Fewer twentieth-century historiographical debates have been more engaging than the debate over comparative slavery in the colonial or Atlantic World. Since the early writings of scholars like Mary Williams and Frank Tannenbaum, historians have been actively engaged in debating the exceptionalism of the American slave system, and in comparing the severity of slave systems across contexts. More than anything, the historiography of comparative slavery is a methodological exercise. Comparing slave systems has required historians to address the larger question, “how does one measure the severity of a slave system?” Continue reading “Essay on the Historiography of Comparative Slavery in the Atlantic World”
COLIN WOODARD. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. New York: Harcourt, 2007. Pp. 383. $27.00.
The Republic of Pirates is the third nonfiction book by the American journalist and writer Colin Woodard. The book “tells the story of the Golden Age of Piracy,” here dated as 1715 to 1725, “through the lives of four of its leading figures.” The first three of these figures are the Black Flag pirates Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, Edward “Blackbeard” Thatch, and Charles Vane; and the last figure is the first, crown-appointed Governor of the Bahamas and the former privateer and circumnavigator of the globe, Woodes Rogers. Continue reading “Review of The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard”
CAPTAIN CHARLES JOHNSON. A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. New York: Garland Publishing, 1972. Pp. 320. $30.00.Originally published in London: Charles Rivington, 1724.
Originally published in early May of 1724, A General History of the Pyrates (henceforth GHP) is a compilation of British pirate biographies from the early eighteenth-century. Without a doubt, it is the most famous and most widely cited primary source on the topic of the Black Flag pirates, often being described as the “Bible” of English pirate history. Although the authorship of the work has been long disputed and continues to remain a mystery, this fact has not softened the momentum of the text, which remains the cornerstone of almost every secondary source on the history of the English sea rovers. Continue reading “Review of A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson”
ROBERT RITCHIE. Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986. Pp. vii, 306. $20.00.
Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates is the second book book written by Robert Ritchie, senior research associate at The Huntington Library, in San Marino, and former history professor and associate chancellor at the University of California, San Diego. Ritchie specializes in the history of seventeenth-century colonial America and early-modern England. His book uses the life of the privateer-turned-pirate William Kidd (1645-1701) to explore the greater economic and political factors that led to a widespread, brutal campaign against piracy by Anglo-American merchants, government officials, and their colonial allies in the final decade of the seventeenth century. Continue reading “Review of Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates”
ALEXANDER OLIVIER EXQUEMELIN. The History of the Buccaneers of America. Trans. by Alexis Brown. Introduction by Jack Beeching. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1969. Originally published in Dutch as De Americaensche Zee-Roovers. Amsterdam: Jan Ten Hoorn, 1678.
The History of the Buccaneers is perhaps the most important primary source book on the lives of the Caribbean pirates (aka, Les Frères de la côte) from the late 1660s and early 1670s. The text was originally produced in Holland by the Jan Ten Hoorn publishing house in the year 1678; it was written in the Dutch language by a largely mysterious writer named Alexander Olivier Exquemelin. Extraordinarily famous in its own time, the text now stands alongside such iconic works as William Dampier’s A New Voyage Around the World (1697) and Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pyrates (1724) as essential reading for anyone who wishes to study the history of piracy in the seventeenth-century. Continue reading “Review of The History of the Buccaneers of America by Alexander Oliver Exquemelin”
PAUL E. HOFFMAN. The Spanish Crown and the Defense of the Caribbean, 1535-1585: Precedent, Patrimonialism, and Royal Parsimony. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. Pp. xiv, 312. $30.00.
The Spanish Crown and the Defense of the Caribbean is the first book written by Paul E. Hoffman, current professor of History at Louisiana State University. Hoffman specializes in the history of colonial Latin America and the American southeast, especially the frontiers of Florida, prior to the year 1821. In this particular work, Hoffman relies upon his in-depth sleuthing of primary sources related to royal defense spending—taken mostly from the General Archives of the Indies (AGI) in Seville—to tell the story of the Spanish crown’s efforts to defend its holdings in the Indies against mostly French and English corsairs between the years 1535 and 1585. Continue reading “Review of The Spanish Crown and the Defense of the Caribbean by Paul Hoffman”
RUSSEL K. SHOWRONEK and CHARLES R. EWEN (ed). X Marks the Spot: the archaeology of piracy. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2006. Pp xxvi, 339. Cloth $59.95.
X Marks the Spot is a compilation of thirteen essays, all written by American or European scholars, on the historical archaeology of piracy in the early-modern world. The volume is coedited by Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Santa Clara University, Russel K. Showronek, and Professor of Anthropology at East Caroline University, Charles R. Ewan. As far as the historian is concerned, the work is genuinely valuable in at least two regards: supplying language, context, and imagery to the material record of piracy, and demonstrating the value of collaboration between scientific and historical methodologies. Continue reading “Review of X Marks the Spot by Russel Showronek and Charles Ewen (editors)”