Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Piracy, the original get rich quick scheme or die trying.

Quick synopsis: The story of arch-pirate Henry Every.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Henry Every is the most successful pirate of all time. He was only a pirate for two years. He was also never caught.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Life on a pirate ship was amazingly progressive. It was in many ways a floating democracy and a pirate captain could be replaced simply because the crew no longer trusted them.

My Take: Henry Every was a pirate. At least, some guy we think was Henry Every was a pirate. He also might have been named Ben. We think. He came from England. Of that we are almost 100% positive. Where in England? We have some solid guesses.

When it comes to pirates, there is a lot of guesswork. Myths become bigger than reality and a fair amount of details need to be filled in by conjecture. Henry Every is a perfect example of it.

He is the most successful pirate of all time. He took over a British ship and terrorized ships near India and Africa for a surprisingly short amount of time. He then pulled off one of the most amazing disappearing acts in human history. Why do I say that? Because Henry Every was the subject of the first global manhunt. England and the Mughal Empire wanted him dead, but they never tracked him down.

Johnson writes in a narrative style (which he admits) is not linear. He explains many of the contributing factors to the story in order to fully immerse the reader in the time and the politics. If you are hoping for a book purely on Henry Every, then it will frustrate you. If you want the full story, then you will get it.

Verdict: A great book for history nerds who love everything about pirates and the times they come from. It may be too in depth on other topics for casual readers.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard
  • Buddy Levy, Conquistador
  • Caroline Alexander, The Bounty
  • David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag

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Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson
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