An epic, schol­arly new his­tory of piracy’s golden age

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Our ver­dict on the lat­est his­tor­i­cal books and film re­leases

Au­thor Eric Jay Dolin Pub­lisher Liveright Price £21 Re­leased Out now

“Dolin’s work is a new take on the well-trod­den path of pi­rate his­tory, as schol­arly as it is en­ter­tain­ing”

Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin, re­veals the his­tory be­hind the golden age of piracy that swept the waters around Amer­ica in the late 17th and early 18th cen­turies. It was a time when le­gends were made, money talked and jus­tice wasn’t al­ways done.

Dolin’s work is a new take on the well­trod­den path of pi­rate his­tory, as schol­arly as it is en­ter­tain­ing. He doesn’t shy away from the Boy’s Own-ish tales of rogu­ish pi­rates that have made these men and women so fas­ci­nat­ing for cen­turies, but nor does he lose sight of the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal im­per­a­tives that cre­ated such a per­fect breed­ing ground for piracy, rel­a­tively short though their golden age was.

In Black Flags, Blue Waters Dolin brings colo­nial Amer­ica vividly to life and ex­am­ines how the colonists and of­fi­cials clashed and col­lab­o­rated, and how piracy played its part in build­ing the new econ­omy. He looks back into the ar­chives to dis­cover how this mu­tual backscratch­ing turned into an­i­mos­ity and ex­am­ines how the in­creas­ing eco­nomic clout of Amer­ica meant that pi­rates, once tol­er­ated and some­times even cel­e­brated, found them­selves hunted across the oceans.

Of course no his­tory of piracy would be com­plete with­out a few fa­mous names and Dolin pro­vides them in spades. Rest as­sured that names such as Black­beard, St­ede Bon­net, and Cap­tain Kidd are well­rep­re­sented, as are the forces of law and or­der, in­clud­ing fig­ures such as Ben Franklin and Robert Snead, a man who learned early on that it didn’t do to tan­gle with pi­rates. Though some of the pi­rates whose ex­ploits are in­cluded here have be­come rather ro­man­ti­cised fig­ures over the cen­turies, Dolin doesn’t flinch from pro­vid­ing the some­times grue­some facts be­hind their ex­ploits but this isn’t a sen­sa­tion­al­ist book, and it is firmly an­chored in solid re­search.

Eric Jay Dolin is clearly com­fort­able with the ma­te­rial at his dis­posal and has pre­vi­ously writ­ten his­to­ries of whal­ing and the opium trade, amongst oth­ers, and he has an eye for the sort of de­tail that brings colo­nial North Amer­ica spring­ing from the page. Keep­ing such a sprawl­ing, com­plex world with so many larger-than-life char­ac­ters in check is no mean feat, and it is one that Dolin man­ages with con­sid­er­able aplomb. He teases fact from folk­lore and cuts through the hy­per­bole of le­gend to breathe new life into even the most fa­mous names on both sides of the law, pre­sent­ing both the pi­rates and their foes as very real and com­plex peo­ple, rather than car­toon­ish sea dogs and be­lea­guered law­men.

This book will ap­peal not only to schol­ars of the golden ages of piracy and ex­plo­ration, but to any­one who en­joys a dra­matic, well-told story. Black Flags, Blue Waters is an im­por­tant work in its field, rich in schol­arly sources and pro­vid­ing some wel­come his­tor­i­cal con­text for piracy’s hey­day and in­evitable de­cline.

It is im­mensely read­able, and at least as thrilling and ac­tion­packed as any pi­rate le­gend!

Grip­ping and dra­matic, this book takes read­ers back to the dawn of the

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