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The History of Maritime Piracy

Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Cover Art: Pirates of the Americas

Pirates of the Americas
By David F. Marley

ABC-CLIO, 2010, ISBN 978-1-59884-201-2, US$180.00, £124.95

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Soon after I began writing about pirates and privateers, I added what has become a cherished treasure to my library. Marley’s Pirates and Privateers of the Americas (1994) was the most comprehensive, authoritative biographical dictionary of the buccaneers and some of their friends and enemies. It also incorporated explanations of key terms from the period, the second half of the seventeenth century. But this resource had two problems: it only covered the buccaneers and it’s been out of print for many years.
 
Marley has compiled a new authoritative and must-have resource, one that far surpasses the original edition. Pirates of the Americas is comprised of two volumes. The first covers 1650 to 1685, while the second encompasses 1685 to 1725. Not only are the buccaneers covered, but so are the pirates of the Golden Age. Other entries cover terminology, important places, friends and enemies, and other pertinent details often mentioned but rarely elaborated on.
 
As before each article ends with references, many of them from primary documents, such as the Calendar of State Papers, and other articles within Pirates of the Americas where the reader will find additional information. But this new, expanded set goes further to enhance the reading experience. Now each volume includes an alphabetical list of all entries in the books. While this offers a quick reference tool for finding out whether a subject is included, the list doesn’t identify which volume contains the topic. For that information, the reader either thumbs through the pages until locating the needed entry or consults the index, found in each volume, which identifies the page numbers containing the subject.
 
Another enhancement is the inclusion of period quotations at the start of each letter of the alphabet. Sidebars provide information pertinent to an entry – such as “Naval Uniforms” or the ships, guns, men, and captains of the vessels taking part in a campaign – maps, and illustrations.                                                                                                                    
 
If an entry pertains to a person, the dates in which he/she was active or was born and died are included. If there’s a significant amount of information about the person, such as in the case of Sir Henry Morgan, subheadings break down the entrant’s career. Entries can run as short as a single paragraph or as long as fourteen pages. Early on the nationality of the person is pointed out, making it easier to determine a person’s country of origin. Some entries include portraits of the person.
 
Each volume concludes with a sampling of documents pertaining to the period. Volume I includes Edward Gibbons’ letter of reprisal, an announcement suspending Spanish privateering commissions, and an account of the explosion aboard Morgan’s flagship, Oxford. Volume II contains Thomas Tew’s covenant with his crew, an encounter with Blackbeard, and a mock pirate trial. An extensive chronology of events and bibliography, a glossary, and a comprehensive index follow these documents.

 
Not every pirate who sailed the waters of the Americas during these years, however, is included in Pirates of the America. Notably absent are Anne Bonny and Mary Read. The price is also a hindrance. In spite of these minor issues, this is an amazing treasure trove of information for researchers, historians, libraries, and pirate aficionados willing to part with those precious pieces of eight.
 

   
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Review Copyrighted ©2010 Cindy Vallar

Modern Piracy: A Reference Handbook
By David F. Marley
ABC-Clio, 2011, ISBN 978-1-59884-433-7, $55.00
Also available as an e-book

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From a historical perspective to an analysis of piracy in such places as the Strait of Malacca and the Horn of Africa, Modern Piracy examines how this crime resurfaced, the complexities of the problem facing those involved, and possible solutions to end it.
 
Chapter 1: Background and History
This chapter provides a brief historical perspective, a textbook example of an attack, and the seven trends that have contributed to this upsurge.
 
Chapter 2: Problems, Controversies, and Solutions
The focus here is on additional factors that lead to repeated attempts, detailed accounts of the hot spots, strategic difficulties encountered, how attacks in the Strait of Malacca have lessened, and what needs to be done to reach successful solutions.
 
Chapter 3: Special U.S. Issues
With particular emphasis on Somalia, this looks at issues facing the American forces, as well as how American intervention in the region has impacted the present situation. The recent attack on the Maersk Alabama is also examined.
 
Chapter 4: Chronology
This list of important dates with brief annotations concerns maritime piracy in modern times. It includes milestones associated with this crime’s evolution and a sampling of attacks, rather than a comprehensive listing of events.
 
Chapter 5: Biographical Sketches
Some of the major and minor players involved in piracy are introduced.
 
Chapter 6: Data and Documents
Here one finds various tables of data and statistics, as well as official documents, concerning piracy at sea.
 
Chapter 7: Directory of Organizations
This is an annotated listing of organizations that fight piracy.
 
Chapter 8: Resources
This is a cross-sampling of the references Marley either consulted or quoted from. It is divided into General Studies and Overviews, Background and History, International Law, Southeast Asia, Somalia and the Horn of Africa, Nigeria, the Sirius Star Seizure, and the Maersk Alabama Incident.
 
Each chapter begins with a relevant quote from someone connected to piracy. Those chapters covering a variety of related topics sometimes include a summary. With the exception of the last, all of them include a list of sources. The book ends with a glossary and index.
 
Marley’s astute analysis of the many facets of maritime piracy makes this an important reference tool for anyone wanting to study the topic. For example, he shows how the end of World War II eventually opened the doors for piracy to re-emerge – a topic rarely covered in other texts on the subject. Unlike other writers, he also points out that Nigerian piracy really isn’t piracy, but rather assaults and robberies, because of where these attacks occur.
 
This is a compelling and succinct examination of the controversies governments and organizations face when trying to combat this upsurge. Throughout the text, quotes from pirates and those who combat the problem enrich the reader’s learning experience. Modern Piracy is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date analyses on the topic ever published.
 
Review Copyrighted ©2011 Cindy Vallar