Napoleon; and he had no idea where or when he would next be able to resupply his ship. Once news reached England of his success, he would be fair game for enemy ships.
Hillyar, on the other hand, was given a set of secret orders. The first was to serve as escort for a storeship, but he was destined to head around Cape Horn and sail north to the Columbia River with orders to destroy an American fur trading post. Along the way, he learned of the Essex and received orders to hunt her down.
The author recounts what happened as each vessel navigated toward their ultimate showdown. Interweaving chapters that chronologically detail events aboard the Essex and the Phoebe, Hughes details daily life at sea, methods used to maintain order, attitudes and problems with the crews, prizes captured, descriptions of exotic ports of call, and dangers encountered in distant lands and at sea. He also covers Porter’s attempted acquisition of the United States’ first colony on Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, and his interference in a conflict between two tribes.
There is one mix-up in the introduction, which tells the story of the two navies. He identifies the man who led the daring raid to destroy the USS Philadelphia after her capture in Tripoli’s harbor as being Stephen Decatur McKnight. Actually it was McKnight’s uncle, Stephen Decatur, Jr., who had that honor. McKnight served as Fifth Lieutenant during Essex’s Pacific raid. What is surprising about this is that the two men are correctly identified everywhere but this introduction.
In Pursuit of the Essex is an attempt to sift through the myths and legends about this well-known battle. Hughes succeeds in this endeavor and shows why Porter was deemed a hero by the Americans even though he lost his ship and many of his men, and why the English barely noticed Hillyar’s success. The inclusion of maps, the sailplan and deck plan of a period frigate, illustrations, end notes, a bibliography, and an index enhance the reading and make it easy for readers to locate specific information. While many others have written accounts of what happened, Hughes consulted a variety of firsthand accounts and other primary documents to provide a fresh look that brings the combatants to life by showing them as they truly were. His summary of what happened to the individuals he highlights, and the ships themselves, provides readers with a complete picture of what occurred.
Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenandoah
By Dwight Sturtevant Hughes
Naval Institute Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-61251-841-1, $41.95, £34.50
Also available in e-book formats
On 19 October 1864, the Sea King left England. Designed by William Rennie and built by A. Stephen & Sons, she was a square-rigged clipper with a steam engine. She could cruise comfortably at nine knots. But she wasn’t destined to trade in tea; James Dunwoody Bulloch had other plans for her. He was the chief purchasing agent for the Confederate States of America’s navy, and he felt Sea King would make an ideal commerce raider. Union spies and government representatives, however, made it unwise for Bulloch to openly purchase her. She left England disguised as a merchant ship. When she rendezvoused with another British ship near the Portuguese islands of Madeira a month later, James Waddell came aboard as her captain and she began what would become a successful, ten-month-long voyage around the world.
She was renamed CSS Shenandoah, and her officer corps came from eight different southern states. Some were related to Robert E. Lee, George Mason, Teddy Roosevelt, and Raphael Semmes. Only two men, her captain and her surgeon, were older than twenty-five. Although her initial crew numbered barely enough to work her, she would enlist additional men from captured prizes and foreign ports. They came from Yankee and Rebel states, as well as numerous European countries, the East Indies, and Africa. Some had sailed on her predecessor, CSS Alabama.
Personal journals, memoirs, archival documents, naval records from the American Civil War, and contemporary newspapers provide primary evidence of what transpired on this cruise. The majority of this biography is seen through the eyes of those who sailed aboard her as she took the fight to the enemy, pursuing them almost to the Arctic Circle. In a single week she captured twenty-four whalers.
This account provides glimpses into life at sea, especially in a world where the country of these men wasn’t yet recognized by other nations. Those who sailed from the South shared their hopes, their fears, and their experiences, including what they thought and felt as news from home reached them. Before they fired the last Confederate guns of Civil War, they had to transform their ship into a fighting machine while at sea. They endured storms; almost became trapped in ice; held prize courts to determine whether their captures were legal or not; dealt with captives; and played host to visitors from Melbourne, Australia, while heeding legal dictates of the government and circumventing the American counsel’s attempts to have their vessel seized as a pirate ship.
Events during the last months of the Civil War and the Union government’s attempts to hunt down Shenandoah are interspersed throughout the narrative. To enhance the reading experience, Hughes includes a map of where she cruised, her sail plan and builder’s plans, and a center section of black-and-white photographs of the ship and those who sailed on her. The book also includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Two items that are missing, but would have been helpful, are a complete list of officers and crew and a list of the prizes they captured. As with any biography, Hughes does provide information of what happened to Shenandoah after Waddell surrendered her to the British and to the men who served aboard her. Anyone with an interest in commerce raiding, the Confederate navy, and the American Civil War will find A Confederate Biography a revealing account of the ship and her crew.
Review Copyrighted ©2016 Cindy Vallar
French Warships in the Age of Sail
Tudor Warship Mary Rose
French Warships in the Age of Sail, 1786-1861: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates
By Rif Winfield and Stephen S. Roberts
Seaforth, 2015, ISBN 978-1-84832-204-2, £50.00 / $76.95
This guide provides readers with information about “every known named vessel which served in or was ordered for the French Navy.” It opens in 1786, the year in which France’s Secretary of State for the Navy reorganized naval construction, and closes with 1861, the year in which the French ceased to build sailing warships. The dimensions, tonnage, crew complement, and armament are provided for each class of ships. Information on individual vessels includes her designer and builder, date of construction, highlights of her career, and what became of her.
Prior to the opening chapter, the authors provide a detailed explanation of the book’s structure and organization to orient the reader. Their overview of French history covers the status of the Marine Royale following the American Revolution when Louis XVI ruled; the French Revolution during the final decade of the eighteenth century; the navy during the Napoleonic Wars; the rebuilding of the fleet after Napoleon’s defeat; the navy during King Louis-Philippe’s reign; the Levant crisis; and the fleet during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III and the Crimean War. A chronology of key historical events and a list of French Naval Operations follow. The latter begins with the occupation of Toulon in August 1793 and ends with the Expeditionary Corps in Northern China in 1860. The next two sections of the book deal with “Dockyards and Infrastructure” and “French Navies and Naval Construction outside France, 1797-1814.”
Unlike most books, the sources and bibliography are toward the front of this volume. The “Glossary and Abbreviations” provides translations of French naval terms. These include personnel and naval ranks, the decks of a warship, parts of the ship, design and construction, guns and ordnance, and types of vessels. Just before the first chapter, they list the French fleet at the start of 1786.
The majority of the book is divided into the following chapters:
1. The Three-deckersWithin each of these chapters is a short summary of the vessel type and then information about each ship is provided chronologically. These listings also delineate vessels according to whether they were built in France or acquired by other means.
2. Two-decker Ships of the Line, 80 to 100 guns
3. Two-decker Ships of the Line, 74 guns and below
4. The Largest Frigates (24-, 30-, and 36-pounder Frigates)
5. The Smaller Frigates (8-, 12-, and 18-pounder Frigates)
8. Small Sailing Patrol Vessels
9. Sailing Gunboats and Coastal Vessels
10. Miscellaneous Sailing Vessels
11. Paddle Vessels
12. Screw Avisos and Screw Gunboats
13. The Larger Transports
14. The Smaller Transports
At the conclusion of these chapters a postscript discusses Broadside Ironclads. This is followed by ten appendices:
A. Standard Armaments of French Ships, 1786-1848The inclusion of pictures, tables, plans, models, and architectural drafts of vessels enhance the text, while the eighteen-page “Index to Named Vessels” allows users to easily access needed information.
B. French Naval Artillery, 1786-1860
C. Resources Provided to the French Navy, 1786-1861
D. Strength of the French Navy, 1789-1859
E. French Naval Programs, 1820-1857
F. French Ministers of Marine, 1780-1870
G. French Navy Shipbuilding Officials
H. Selected French Naval Constructors, 1786-1861
I. French Naval Ship and Engine Builders, 1793-1861
J. Composition of the Crew for a French Ship of the Line, 1795
While this volume is not meant to be read from cover to cover, it is a weighty and oversized reference book on the French Navy during turbulent times and periods of evolution and change. It provides researchers with invaluable information drawn from many sources and collected into a single volume by two authors eminently qualified to write this book.
