The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard

Set sail on a thrilling journey through the Golden Era of Piracy with ‘The Republic of Pirates.’ Uncover the lives of legends like Blackbeard and Charles Vane in a gripping narrative that reads like an adventure. Perfect for fans of ‘Black Sails’ and anyone captivated by tales of high-seas exploits. Discover the allure of piracy…

The Republic of Pirates

Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

Author: Woodard, Colin

Link to Amazon
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publish date: 06/30/2008
Language: English
Pages: 400
ISBN-10: 156 034 623

Genres: Golden Age of Piracy, History, Non-Fiction

”The Golden Age of Piracy lasted only ten years, from 1715 to 1725, and was consucted by a clique of twenty to thirty pirate commodores and a few thousand crewmen.”

From the Back Cover

An entrancing tale of piracy colored with gold, treachery and double-dealing (Portland Press Herald), Pulitzer Prize-finalist Colin Woodward’s The Republic of Pirates is the historical biography of the exploits of infamous Caribbean buccaneers.

In the early eighteenth century, the Pirate Republic was home to some of the great pirate captains, including Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, “Black Sam” Bellamy, and Charles Vane. Along with their fellow pirates — former sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves — this “Flying Gang” established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could be equal citizens, and leaders were chosen or deposed by a vote.

They cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Europe from its New World empires. For a brief, glorious period the Republic was a success as the pirates became heroes in the eyes of the people.

Drawing on extensive research in the archives of Britain and the Americas, award-winning author Colin Woodard tells the dramatic untold story of the Pirate Republic that shook the very foundations of the British and Spanish Empires and fanned the democratic sentiments that would one day drive the American revolution.

My Review

The Republic of Pirates is a great book about the Golden Era of Piracy in the Caribbean. It doesn’t really read like a dry scholarly work of literature, but rather as an exciting journey in which we’ll get to follow the great names like Blackbeard and Charles Vane. Anyone who’ve watched the tv-series Black Sails will recognize themselves to some extent, even though the show have changed quite a bit.

The Pirates

One of the best things about learning about a subject is that you get to live part of another person’s life and see the world through their eyes. Blackbeard was quite a bit more complex and interesting than most history books let on. He was a pirate, yes. Probably the most influential and successful pirate ever, even. But he was also known for treating his captives with respect and is rumored to never having killed another man. This can hardly be said about his polar opposite, the ruthless Charles Vane, another very interesting and dedicated pirate!

Charleston Blockade, May 1718

In May 1718, Blackbeard (Edward Teach) blockaded the ports of Charleston, South Carolina, capturing several ships in the process. One of those ships held several prominent members of Charlestone’s high society, including the young son of Samuel Wragg, the wealthiest man in town.

Despite a tense situation with delays and promises of killing hostages, Blackbeard didn’t let any harm come to the captives. According to reports he became fond of the boy and even braided his hair, like he did his own beard.

It’s things like these that add to the mystique of Blackbeard, on the one hand fearsome pirate, while on the other unexpectedly compassionate. He was a man of great will, drive and principles, he just happened to be on the wrong side of “the law”.

Golden Age of Piracy

Probably the most striking thing, to me at least, is the realisation that the Golden Age of Piracy actually only lasted a couple of decades. The active pirates only numbered in the few thousands while the captains and commodores only numbered about 20-30. To think that such few men have made such a huge mark on our history says quite a bit about how modern society idolizes and romanticizes these maritime outlaws and their relentless pursuit for freedom, riches and adventure.

Unpredictable Times

It’s during times like those, when turmoil in the world creates vacuums that men like our heroes sees opportunities and stretches out a hand to grab them. Sometimes the opportunity closes immediately and the hand is repelled and put in line, but sometimes the opportunity lingers, beckoning them to defy convention and carve out their own way amidst the chaos.

Europeans in the Caribbean

During this specific time colonization was in full swing and the great European powers where busy fighting over the different areas of control. This lead to a lot of them spreading thin and weren’t able to protect or keep control over areas like parts of the Caribbean. In addition to this, global trade routes was expanding heavily and a lot of valuable goods where shipped across the globe, ready for the taking for anyone daring enough!

Final Words

For anyone looking for a book to pick up after (or perhaps even before) watching the tv-show Black Sails or similar, this might be the book for you. It’s very well written and accessible. Reads more like a work of fiction. It’s a great introduction to the Golden Age of Piracy!

On the other hand, if you’re well versed in piracy, and particularly Blackbeard, this might not give you all that much new information. Though it might be worth it purely for the joy of reading about the great pirates of our history!

Should you be given the option to escape the 9-5 for a life (however short) of adventure with a few merry men as brothers?

4/5 thumbs up!