[Review] Pirates and Privateers in the 18th Century: The Final Flourish by Mike Rendell

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Pirates and Privateers tells the fascinating story of the buccaneers who were the scourge of merchants in the 18th Century. It examines their lifestyle, looking at how the sinking of the Spanish treasure fleet in a storm off the coast of Florida led to a pirate’s gold rush; how the King’s Pardon was a desperate gamble – which paid off – and considers the role of individual island governors, such as Woodes Rogers in the Bahamas, in bringing piracy under control.The book also looks at how piracy has been a popular topic in print, plays, songs and now films, making thieves and murderers into swash-buckling heroes. It also considers the whole question of buried treasure – and gives a lively account of many of the pirates who dominated the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Piracy.

I’ve long had a fascination with pirates (thank you Pirates of the Caribbean and Black Sails) so when this book arrived in a box full of books from the lovely guys at Pen & Sword, I knew it had to be the first one I picked up. And I devoured in within three days, picking it up to read a bit whenever I had a few spare minutes.

This book tells the story of the end of what was known as the Golden Age of Piracy, giving case studies of various pirates and privateers who sailed the seas during that time. It also goes over what the differences were between a pirate and a privateer (honestly, they were practically the same thing. Privateers simply had a letter stating that they were allowed to do it whereas pirates did not.) and also goes over how the mythology of piracy has changed over the years, how it has been portrayed in books and media.

Rendell has managed to write a wonderful book here – his writing style make it an incredibly easy and enjoyable read. Whilst I would have liked a bit more information on the pirates he writes about – Charles Vane and Jack Rackham being just two of them – he provides an excellent introduction to the history of the era and the people who dominated it. Each section was concise and readable and really does keep the reader interested throughout without simply just throwing information at the reader and turning into a dry read. Rendell also makes use of documents from the time – however what I did find slightly disappointing that there were no footnotes or any references of any kind. I feel that this is a book that would have needed them – so that the reader can check out where these documents are and perhaps look at them for themselves. All history books, in my opinion, should make use of references.

All in all, however, a very concise introduction to the topic at hand that is written in an engaging manner. Those with no background in the history of piracy would be able to access this book and I feel that those with knowledge of the era would find it a good read as well. I certainly look forward to reading more of Rendell’s work in the future given what a wonderful read this one has been.

A huge thank you to Pen and Sword for sending me a copy of this book to review.

4/5 stars.

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