Tudor Warship Mary Rose
By Douglas McElvogue
Naval Institute Press, 2015, ISBN 978-1-59114-181-5, $17.50
Bloomsbury, 2015, 9781844862757, £18.99
Also available in e-book formats
Henry VIII of England wanted the latest and the best, and this included a new style of warship, the carvel. He ordered a Great Ship, which was completed in 1511. The Mary Rose possessed a continuous deck where the latest and largest guns were housed and with gun ports closer to the waterline than ever before. Unlike her predecessors, she was built specifically for war rather than being one that had to transport merchant cargoes to pay her way. This necessitated the establishment of a permanent naval administration tasked with building, arming, and maintaining these vessels used only for fighting. Mary Rose first served during the French War of 1512, and she had a long and colorful career that spanned more than three decades. When she sank in 1545 off Portsmouth, nearly everyone aboard drowned. Over four centuries would pass before her resting place was discovered and, during the subsequent eleven years before being raised in 1982, she presented archaeologists with more than 19,000 artifacts, which provided them with glimpses into daily life in the Tudor period.
McElvogue, who specializes in maritime archaeological reconstructions, was the Senior Research Fellow and Archaeologist at the Mary Rose Trust. This book stems from his work there as well as subsequent research. Its purpose is to provide readers with his conclusions, rather than being a detailed study of the Mary Rose. To this end he divides the book, which is part of the Anatomy of the Ship series, into three sections. Part one summarizes the life of the Mary Rose, from when she was first commissioned until her loss. It also examines life aboard this warship and seamanship and ship handling during the first half of the sixteenth century. Each chapter ends with a list of references where readers can obtain additional information on the topic discussed.
Part two consists of drawings of the Mary Rose. These include general arrangements, hull construction, masts and yards, sails and sail trimming, ship’s boats, anchoring, and habiliments of war. The last part discusses the Mary Rose project and the warship’s significance. Archaeological drawings are also found in this section.
While a glossary of terms for readers unfamiliar with medieval ships would have been nice, the text is quite readable and the book is more affordable than studies that go into greater depth and detail. Of particular interest are the plethora of illustrations accompanying the text, from the illustrations inside the book to the foldout covers that are in full color on one side and black-and-white drawings of her external and internal elevations on the other. The latter are rendered on a 1/144-scale, while the former depict the Mary Rose under sail and as she sinks. The front cover shows her as she appears in the Anthony Roll, the only period document in which her representation is named, while the inside flap shows a modern painting of her. This book is a worthy addition to any collection needing an overview of this Tudor warship.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
The Myth of the Press Gang: Volunteers, Impressments and the Naval Manpower Problem in the Late Eighteenth Century
By J. Ross Dancy
ISBN 9781783270033, Boydell Press, 2015, $120.00
This is an incredibly detailed look at the methods and effectiveness of gathering men to serve in the growing Royal Navy from 1793-1815, the years of England’s conflicts with France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Readers become aware of the various methods used, the ages and homes of these men, and their levels of skill when they were assigned to their first ship.
The front cover shows a painting on display at the National Maritime Museum entitled “Seaman Leaning on a Gun on the ‘Pallas’.” I found it odd that a book about recruiting thousands of men would show only one man on a ship. At the same time, I expected more color pictures throughout the text. Unfortunately all illustrations are pie charts, bar charts, tables, line graphs, or segmentation graphs. These accompany a very detailed narrative with many footnoted quotations to demonstrate the author’s point. A bibliography and index are also provided.
Dancy explains that the level of detail and accuracy of his study could never have been done without the aid of modern-day computers. As a result, he postulates, that over the years even respected historians have created the “Myth of the Press Gang,” which wrongfully asserts that impressment was the main source of recruitment and that Press-Gang operations were by-and-large much worse than actually occurred.
The various statistics presented are based on the muster books from ships put into commission each year between 1793 and 1801. Three are selected from each of the naval ports of Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth. Annually at each port, the ships used were a ship-of-the-line with a complement of 491 to over 850 men, a frigate with 145 to 350 men, and a sloop carrying 76 to 125 men. Altogether information was gathered for 81 ships and 27,174 men, a statistically significant base.
After the introduction, the reader learns the history of how the Royal Navy was formed and manned and how the Naval Administration grew to keep pace with this growth and increase in responsibilities.
Next is a chapter on manning statistics, which describes the different recruitment methods used and various portrayals of the petty officers and lower-deck crews: their ages, skill levels, places of recruitment, and nationalities. (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales were treated as separate nations.)
Each recruitment method has its own chapter. First covered is Volunteering, which means signing-up at a station set up for that purpose and receiving a monetary bonus as a result. It was necessary to pay skilled sailors this bonus as the Royal Navy was competing with the Merchant Marine for men already trained at working a ship. The highest bonus was paid to Able Seaman and Ordinary Seaman received more than untrained Landsmen. A detailed analysis of Volunteering includes the same types of information found in the overall manning statistics.
Part of the Press-Gang myth was the portrayal of warships as “floating-hells” that were so bad no one would ever volunteer to serve! This reality was far from the truth, especially as compared to a commoner’s lot ashore. The statistics on the number of volunteers shows this was not the general perception at the time.
The chapter on Impressment begins by mentioning the various misconceptions about the Impress Service and how the author’s research and data enable him to refute each one in turn. The historiography and fiction on the Age of Sail typically describe “oversized brutal men wielding clubs and walking the streets under the direction of a sadistic lieutenant looking for any man unfortunate enough to stumble across their path.” (120) Most people think the majority of men were pressed into service, but Dancy’s study seems to prove otherwise.
One popular myth, or truth, not covered was the taking of the King’s Shilling. Boys and big, strong men are often tricked into accepting a coin for an errand only to find themselves enlisted in the Navy as a result.
The history and growth of the Impress Service, along with its methods of operation are presented. In addition to statistics on the numbers of men each manning method provided, the information on pressed men is broken down by age, geography, skill level, and more.
Last to be discussed, the Quota Acts are explained as a method of naval manning put forth by William Pitt and Parliament in 1795, which assigned each county in England a specific number of men they must recruit for naval service. Again the history and literature describe this as a way for each magistrate to send the local “bad-eggs” and convicts out of their districts as most of the recruited quotamen. Historians and naval officers have claimed they were men of dubious character and virtually useless aboard ship. These same quotamen were even blamed as the main sources of The Naval Mutinies of 1797. As with Impressment, the author shows this not to be the actual case once the data is presented. An additional statistic I found interesting is the prior occupations of those who were recruited under the Port of London’s quota (175). It helped answer the stormy weather question asked aboard, “Who’d be a sailor.”
The final chapter called “Conclusion” restates the author’s position on the quantity, quality, and methods of the Royal Navy’s recruitment efforts. Central to this is how untrue perceptions of the Impress Service have colored fiction and non-fiction since that time and how these untruths may finally be set aside.
Had this book been entitled “A Study of Royal Naval Manning from 1793-1815” and Dancy not devoted so much attention to disproving “The Myth of the Press Gang,” it would be considered by all to be an excellent collection of information never before presented to naval historians and an important contribution to naval literature.
Unfortunately this is not the case. This book will probably only attract devoted readers of the Royal Navy and the Age of Sail. Like me, they may find fault with the limited “perfect-world” nature of this study, which only looks at empty ships receiving their original complement of men at the main naval ports in England. This ignores replacing men lost to illness, injury, or death throughout the wars. Also ignored are ships operating on foreign stations or seeking replacements or additions to their allotted complement every time they met a merchant ship or arrived at any port, including these same naval ports.
