Sunday, March 11, 2012
It's not often that I choose to read history books, biographies, or any other nonfictional endeavors, but every once in awhile my curiosity gets the better of me, and I interrupt my usual regimen of novels to satisfy the occasional craving.
David Cordingly's Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life among the Pirates is a well-written, comprehensive introduction to the history of piracy. Cordingly begins by addressing the popular images of pirates that authors and filmmakers have proliferated, which I thought was a marvelous starting point and made me want to finally read Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Cordingly defines his terms early on, especially the terms pirate, privateer, corsair, and buccaneer. Much of the book is dedicated to describing the careers of some of the most famous and/or successful pirates and privateers in history, such as Sir Henry Morgan, Sir Francis Drake, John Rackam (Calico Jack), Bartholomew Roberts, Captain William Kidd, and of course Captain Edward Teach, AKA Blackbeard. There is also a chapter about women, especially the pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny (David Cordingly has written an entire book on this subject, titled Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives, which I might pick up some other time.)
One of the most interesting facts tucked away in this book is that times of peace were hard on men whose only training in life involved ships. The author writes, Two of the most dramatic increases in pirate activity took place when peace was declared after long periods of naval warfare and large numbers of seamen were out of work. Some men saw few alternatives to turning pirate. Also illuminating is how the authorities managed to finally end the constant threat of these crimes with legislation, the issuing of pardons to those pirates who agreed to come forward and quit piracy, promising rewards for the capture of pirates, and giving private ships a license to hunt down, attack, and capture outlaws. Pirates were also executed, the bodies of some hung in irons along the shore as a reminder and threat to would-be criminals.
Under the Black Flag is an engaging introduction to the history of piracy by an author who is an established expert on pirates, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject. David Cordingly's book provides a glossary of sea terms, which is very helpful. I'm still a little confused about the difference between some kinds of ships, but that wasn't the focus of this particular book. I find it intriguing that there are ships called pinks and snows. Just sayin'.
Okay, so I finished a book that I'd intended to read this past December--three months late is really not bad. I've had some books that have been neglected for--oh, never mind.
In other news, my mother is in Hawaii right now. RIGHT NOW, MY MOM IS IN HAWAII!!! That is soooo awesome. I can hardly wait to see the pictures and hear all about it.
And I am sort of wasting the weekend. It's beautiful out there, insanely so. And tomorrow's another work day....and we'll be short staffed tomorrow, and I'd better not count on getting much of a lunch break, because--because it will be the first day with no Calamity! She got another job, and I hope she's as happy as a clam there, so I don't feel so guilty about being so happy about her departure. And I suspect that The Attitude will follow in her footsteps, and that's okay, I'll work overtime for that cause and I will drink to it, too.
And I've just discovered the Parenting Fails page over at I Can Has Cheeseburger. Pretty funny, especially the Halloween costumes.
Over and out for now--enjoy what's left of this weekend!