My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As someone who grew up in the mid-atlantic, I was surrounded by all sorts of pirate lore growing up. I always had a desire to find out how much was real and how much was fiction, and Republic of Pirates fits that bill. Aside from piecing together all sorts of fascinating stories based on primary sources such as trials, diaries, and testimonies that paint fresh and realistic pictures of the pirates so notorious to history (Blackbeard and Black Sam Bellamy, to name a few), Republic of Pirates does its best to explain the forces of history that produced the pirates. After a lengthy beginning that focuses on the injustices and squalor that confronted mariners at the time, basically marking their profession as one that was little better than a death sentence with no hazard pay, the reason for so many turning to piracy becomes clear. The quasi-democratic way pirate ships were run was a sharp contrast to the shifty merchant marines and brutal royal navy ships of the time. It seems no surprise that pirates became folk heroes. Many were after money, but some had grander visions of fighting inequality or affecting regime change at home. The affinity pirates had for the Jacobite cause during King George I's reign was something I had no concept of, but that this book did a thorough job teaching me. Even if it shattered so many of the tall tales I was told growing up in coastal Virginia, this was an informative and entertaining read into how the pirates shaped world affairs at the time and the forces that eventually brought them down.
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