Another problem is the author’s statements about the navy only needing young and agile men who could be trained to climb into the rigging and set the sails, and how landsmen were unskilled “sailors” who needed to be on-deck to do the heavy work like raising the yards. Completely ignored is the fact that vessels in the navy were warships and many men were needed just to work each of the cannons -- the ships’ main reason for existence. None of the men manning the guns needed any prior experience on sailing ships.
In the end, I was not convinced by Dancy’s reasoning or his conclusions.
Read an excerpt
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Irwin Bryan
Blood Ransom: Stories from the Front Line in the War Against Somali Piracy
By John Boyle
Bloomsbury, 2015, ISBN 978-1-472-91267-1, $27.00 / £16.99
Also available in e-book formats
No health care.
These simple facts describe one country – Somalia – and why many young men, from their teens into their thirties, turn to piracy. After filming the documentary Pirates in Paradise, Boyle wanted to know more about Somali piracy. Rather than focusing on the whys and wherefores, he returned to the region to interview those directly involved – lawyers for the prosecution and defense, naval personnel patrolling the waters where pirates prey, freed hostages, government officials, a security officer who protects ships, a negotiator, and the pirates themselves. While the opening chapters provide a bit of historical framework, they serve only to orient readers so they better understand the various points of view expressed in the individual stories presented. The author also discusses the economics of piracy and its global effect, other hotspots of piracy, how Somali attacks differ from those of West Africa or in the Malacca Strait, and the problems facing those who wish to prosecute and curb these hostage takers.
For me, one of the more intriguing stories concerned President James Michel of the Seychelles, who used old-fashioned ways to confront piracy and to get cooperation from other countries to deal with this plague. Some of the most poignant stories come from the innocent fishermen who faced the wrong end of an AK-47 and endured brutal captivity before their ransoms were paid. These are stories often missing from other books covreing this subject. Two of these victims were the first Seychellois taken hostage, Gilbert Victor who was forced to participate in the attack on the Maersk Alabama, and seventy-year-old Rolly Tambara, a grandfather who was beaten and terrorized during the twelve months he was a hostage.
Boyle’s interviews with pirates who await trial demonstrate not only his frustration in finding out their backstories, but also reinforce the frustrations those who are fighting piracy, either at sea or in the courtroom, encounter on a daily basis.
Many of the stories found here aren’t found elsewhere, which is why Blood Ransom is a welcome addition to collections on Somali piracy. Supplemental material includes tables, photographs, and three appendices (Seychelles police memorandum of an interview with an alleged pirate prior to his being formally charged, a 2014 press release from the Council of the European Union, and a 2015 statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Seychelles). By including incidents that received high media coverage, as well as those that received none at all, and discussing hostages who have been rescued and those who have not, Boyle’s book allows students of Somali piracy to gain a 360-degree examination on this aspect of modern piracy.
True Yankees: The South Seas & the Discovery of American Identity
By Dane A. Morrison
Johns Hopkins University, 2014, ISBN 978-1-4214-1542-0, $34.95
True Yankees is an excellent book contributing valuable information on America’s early story. Published as part of a series of the university’s Studies in Historical and Political Sciences, True Yankees is certainly an admirable addition to the collection. Morrison provides first-hand accounts from diaries and letters written primarily by merchants including Samuel Shaw, Amaso Delano, and Robert Bennett Forbes. These men left our new nation in search of Eastern markets for American goods. Together, they tell the tale of their welcome by the members of other nations and their hosts. Before sharing the experiences, the author details how each traveler developed into an “American” and what that even meant at the time. Anyone interested in the birth of our nation and how we entered into the world of commerce will find this a detailed resource.
There are footnotes found at the end of the book documenting sources. Also included is a detailed index. Several black-and-white portraits and illustrations are found throughout the book. These are not listed separately.
Unfortunately, True Yankees: The South Seas & the Discovery of American Identity is not everything it seems to be. By referring to the Near and Far East as the “South Seas” in the title, it reasonably makes one think it may be a sea story, which it certainly is not. The first ship to Macao, aptly named Empress of China, traveled “some 18,000 miles over six months” without any mention of experiences during the voyage in 1784. (14) Only when the ship arrived somewhere is there mention of having saluted the fort or raising the first American flag. To be fair, there is mention that traveling during the summer monsoons in the Indian Ocean was “tedious.” (13) Even though the second person featured, Amaso Delano, had been a privateer and wrote an interesting book about his voyages, it is only his contacts with members of other peoples that appear in True Yankees. His early seagoing history is solely used to explain Delano’s own brand of being an American.
In addition to the chapters which detail an individual’s experiences on the world stage, the author provides four “Interludes” on different themes. The first discusses how American merchants sent ships to every possible location during a time of war in Europe and consequent blockades and embargoes, and privateers. Others traveled to the many island nations and outposts of the British, Dutch, and Portuguese empires. With all of these ships returning with goods, the young government was quick to reestablish Customs and tariffs to help make a dent in the young nation’s debts.
The next “Interlude” discusses the spread of Americans across the Appalachian Mountains into the Ohio Valley. Some settled in the far off lands where trade was taking place. This provided a homegrown welcome to visiting American merchants and sea captains. Needless to say, this also facilitated meeting the people of other countries who were also at the port. Soon unheard of goods started filling up homes. Even some of the foreign words and expressions, including “chop,” found their way into American vocabulary.
Edmund Fanning’s Voyages Round the World is tapped to continue the author’s exploration of the book’s theme. Some attention is made to Fanning’s own life on the sea, including anecdotes of his experiences in the sealing trade. For those unaware, this was the killing of fur seals to obtain their valuable fur in a less-enlightened time period when whales were also hunted for their oil to light our cities.
Expanding wars in Europe turned American attention to greater profits for greater risks. After an earlier vessel is captured and brought into Falmouth, England, Fanning’s men are pressed aboard a Royal Navy frigate. In describing his ability to confront the officers and gain his men’s release, he claimed they knew he was “a True Yankee.” (102) Strong nationalist identity replaced feelings of timid pride men like Shaw had when traveling forth in the world.
Fanning wrote about all manner of things he and his men saw and experienced in places rarely visited. He described the sights of each place, the new plants and animals they saw, and even items of scientific knowledge.
More central to this book is the way Fanning viewed the voyage as one of increasing nationalism, where he and his twenty-seven mariners became “trustees of an American identity.” (114) The way they changed the rig of their vessel, Betsy, and the carpenter’s fashioning of fake cannons (called Quakers) to deter Malay pirates are examples of what Fanning termed “exceptionalism.” His view of Americans as superior to others shows how far the sense of our nation had changed since the end of the Revolution.
A third “Interlude” tells how numerous voyages were made across the Pacific in search of discoveries and commerce. The new nation found its way into “Europe’s academies of science” with contributions of natural history and geography. (140) Two naval expeditions into the Pacific further shifted how Americans viewed their place in the world from one of a “dispassionate observer” to “the bravado of a more arrogant . . . American.” (146)
This takes the reader to Second Generation Americans, the first of which, Harriett Low, is also the only non-merchant whose writings are discussed in True Yankees. Harriet’s own feelings as an American were more of disdain to the native peoples she encountered. Yet this is a true example of the prejudices she and other travelers to the East had at the time. Further exposures of newer peoples and longer association did nothing to make these travelers any more tolerant. In her time at Macao she even developed a disapproving attitude to the Europeans she encountered.
This attitude, as the final “Interlude” mentions, is wholly in keeping with the racial and religious prejudices that developed in the years leading up to America’s antebellum period. Ambivalence to Indians and other peoples strengthened into ethnocentrism for Americans.
Last to be referenced, Robert Bennett Forbes had “acquired Jacksonian democracy’s obsession with individualism, materialism, and racial superiority.” (194) Rather than adapting to his surroundings, Forbes wanted the East to adapt to his own beliefs. His belief in his right to conduct business even at the expense of others led to his involvement in starting the First Opium War. This serves as a final example of the way feelings of Americanism altered during the time period presented by the author.
