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The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind Pirate Myths

The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind Pirate Myths

by Benerson Little


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For thousands of years, pirates have terrorized the ocean voyager and the coastal inhabitant, plundered ship and shore, and wrought havoc on the lives and livelihoods of rich and poor alike. Around these desperate men has grown a body of myths and legends—fascinating tales that today strongly influence our notions of pirates and piracy. Most of these myths derive from the pirates of the “Golden Age,” from roughly 1655 to 1725. This was the age of the Spanish Main, of Henry Morgan and Blackbeard, of Bartholomew Sharp and Bartholomew Roberts.

The history of pirate myth is rich in action, at sea and ashore. However, the truth is far more interesting. In The Golden Age of Piracy, expert pirate historian Benerson Little debunks more than a dozen pirate myths that derive from this era—from the flying of the Jolly Roger to the burying of treasure, from walking the plank to the staging of epic sea battles—and shows that the truth is far more fascinating and disturbing than the romanticized legends.

Among Little’s revelations are that pirates of the Golden Age never made their captives walk the plank and that they, instead, were subject to horrendous torture, such as being burned or hung by their arms. Likewise, epic sea battles involving pirates were fairly rare because most prey surrendered immediately.

The stories are real and are drawn heavily from primary sources. Complementing them are colorful images of flags, ships, and buccaneers based on eyewitness accounts.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510713024
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Pages: 388
Sales rank: 974,207
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Benerson Little is the author of multiple books and numerous articles on pirates, has twice appeared on the History Channel to discuss piracy, and has served as a historical analyst for the Starz pirate drama Black Sails. A former Navy SEAL, he has worked as a naval special warfare analyst, an intelligence analyst, and a consultant on maritime subjects. He lives in Huntsville, Alabama.

Table of Contents

Preface Imagining Pirates and Piracy v

Prologue The Image of the Pirate ix

Part I "For Somebody Muse Be Beaten"-Pirate Violence 1

Chapter 1 Death's Head and Marrow Bones 3

Chapter 2 "False Optics" and Blackboard the Pirate 31

Chapter 3 Pirate Ships and Pirate Prey 51

Chapter 4 Not by Walking the Plank 69

Chapter 5 "False Optics" and the Great Pirate Roberts 87

Chapter 6 Epic Combat at Sea 101

Part II "The Custom of the Coast"-Pirate Society 129

Chapter 7 Thief or Rebel? 131

Chapter 8 Dueling and Democracy 151

Chapter 9 Titillation with a Cutlass 175

Chapter 10 Not Every Man Created Equal 193

Chapter 11 Pirate Heaven 213

Chapter 12 Buried Treasure, Sunken Treasure 235

Bibliography 257

Acknowledgments 291

About the Author 295

Endnotes 297

Index 341

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