The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: The English are the reason we can’t have nice things like a Pirate Republic.

Quick synopsis: The story of how pirates tried to create their own society and the man who destroyed it.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The Golden Age of Piracy was relatively short (about 80 years). As such, many of the famous pirates knew each other and interacted in Nassau such as Blackbeard, Charles Vane, Calico Jack, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Sam Bellamy.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Captain Woodes Rogers, who destroyed the pirate republic, is also famous for saving a deserted castaway named Alexander Selkirk. He was the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.

My Take: Pirates still capture the popular imagination. I mean, they still keep making Pirates of the Caribbean movies after all. There is something about them which makes them the perfect antiheroes. They operate outside strict societal guidelines and are fiercely democratic. It is easy to seem them as benign escapism. That is, until you remember the murdering, raping, and pillaging of innocent people.

In any case, history once again is stranger than fiction. It turns out, a republic of pirates did exist for a little while. It wasn’t a formal agreement, but a pirate code did exist and many of the famous pirates we remember were a part of it. Turns out, when a colonial empire just decides you aren’t worth the trouble, you are left to your own devices.

Of course, cause too much trouble, and that colonial empire will once again start paying attention. Colin Woodard’s book explores all of this, including the arrival of Captain Woodes Rogers, who put an end to the pirate party. His biggest weapon? Pardons. Well, pardons and then hangings. Go read about it.

Verdict: A great book read for anyone interested in piracy.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard
  • Buddy Levy, Conquistador
  • Caroline Alexander, The Bounty
  • Steven Johnson, Enemy of All Mankind
  • David Cordingly, Under the Black Flag
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The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard
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