The Battle of New Orleans: “But for a Piece of Wood”
By Ron Chapman
Pelican, 2014, ISBN 9781455620272, $19.95
January 8, 2015, marked the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. Most people think of this event as a single battle, but Chapman provides readers with a clear understanding that it was really a series of encounters between the British and Americans. While the majority of readers may think the first fight involved the gunboats in mid December 1814, Chapman contends it actually began much earlier, encompassing ten battles during a five-month period.
In his introduction, he makes a clear case for how pivotal the Battle of New Orleans was as regards the future of the young United States and the war’s outcome, for had the Americans lost the battle, the Treaty of Ghent might have been renegotiated before either side had the chance to ratify it. And it’s important to keep in mind that until that ratification, the war was not over even though an accord had been reached the previous Christmas Eve. He quotes not only the treaty itself, but also documents from Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, and British proclamations to reinforce this point. He also makes an excellent case for what-if scenarios – had one incident or a combination of these changed, the final outcome of the battle and our nation as we know it would have been greatly altered. In fact, the subtitle of this book pertains to the failure of doing one simple task and how that impacted the outcome.
Chapter one provides an overview of the war and events leading up to the point in time when the two sides converged outside of New Orleans. It also looks at the two commanders, Major-General Sir Edward Pakenham and Major General Andrew Jackson, some of which is revealed through their own words. The second chapter details “The Southern Campaign”, which concerns West Florida, the Creek Wars, and attacks on Fort Bowyer and Mobile, as well as the activities of the Royal Navy under the leadership of Admiral Cochrane. The next chapter focuses on the situation in Louisiana and the conflicting cultures of the Creoles, Americans, refugees from Santo Domingo, Free Blacks, and slaves before and after Louisiana gained statehood in April 1812 just before the war began. Also examined are the Baratarians and the Laffites, from whom the British would attempt to solicit assistance. There are a few errors here: “The Temple” was not located on Grande Terre, the principal base of Jean Laffite’s operation; it was actually situated on the shore of Lake Salvador above Barataria Bay. The British offer to Laffite was for a captaincy in the army, not the navy.
The “Weapons of War” is the topic of chapter four. Also discussed are the differences in fighting techniques between the two armies, as well as the importance of the steamboats that Jackson used several times during the invasion. Chapter five covers the battle between the Royal Navy and the American gunboats, while the next chapter concerns the groups that made up the American army and the arrival of the invaders outside the gates of the city. Chapman also looks at the plantations, terrain, and conditions that affected the armies and the battles.
Chapter seven concerns the first encounter after the enemy reached the Villeré plantation, the night attack, as well as the problems the British faced. The arrival of Pakenham, his orders that result in the destruction of the USS Carolina, which had been habitually harassing his troops from the river, the artillery duel on 28 December 1814, the British attack on New Year’s Day, and further steps Jackson took to improve his defenses are also covered here.
The eighth and ninth chapters discuss that “piece of wood” and its impact on battle on the west bank of the Mississippi. Chapman clearly delineates Pakenham’s strategy, what the American commanders did or did not do in defending this section, and the devastating outcome that could have resulted. While events on the east bank of the river are the primary focus of most accounts of the Battle of New Orleans, the west bank was one of the few successes of the British invasion. The final battle on the east bank, directly below New Orleans, is discussed in detail in chapter eight as well.
Chapter ten examines the assault on Fort St. Philip – one of the river defenses below the city – that took place after the engagement on what is known today as the Chalmette Battlefield. Events in New Orleans after 8 January are also covered. What is a bit confusing concerns the exchange of prisoners. Chapman has this taking place on board a Royal Navy ship, yet most other books mention that the discussions took place before the British withdrew from their camp south of New Orleans. More information about the exchanges would have eliminated this confusion. An epilogue follows with information about losses, courts martial, and the building of monuments. The book also includes a bibliography, fourteen appendices (some maps, but mostly documents), and end notes. There is no index, which would have been a welcome addition for researchers.
There are a number of illustrations and maps interspersed throughout the chapters, but some of the latter are too small to make out what they show. One example of this is the map on page 149, which shows the disposition of the British and American troops. For those not familiar with the battlegrounds it’s unclear which army is located where. Had the text or caption made this clear, the reader might have a better understanding of the layout. Another instance is a British map showing the deployment of troops on page 166. The only clear markings on this are the river and the cypress swamps. The location of the soldiers is indecipherable. A third example on page 201 pertains to the caption – “The green line, which is the course he actually took is not to scale” – which means nothing to the reader since the map is depicted only in black and white. One drawback of not identifying in the table of contents what appears in the appendices is that the reader is unaware of the larger versions of some maps at the end of the book, but even some of these are too dark to clearly see.
There’s a lack of good copyediting and consistent formatting throughout the book. For example, “the” should never be used before the abbreviation HMS, which stands for His Majesty’s Ship, and “Westbank” should be two words rather than one. Missing punctuation and other misspellings are also a problem; some captions are italicized while others are not. Large gaps of white space lead readers to think that the chapter has ended, yet when the page is turned, the chapter continues. This stems from the placement of pictures, which could have been inserted on the opposite page from the text, rather than incorporated directly into the text. Appendix #14 isn’t identified as to who the sender or receiver of the letter was and the writing is difficult to read.
In spite of these drawbacks, there are intriguing historical tidbits to entice the reader. One example: Chapman draws an interesting conclusion as to why Jackson may have changed his mind and accepted Laffite’s help. Another is the revelation that Jackson actually asked to be replaced because of his ill health. The ramifications had that occurred make the reader sit up and take note. Equally compelling are many instances of primary accounts that show what the combatants themselves thought and felt. The Battle of New Orleans is a more comprehensive examination of the environs, the combatants, and the battles than many other books, which makes this a good inclusion in any collection that focuses on the War of 1812 and/or the history of New Orleans.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
Pirate Nation: Elizabeth I and Her Royal Sea Rovers
By David Childs
Seaforth, 2014, ISBN 978-1-84832-190-8, £25.00 / $48.95
During the final decades of the sixteenth century, piracy blossomed among the English. This was due, in part, because the queen and many of her advisors supported – sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly – and profited from these ventures. There were a few exceptions (most notably William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the royal treasurer), but these men couldn’t stop Elizabeth from her pursuit of enriching the royal coffers, which were in need of funds, and using the men who would become known as her Sea Dogs to England’s advantage. This book examines the situations, people, country, politics, and law during this time period and how they affected England both internally and externally.
The book is divided into twelve chapters, which clearly show how state sponsorship of the sea rovers expanded the reach of England and forged new maritime enterprises.
ChaptersWithin these chapters readers meet such “celebrities” as John Hawkins, the first to venture into the slave trade; Francis Drake, the first to circumnavigate the world; Martin Frobisher, who failed to find either the Northwest Passage or treasures similar to the riches of Spain; and Walter Raleigh, who backed several of the earliest colonial ventures to the New World. While these names most readers will recognize, Childs also includes some of the lesser-known sea rovers, such as George Clifford, the third earl of Cumberland. He also discusses families that controlled local regions and immersed themselves in piracy, such as the Killigrews, but which are rarely focused upon in English histories. He also demonstrates the inequities of the justice system of the time. The third chapter includes information on the Golden Hind, Desire, Dainty, Scourge of Malice, and the Royal Navy. The fourth chapter provides a fascinating exploration of the evolution of guns (cannon) and their use on ships. Childs includes a table comparing the weaponry on four ships, and such tables are sprinkled in other chapters as well. Throughout the book, he incorporates quotations from contemporary documents to enrich the narrative.
