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