Pirates and Privateers of the Caribbean

Published in

by Jennifer Marx

  • Pirates and Privateers of the Caribbean
    Jennifer Marx - Krieger, Florida - x+ 310 pp. - £32.50 (hardback), £21.50 (paperback)

The author states in the preface that she has been fascinated by pirates and books and stories about them since her childhood. The basic text is divided into ten chapters as follows: Ch. 1 'Europe; The Old World.' This deals very briefly with non-European pirates, such as those of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the Persian Gulf, before tackling the Scandinavians, the Norsemen, and the Barbary Rovers. Ch. 2: 'French Corsairs on the Spanish Lake.' This deals with the sporadic irruptions of French corsairs, both Calvinist and Roman Catholic into the Caribbean, and the ways in which the Spanish Flota trade were organised to resist them. The exploits of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, an Asturian Flota commander and a naval genius, are given due weight.

Ch. 3: 'Elizabeth's Sea Dogs,' relates the exploits of John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, et al. Ch. 4: 'The Sea Beggars,' narrates the Dutch intrusion into the Caribbean, whether as corsairs, traders or colonists, highlighting the exploits of Piet Heyn in Brazil and the Caribbean, culminating in his capture of the Mexican Silver Fleet in the Cuban Bay of Matanzas in September 1628.

Ch. 5: 'Buccaneers, the Brethren of the Coast,' narrates their modest beginnings in Haiti, and their subsequent ravages and exploits down to the Treaty of Ryswyck in 1697. They were of various nationalities, but mainly English, Dutch and French, often supported by Amerindian and Negro or Mulato slaves or auxiliaries. Their most celebrated exploits were the sack of Panama by Henry Morgan in 1671, and the sack of Cartagena by a French naval commander, Baron de Pointis, co-operating with the Buccaneers in 1697.

Ch. 6: 'To the South Seas,' deals with William Dampier, Woodes Rogers, and several others who operated in the Pacific as well as in the Atlantic. Ch. 7: 'Piracy's Golden Age"' surveys events between 1692 and 1725, and includes an account of their operations in the Indian Ocean, one of the most notorious being the capture of Mogul ships by John (Henry) Avery. According to Daniel Defoe, he eventually died in obscurity as a pauper in a little Devon hamlet in 1727. Ch. 8: 'Global Outreach,' deals inter alia with William Kidd and his career, which ended with his hanging at Execution Dock on the Thames (May, 1701). Ch. 9: 'New Providence; Pirate Paradise,' includes an account of the female pirates, Anne Boney and Mary Read. Ch. 10: 'A Fading Frontier,' brings the story down to 1834, but points out that piracy mill never disappear, but has taken on new aspects such as drug-smuggling, much of which is now done by air rather than by sea.

There is an excellent bibliography and index, and adequate illustrations. The text is compulsively readable, and besides containing much information familiar to those who have studied the subject in depth, it contains a great deaI which is less familiar, or seen here from other angles.

  • Charles Boxer is the author of Portuguese Merchants and Missionaries in Feudal Japan, 1542-1640 (Variorum Reprints, 1986).

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