1. Protestants in Pursuit of Profit
2. Apprentice to a Pirate
3. Pirate Ships of War at Sea
4. Arms and Actions
5. Piracy in the Pacific
6. The American Dream
7. The Azores and the First Battle of the Atlantic
8. A Preference for Pirates – The Failure of the Spanish Armada
9. The Land Rats
10. The Duke’s Denial
11. Disturbing the World
12. Low Water
The following is a list of the eleven documents included in the appendices:
Letters of Reprisal and Bonds for Good Behaviour, 1591-95References within the main text refer readers to these documents when the information in an appendix is pertinent to the material in the chapter. In addition, the author includes Exchange Rates not only for the period, but also for the present year. References, a bibliography, notes, and maps are found at the end of the book, which is indexed. There are also three sections of black-and-white photographs depicting portraits, ships, weaponry, places, charts, and equipment of the period.
Commission issued by Queen Elizabeth to the Earl of Cumberland, 28 March 1595
John Donne, “The Storm” and “The Calm,” 1600
Inventory of Malice Scourge, 1600
Estimated Costs of Equipping a Pirate Vessel
Authorisation to Equip a Vessel of War under the Admiralty of Zealand, 1582
Tennyson, “The Little Revenge, A Ballad of the Fleet”
Cargo Unloaded at Seville, 1593
The Appraisement of Prizes
Notes from State Papers Concerning Piracy, 1578
Complaints of the Dutch Concerning English Piracy, 1589
While many non-fiction books include an introduction or preface to orient the reader, Childs chooses to immerse the reader directly into the thick of the story, which may leave some readers a bit disoriented at first. Those who venture further into the book, however, will find a well-rounded, provocative exploration of this period in English history. By including defects and failures alongside merits and successes, he shows the complexity of Elizabeth and her reign, providing readers with better insight as to why she pursued the path she did and how her decisions guided England toward becoming a powerful maritime nation. He makes clear that she was not the only person of power who became involved in piracy, that it was an occupation in which many of the aristocracy participated in varying degrees.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
East by Sea and West by Rail: The Journal of David Augustus Neal of Salem, Mass. 1798-1861
Edited by Cynthia Neal Rantoul
iUniverse, 2011, ISBN 978-1-4620-3513-7, $24.55
Born to a former privateer who spent time on a prison hulk during the American Revolution, David Neal went to sea at the age of seventeen. The delay in his seafaring career stemmed from President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act, which essentially shut down the maritime shipping industry. He served as clerk aboard the 250-ton Union, which sailed to Calcutta. After the War of 1812 broke out, he joined a privateer and eventually ended up serving time in Dartmoor Prison as a prisoner of war. He later became master of a merchant ship called Alexander, which also sailed to India. Thereafter, his voyages would take him to the Cape Verde Islands, le Havre, New Orleans, Germany, and South America. Eventually he turned from the sea to the railroads, becoming the president of the Eastern Railroad and later other railroads that stretched to the western part of the United States. He lived during a time of political change, such as the rise and fall of Napoleon, and innovation, including electric lights, iron ships, photography, and the telegraph.
Rantoul has published this handwritten journal, incorporating with it genealogical information, family portraits and letters, pictures and illustrations of places and items discussed in the journal, newspaper articles, and maps showing Neal’s travels. Unfamiliar terminology and exotic costumes are defined as well. There is a detailed table of contents, as was the fashion of early books, but no index.
The drawbacks to this volume pertain more to formatting and editing. The typeface is reminiscent of being written on a typewriter, so it’s not as dark as what readers are normally accustomed to. Also, to read this oversized book, it’s necessary to turn it 90 degrees so that it must be held similar to how one holds a wall calendar. There is no explanation provided as to how the layout works, although I eventually determined that the left column of the odd-numbered pages was the journal and even pages and right columns of odd pages were the additional information that Rantoul inserted to enhance the journal. Nor is it clear, at first, what the underlining signified (defined words). Once or twice the additions interrupt the flow of the journal because the information spills onto more than a single page. An example of this is the inclusion of six pages from Harriet Neal’s Account Book, which is inserted one paragraph into her husband’s account of his arrival in Philadelphia and Salem.
There are occasional misspellings or missing words in the journal, which may require the reader to peruse the sentence more than once to decipher its meaning. Some minor editing would have helped make the narrative easier to read and the errors less distracting. Captions aren’t provided for some of the extra material, so readers are left to wonder what it is or why it is included. The same holds true for Appendix A, as there’s no explanation as to why another person’s diary excerpt belongs.
One factual error occurs in the editor’s note on English Turn. It was not an unloading dock, but a bend in the Mississippi river below New Orleans. This was where the French encountered the English in 1699, who had thought to establish a colony there until the French explained that the region belonged to France. There is also a misplaced heading, which supposedly covers the death of Neal’s sister, but that occurs in the paragraph before the heading.
When I read Neal’s opening sentence – “Autobiography is seldom interesting . . .” – I feared it would be prophetic, but the narrative becomes more thought-provoking once his seafaring life begins. He opens a window into a past time and takes readers to exotic locales where customs, such as a Hindu suttee, differed greatly from the world in which he lived. Equally important are the tidbits that Neal provides about ships and their cargoes, for example, how chess pieces are kept from tumbling off the board or what exports and imports brought significant profits. For readers of Pirates and Privateers, the section on Neal’s experiences as a privateer and prisoner of war are most compelling and include an escape attempt in which he was wounded. Those interested in firsthand accounts and early travel logs will also find this book of interest.
Review Copyrighted ©2015 Cindy Vallar
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812
Edited by Tim Voelcker
Seaforth, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84832-179-3, $38.95 / £19.99
On 1 June 1813, two frigates – one British, one American – battled each other several miles off Boston’s shore. After fifteen minutes of fighting HMS Shannon, commanded by Captain Philip Broke, captured the USS Chesapeake. Her captain, James Lawrence, was mortally wounded, and Broke himself sustained serious wounds that ended his active naval career. Two hundred years later, a group of historians wrote the following articles to celebrate the bicentennial of this famous event. Their purpose was to create an anthology that provided historical information without being pedantic and priced beyond the reach of most readers. Nor did they wish to write just an historical account of this naval engagement and the two captains. Their goal was fourfold: a) to provide the necessary background for readers to understand the War of 1812 and its outcomes; b) to learn about Broke personally and professionally; c) to study the battle and its impact on the nations involved; and d) to share what happened to these two ships.
1. The War of 1812: A Perspective from the United States by John B. Hattendorf
He succinctly explains why American leaders went to war from their perspectives, rather than those of twenty-first century historians. He also provides an excellent recap of those who supported and those who opposed the war. Equally compelling is his explanation of how and why Lawrence became “a martyr for the cause.” (12)
2. Sideshow? British Grand Strategy and the War of 1812 by Andrew Lambert
Of note here are how Great Britain viewed the war, why it took her so long to take the Americans seriously, and what strategies they implemented. This chapter also talks about privateers.
3. Canada and the War of 1812 by Chris Madsen
4. Prize Laws in the War of 1812 by Gabriela A. Frei
This essay expertly explains prize law from the British perspective and what elements were bones of contention between the two countries.
5. Victories or Distractions, Honour or Glory? by Timothy Voelcker
What is particularly compelling in this chapter is Voelcker’s discussion on the difference between honor and glory and what the two captains actually sought from the battle between their two ships.
6. Broke – His Youth and Education by John Blatchly
7. In Arctic Waters by Michael Barritt
8. Letters to his Wife ‘Loo’ by Ellen Gill
A fascinating essay about Broke, his wife, and his family. Also compelling was the explanation as to why letters played such an important role in the lives of sailors, which is made even more poignant since handwritten letters are a rarity in our current technological age.
9. A Gunnery Zealot: Broke’s Scientific Contribution to Naval Warfare by Martin Bibbings
Although some of the information is a bit technical, Bibbings does a commendable job in making it easy to understand and showing us the importance of Broke’s innovations. Also interesting was his training regime for the gunners.
10. The Battle by Martin Bibbings
11. Broke’s ‘Miraculous’ Recovery by Peter Schurr
A persuasive explanation of the wounds that Broke sustained and how they impacted him. It’s written so that any lay person can comprehend what happened to him.
12. Representing Nations: Caricature and the Naval War of 1812 by James Davey
13. Halifax and its Naval Yard by Julian Gwyn
14. HMS Shannon’s Later Commissions by Martin Salmon
This chapter includes a little information about Shannon’s participation in the suppression of piracy and anti-slavery operations in the Caribbean.
15. Chesapeake Mill by John WainTwo sections of color and black-and-white plates accompany the book; there are also maps, a few diagrams, and several other illustrations. Additional references include a historical note and brief family tree, Broke’s rewards, a selected bibliography, and an index. Individual chapters contain relevant footnotes, and there are boxed passages taken from primary documents of the period that are ben interspersed between the chapters. Some of these excerpts are from Broke’s letters to his wife, which are fascinating to read. Each essay ends with a short list of suggested readings for those who want to explore the topic in greater depth. One of the features I particularly liked was the “Notes on Contributors” at the beginning of the book; these credentials provide readers with a sound understanding of why each author is eminently qualified to write on the topic.
16. Ballads and Broadsides: The Poetic and Musical Legacy of the Shannon and the Chesapeake by Richard Wilson
17. The Peace and its Outcome by Colin Reid
Over the past several years I’ve read numerous accounts of the naval War of 1812 and this particular engagement, but this book is the first to explain how to pronounce “Broke” (said as if spelled “brook”). While most scholarly works include conclusions based on the research conducted, this book provides alternative viewpoints in hopes that readers will draw their own conclusions. Together the essays provide a well-rounded overview, rather than looking at the subject in a bubble, and in doing this, the editor has achieved his four-fold goal.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
Victory: From Fighting the Armada to Trafalgar and Beyond
By Iain Ballantyne and Jonathan Eastland
Pen & Sword, 2013, ISBN 978-1-7815963-9, $29.95 / £14.95
In 1778 the British Royal Navy commissioned a first-rate vessel, christened HMS Victory; today, she is the oldest warship in the fleet. While the principal portion of this book concerns the flagship Admiral Horatio Nelson, the authors also discuss those who commanded her before him, the battles in which she fought, and the men who served aboard her. They also examine what became of Victory after the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s tragic death.
Nelson’s Victory was the seventh warship to bear that name, and this book is also about her predecessors. The first Victory helped to defend England against the Spanish Armada in the sixteenth century and served as the flagship of Sir John Hawkins, but began life as a merchant ship named Great Christopher. When she became part of the royal fleet, Queen Elizabeth chose her new name. Among her duties was the protection of merchantmen from Spanish and Dunkirk pirates. The second Victory cruised against Barbary pirates and French privateers before becoming part of the Parliamentarian navy during the English Civil War. Number three participated in the second Anglo-Dutch War, taking part in the Four-Days’ Fight in which Vice Admiral Sir Christopher Myngs died in 1666. Nearly three decades later, the Royal James was altered and twice renamed HMS Victory (numbers four and five). She assisted in the defense of Britain in wars against France and Spain during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The sixth vessel disappeared during a storm in 1744; all aboard were presumed dead and her loss was deemed “the very worst Naval catastrophe on record.” (35)
Resource notes appear at the end of each chapter. Black-and-white illustrations, diagrams, and maps populate the text, providing additional information relevant to information in the various chapters. The book includes a glossary of nautical terms, several appendices (including information about what became of the sixth Victory), a bibliography, a list of archival and Internet sources, and an index.
One element that makes this book stand out is that the authors don’t just relate stories about the commanders who served aboard the seven warships; also told are tales from those who served under the officers. Nor are the warts glossed over or ignored here. To round out her history the authors include information about the “old men and other flag officers who put their personal fears (and ambitions) before the good of their country, or indeed the welfare of the men they commanded.” (xv) Rather than rehash material that has appeared in print before, Ballantyne and Eastland culled the archives to incorporate new or forgotten gems. Victory is a very readable and interesting introduction to the navy’s evolution, those who served aboard the various vessels, and the immortal ship that is now the Flagship of the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
Hunting the Essex
Hunting the Essex: A Journal of the Voyage of HMS Phoebe 1813-1814
By Midshipman Allen Gardiner
Edited by John S. Rieske
Seaforth, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84832-174-8, £16.99 / $29.95
During the War of 1812, Captain David Porter, his crew, and the USS Essex ventured around South America to raid the British whaling fleet. Their success eventually made them targets of a determined captain of the Royal Navy, who received orders to hunt down the raider and put an end to the whalers’ losses. Porter later wrote about this epic journey, which not only brought him into his nation’s limelight but also resulted in the capture of his vessel. Although an often-told tale, the details of the battle came only from Porter’s Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean, which was published in 1822. What had been lacking was an account of the events from the British perspective . . . until now.
On 28 March 1814, off the Chilean port of Valparaiso, HMS Phoebe, under the command of Captain James Hillyar, finally encounters the Essex after nearly a year of hunting her. Aboard is a twenty-year-old midshipman named Allen Francis Gardiner, who chronicles the voyage. His account is far more than a simple telling of the battle; it is primarily a commentary of the people with whom he interacts and the social practices – such as bullfighting – that he encounters. He also provides a wealth of information about the nineteenth-century ports he visits. What he doesn’t write about is daily naval life. The appendix includes a letter from a Marine lieutenant, who also serves aboard the British warship, and a poem to the Essex, which Gardiner may have written.
The journal begins in March 1813, is written in a manuscript format, rather than that of a daily diary, and is originally entitled A Journal of the Proceedings of HMS Phoebe during a Voyage to the South Seas. Written in the first person, Gardiner begins with one of his poems and then explains this voyage is made “to take possession of an American Settlement on the North West Coast of America, and to intercept the trade which is carried on between that place and China.” (33) It is a very readable account of a voyage to places that many people still deemed exotic. He devotes only six pages to Phoebe’s encounter with the Essex. At the conclusion of the journal, there is an addendum – a copy of another midshipman’s letter to his father that discusses the action between the two warships.
This small volume also includes eight black-and-white illustrations (including one of Gardiner himself), notes, and a bibliography. A map, at the beginning of the book, delineates the voyages of the Essex and Phoebe, and lists the dates and South American locations pertinent to each ship’s travels. Prior to the opening of the journal, Rieske explains how he came into possession of this extraordinary document. Dr. Andrew Lambert, Professor of Naval History at King’s College, provides background information for the reader in his introduction to the journal. He discusses Gardiner, the war, why Phoebe made this particular journey, Porter and his ship, Gardiner’s part in the hunt, the importance of the journal, and Gardiner’s life after the war.
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810-1830
Privateering, Piracy and British Policy in Spanish America 1810-1830
By Matthew McCarthy
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-861-6, US $115 / £65
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy VallarFrom 1810 to 1830, Spanish America underwent a period of political turmoil as Spain’s colonies sought independence and revolted against Napoleon’s attempt to place his brother on the Spanish throne. Conditions were ripe for a proliferation of privateering and piracy, and it is against this backdrop that McCarthy enlightens readers on maritime depredation and the role Britain played in the region. In this study, he attempts to a) clarify the difference between insurgent privateers and pirates; b) identify the consequences of their actions and governmental countermeasures implemented against them; and c) assess the political responses in light of British policy, both commercial and foreign, in Spanish America.
Chapter one summarizes British interests in Spanish America as they pertain to commerce and politics. The second chapter examines the characteristics that differentiate revolutionary privateers from those sponsored by the Spanish government, and distinguishes them from pirates. Some of the names mentioned in this chapter are Luis Aury and Jean Laffite. In chapter three, McCarthy analyzes the impact such depredation had on the British merchants and seamen. Here he includes information from Lucretia Parker and Aaron Smith, both of whom wrote accounts of their captivity by pirates. The next two chapters investigate the effectiveness of British strategies in countering the privateers. Chapter six explores the Anglo-Spanish Claims Commission (1823) and how well it was able to offer redress against the losses merchants incurred. The last chapter focuses on Britain’s diplomatic and naval measures to thwart pirates based in Cuba.
Footnotes, rather than endnotes, make it easy for readers to check the consulted resources. (At least two of these provide readers with the URL where they can view the data sets and tables the author compiled during his research.) Graphs accompany some chapters, allowing readers to visualize comparative data. Following the conclusion, there is an extensive bibliography and detailed index.
These two decades are often glossed over in studies of maritime and piratical history; it’s far more interesting to focus on earlier periods in the region. Nor has much attention been paid to privateers and pirates during the Spanish American Wars of Independence. McCarthy relies on Lloyd’s List and other 19th-century newspapers, correspondence found in British government archives, and Foreign Office records to compile this analysis. This rich and invaluable study of maritime diplomacy from a British perspective is fascinating to read, but anyone seeking specific information about actual individual pirates and privateers of this period may find themselves disappointed.
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720
Women and English Piracy 1540-1720: Partners and Victims of Crime
By John C. Appleby
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-869-2, $95.00 / £55.00
This book focuses on women and how they interacted with pirates in England and her colonies. By examining these relationships over a period of nearly two centuries, Appleby shows readers the evolution their interdependency, as well as how the state altered its view of piracy, from privateers at the start to enemies of all mankind by the eighteenth century. The information provided also demonstrates how women started as an integral part of the microcosmic world in which pirates operated, but were eventually relegated to the periphery.
Chapter one, “The Rise and Fall of English Piracy from the 1540s to the 1720s,” is a survey of the period, the changes piracy underwent, and why. The second chapter, “Pirates, Female Receivers and Partners,” delves into how women depended on pirates and vice versa, as well as the close relationships that grew out of this interdependency. This was a period in which women received stolen goods, sold the contraband, and provided aid to the rogues. As pirates prowled farther from home waters, the roles women played became more economical in nature. This change, how women adapted to it, and the rising sexual relationships between the pirates and women are discussed in Chapter three, “Wives, Partners and Prostitutes.” One interesting facet of this discussion is the letters pirates wrote to their wives. The fourth chapter, “Petitioners and Victims,” examines the ill-treatment women endured at the hands of pirates and how piratical attacks resulted in the loss of family members, which necessitated that the women still at home had to find ways to survive and to rescue their loved ones.
A series of maps and an introduction open the book. In addition there are seven black-and-white illustrations. The chapters have footnotes, rather than endnotes, which makes it far easier to check references. An extensive bibliography and an index follow the epilogue.
Those seeking information about women pirates will be disappointed. The last chapter, “Women Pirates: Fact or Fiction?”, concerns these, but aside from Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Grainne O’Malley, the others are merely mentioned rather than discussed in any detail. One wonders, though, why two of these ladies aren’t included in the list of women pirates in the index (pages 263-4) and why those who are aren’t in the chapter specifically devoted to female buccaneers. Overall, however, this is an interesting examination of an aspect of piracy that often is given only a cursory look. It provides readers with a comprehensive overview, interspersed with specific examples and primary evidence, to show how women and pirates interacted, both as victims and cohorts. Although the price puts this volume out of reach of most lay readers, academic libraries with strong collections on maritime piracy, maritime history, and women’s history will find this a welcome addition.
Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century: Silver, Seapower and the Atlantic
By Shinsuke Satsuma
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-862-3, $115.00 / £65.00
During the first decades of the 18th century, proponents put forth the idea that war should take place at sea not just on land. Spanish America was the primary target for this defensive/offensive maneuvering. Although not a new idea – first suggested in the 1560s – there was far more support and carry through this time around. Not everyone agreed, though, and there was much debate on the pros and cons of naval warfare. Those who supported this “ideal” way of fighting believed England would gain much, especially wealth, without a substantial financial commitment.
In his introduction, Satsuma writes: “By the end of the eighteenth century, this ideology was turned into the ‘national myth’ of sea power . . . . However, some questions still remain.” These include why various political factions supported the pro-maritime war argument and how this idea and discussion managed to stay alive for more than 200 years even though the political and diplomatic climate changed. Although other historians have examined these issues, Satsuma focuses on this discussion by delving into the connection between war and profit – a connection he believes was at the center of the pro-maritime war argument – and showing why fighting the Spanish colonies was more advantageous than attacking Spain directly. How he lays the groundwork and the analysis to answer these questions can be seen in the Table of Contents.
Chapter 1: English Expansion into Spanish America and the Development of a Pro-maritime War ArgumentThis study also investigates the diverse issues that pertain to maritime warfare, as well as its effectiveness and importance during the War of the Spanish Succession and how influential it was concerning later warfare and naval policy. It also analyzes the ties between politics, trade, and naval warfare, and those with a vested interest in either supporting or fighting against the argument. Finally, it explores the reality and the myth of this belief and whether legislation and naval policy actually realized the high returns with little initial outlay.
- Elizabethan Ventures into the ‘New World’: The Starting Point
- Spanish War, Colonisation and the Emergence of the ‘New Merchants’
- Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’
- Buccaneers on the Rampage
- The Nine Years War and Protection of English Interests in the Caribbean
PART 1: PRO-MARITIME WAR ARGUMENTS DURING THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION
Chapter 2: The Idea of Economic Advantages of Maritime War in Spanish America
- Wealth of Spanish America and Maritime War
- Attacking the Enemy’s Financial Resources
- Struggle over Spanish-American Trade
- Ground for ConquestChapter 3: Pro-maritime War Arguments and Party PoliticsPART II: IMPACT ON REALITY
Chapter 4: Impact on Reality – Naval PolicyPART III: PRO-MARITIME WAR ARGUMENTS AFTER 1714
- Operations in the Middle Stage of the War
- Operations in the Later Stage of the War
- Frustration and Expectation – Analysis of Plans for Colonial Expeditions
Chapter 5: Impact on Reality – Legislation
- The Context of the American Act
- The Process of Enactment
- The Politics behind the Act
Chapter 6: The South Sea Company and its Plan for a Naval Expedition in 1712
- The French Success in the South Sea Trade and the Establishment of the South Sea Company
- Controversy over the South Sea Company: Free Trade and Settlements
- Controversy over the South Sea Company: Peace Negotiations
Chapter 7: Pro-maritime War Arguments during the War of the Quadruple Alliance and Anglo-Spanish Conflict of 1726-29
Chapter 8: Changes in Naval Policy after 1714 – From Conquest to Security of Trade
- Naval Operations – Blockade
- Naval Operations – Colonial Expeditions
Each chapter opens with an overview, which sets the stage for what will be discussed. Footnotes appear within the chapters, which make it easy to see the source from which the information in the text comes or the additional information the author wishes the reader to know. There are four pages of black-and-white illustrations at the center of the book. In the conclusion the author summarizes the key points of the analysis, and then evaluates what his research has shown in light of the questions he posed in the introduction. An extensive index of primary and secondary resources and an index are included.
Although the introduction comes across as pedantic, the chapters themselves are readable and contain interesting facts that students of Elizabethan, Cromwellian, and Stuart history are familiar with, but which present the English desire to gain a slice of New World riches in a new light. Pirates, buccaneers, and privateers played a part in this pro-maritime war argument so they are incorporated into the whole picture, but their importance is minor when compared to the rest of the material covered within these pages. One irritating aspect of the text is the overuse of the phrase “As we have seen so far.” I lost count of the number of times I encountered it, and its prevalence intrudes into the flow and seamlessness of the narrative.
The price of this book places it beyond the reach of the casual reader. Those academic libraries that support areas of study pertaining to English mercantile trade and naval warfare, Spanish America, and Latin American history will find this an important work to help round out the collection.
East Anglia and Its North Sea World in the Middle Ages
Edited by David Bates and Robert Liddiard
Boydell, 2013, ISBN 978-1-84383-846-3, $99.00 / £60.00
Medieval travel was often easier to accomplish aboard boats, rather than going overland, and so the people of East Anglia, a region on the coast of England, traded with other European countries bordering the North Sea. This particular study stems from a 2010 conference where scholars with varying specialties discussed what was known and where future studies could be focused.
Robert Liddiard opens the book with an introduction to the North Sea from both a historical and geographical perspective. He also looks at trade routes and the difficulties crossing these waters posed for mariners. He explains “that the essays presented here are not intended to argue definitively for or against the existence of a ‘North Sea World’ in the Middle Ages . . . rather, they represent an attempt to place East Anglia in the broader geographical and social context within which it has long been recognized to have played a part.” (7)
Table of Contents
The purpose of this work is “to promote the study of the North Sea in the same way as the Mediterranean and Atlantic and in so doing [shed] light on the development of one of its most important sub-regions.” (14) In this regard, the authors and editors have done a commendable job in meeting that goal.Part I: East Anglia and the North Sea World: Overviews
1. The Origins of East Anglia in a North Sea Zone by John Hines
2. East Anglia’s Character and the ‘North Sea World’ by Tom Williamson
3. Cities, Cogs and Commerce: Archaeological Approaches to the Material Culture of the North Sea World by Brian Ayers
4. Medieval Art in Norfolk and the Continent: An Overview by David King
Part II: Trade and Economy
5. The Circulation, Minting, and Use of Coins in East Anglia, c. AD 580-675 by Gareth Williams
6. Coinage in Pre-Viking East Anglia by Rory Naismith
7. The Castle and the Warren: Medieval East Anglian Fur Culture in Context by Aleksander Pluskowski
8. Economic Relations between East Anglia and Flanders in the Anglo-Norman Period by Elijas Oksanen
9. East Anglia’s Trade in the North Sea World by Wendy R. Childs
10. Iceland’s ‘English Century’ and East Anglia’s North Sea World by Anna Agnarsdóttir
Part III: Case Studies: Influences and Links
11. Ipswich: Contexts of Funerary Evidence from an Urban Precursor of the Seventh Century AD by Christopher Scull
12. Imports or Immigrants? Reassessing Scandinavian Metalwork in Late Anglo-Saxon East Anglia by Tim Pestell
13. Stone Building in Romanesque East Anglia by Stephen Heywood
14. Romanesque East Anglia and the Empire by Richard Plant
15. All in the Same Boat? East Anglia, the North Sea World and the 1147 Expedition to Lisbon by Charles West
16. The Liber Celestis of St. Bridget of Sweden (1302/3-1373) and Its Influence on the Household Culture of Some Late Medieval Norfolk Women by Carole Hill
17. Flemish Influence on English Manuscript Painting in East Anglia in the Late Fourteenth Century by Lynda Dennison
While there is no direct information on piracy in this book, there is a link between maritime trade and pirates. Understanding one assists us in knowing the other, and the commodities that were traded provide insight into the “treasures” of the period. Ayers’ chapter (3) will be of particular interest to those interested in medieval cogs, the vessels that carried bulk cargo for trade, while Childs’ essay (9) examines early ports and customs. Other chapters touch upon the difficulties in venturing across the North Sea and the dangers those waters brought to East Anglia. In addition to the individual essays, illustrations, maps, charts, and diagrams are included, as are an index and chapter notes. This book isn’t for the diehard pirate fan or those with little interest in the medieval world, but those in search of information on maritime trade in the Middle Ages will find this book an intriguing examination of one region in England and its connections to the world at large.
Read an excerpt
Review Copyrighted ©2014 Cindy Vallar
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
The British Navy, Economy and Society in the Seven Years War
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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.
Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail
Seaforth, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84832-025-3, £40 / US$74.95
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.
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:
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.
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
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.* 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.
* 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
The Challenge: Britain against America in the Naval War of 1812
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.
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 CrimminsThis 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
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
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
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
Knights of the Sea: The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812
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.
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
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.
Visit the author
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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.
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.
Read an excerpt
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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 NealeThe 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.
Read an excerpt
Samuel Smedley: Connecticut Privateer
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.
Visit the author
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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:
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.
- Coastal and International Shipping
- Evolving Ship Technologies
- Famous Ships
- Governmental Policies
- Inland Waterways
- Leading Entrepreneurs
- Partnerships and Corporations
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
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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.
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
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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.
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.
- 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
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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.
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 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.
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
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
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.
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).
- 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
- Contingency Planning
- Defensive Command and Control
- Medical Evacuations (MEDEVACS)
- Survival at Sea
- Escape from Captivity
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?
By Robert Hay
Seaforth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84832-068-0, US$27.95, £13.99
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy VallarBetween 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
- Distinctions, Distinctions: ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Force? by Patricia Owens
- State and Armed Force in International Context by Tarak Barkawi
- Privateers of the North Sea: At Worlds End – French Privateers in Norwegian Waters by Halvard Leira and Benjamin de Carvalho
- The Flow and Ebb of Private Seaborne Violence in Global Politics: Lessons from the Atlantic World, 1689-1815 by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee
- Violent Undertows: Smuggling as Dissent in Nineteenth-Century Southeast Asia by Eric Tagliacozzo
- ‘Tribes’ and Warlords in Southern Afghanistan, 1980-2005 by Antonio Giustozzi and Noor Ullah
- The Criminal-State Symbiosis and the Yugoslav Wars of Succession by Kenneth Morrison
- Private Security Companies in the Malacca Straits: Mapping New Patterns of Security Governance by Patrick Cullen
- Securing the City: Private Security Companies and Non-State Authority in Global Governance by Rita Abrahamsen and Michael C. Williams
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.
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-bookMost 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.
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:
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.
- Seafaring Boys in the Eighteenth Century: Fiction and Reality
- Jim’s Troublesome Youth on Land: ‘The Idle Apprentice Sent to Sea’
- Poor Jim: Charity and the Marine Society
- The Typical Jim Hawkins
- Jim’s Motives: Sailors and Youth Culture
- Jim’s Life on Board
- Jim’s Coming of Age at Sea: Masculinity and the Horrors of War
- Jim’s Return from the Sea
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
Sir Martin Frobisher
Sir Martin Frobisher: Seaman, Soldier, ExplorerBy Taliesin TrowPen & 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.
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.
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.
- Col. Henry Perry on Bolivar & 1816 Maps
- Corsairs on Galveston Bay – Aury & the Laffites
- The Final Years of Jean & Pierre Laffite
- Some Associates of Perry, Aury & the Laffites
- Gen. James Long
- Ramon Lafon the Founder of Port Isabel in 1823 & the Three Pirates Lafon
- Related Topics to the Major Characters
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.
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.
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:
The book also includes an index.
- 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 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.
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar
The 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
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
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
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
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.
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 AlabamaEpilogue: A Modest Proposal
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
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.
Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
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. AntonyPart 3: Southeast Asia
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])
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.
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.
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
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.)
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.
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.
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.
By Max Hardberger
Broadway Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7679-3138-0, US $25 / Can $29.95
Nicholas Brealey, 2010, ISBN 9781857885569, £9.99
Read an ExcerptThe 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.
Read an Interview
Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar
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:
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.
- Rhode Island Beginnings
- The Passage from Peacetime to Rebellion, 1763-1775
- Whipple’s War, at Home and Abroad, 1775-1778
- War’s Fortunes and Misfortunes, 1779-1783
- Postwar Discontentments, 1783-1789
- Final Years in Ohio, 1789-1819
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.
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 VallarUnder 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.
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.
The Pirate Code
The Pirate Code: From Honorable Thieves to Modern-Day Villains
By Brenda Ralph Lewis
Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59921-455-9, US $19.95 / CAN $21.95 Lyons
This book presents the history of piracy from ancient times through today. In between those two periods, the author examines Vikings, Barbary Corsairs, and
Caribbeanpirates. 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.
The Pirate’s 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