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The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf
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The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  202 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Jean and Pierre Laffite's lives were intertwined with the most colorful period in New Orleans' history, the era from just after the Louisiana Purchase through the War of 1812. Labeled as corsairs and buccaneers for methods that bordered on piracy, the brothers ran a privateering cooperative that provided contraband goods to a hungry market and made life hell for Spanish me ...more
Hardcover, 706 pages
Published May 2nd 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2005)
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History books are tricky beasts. You want them to be well-researched, by someone with impressive scholarly credentials who knows what they're talking about, but you also don't want a droning lecture. The people who write popular history books are dismissed in the scholarly community because they are not "real" historians (like my favorite, Alison Weir, who apparently is not a historian, but merely a writer with an interest in history), and the real scholars who write history books often have no ...more
Aug 27, 2007 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like reading boring books about interesting subjects
Like everyone else with any sense of adventure at all, I have a thing for pirates. I asked my professor today in class if dropping out of school and becoming a pirate would be an acceptable final project, even (not kidding, I really said this). So when I read pirates, treacherous, and corsairs on the cover of this book, I was in. But it is a snooze. Imagine the worst kind of dry, dull, historical writing (the kind that makes people hate great stories like the Wars of the Roses), and you have The ...more
Erik Knutila
Aug 07, 2008 Erik Knutila rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: insomniacs and masochists
Shelves: non-fiction
What I learned from this book is that most academics make horrible authors and that this was painful to read. Beyond that unless you have a fetish for the Laffites, wanting to read about customs and revenue officers or just have a general interest in the history of the us gulf in the early 1800s, this book is probably not for you. The treacherous world was more I think due to boredom and the hard lives most privateers lived and even the cover misleads since it seems rarely were there any true en ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly researched. The footnotes are almost a fourth of the book. This is a great study of the origin of maritime law or, rather, the need for the development of maritime law. Debunks so many myths about the brothers Laffite. In particular, why Jackson really wanted to stoop to the help of a pirate. It wasn't because Jackson needed guidance in the terrain of the lower Louisiana coast as we have been lead to believe. It had to do with a very practical need. I won't spoil it for you. Read the ...more
Nathaniel Turner
It took me three years to read this book. This was not a series of attempts, starting over again and again, having forgotten what I read before, but a single attempt, in which I laid the book down for months at a time and, taking it up again, resumed where I had left off.

This book was extraordinarily detailed. With those familiar with my progress in the book, I have joked that I would have found less information had I read the primary sources myself. Mr. Davis put such great effort into research
Alex Roma
I think I would probably have enjoyed this book more if I didn't feel like I was racing against the clock. It took a while for me to get to it and it's actually due back at the library tomorrow, so I kind of rushed through it and probably missed at least 70% of the information in there. I'll probably buy this book and read it again some other time, because it was interesting, and there was a lot of useful info for my pirate wip. When that happens, I'm sure I'll have a more thorough review.

I wil
Sep 16, 2014 Coco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-orleans
I was drawn to this book based on an interest in New Orleans history. The book was well researched and had a great bibliography for further reading. I was fascinated by some of the facts the author was able to dig up on the Brothers Laffite and I was amazed at the scale of the operation they ran.

Perhaps the author could have situated the book better within the larger context of the history of colonial Louisiana and colonial New Orleans, or perhaps more importantly within the context of the Fren
The story of the Laffite brothers is fascinating and Davis has done a good job of recreating as much as possible from legitimate sources. It's pity, though, that so much of the narrative is of the And then, And then, And then variety. One gets lost in a sea of names and dates and places. More context, detail and explanation would have been nice. And a lot more maps, timelines and a list of dramatis personae would be fantastic.

This is not say that it's not a compelling read in parts -- Pierre an
Aug 12, 2015 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on a whim from a friend's bookshelf because I have a weakness for books with boats on the cover. Turns out, its a really wonderful book. The history itself is very speculative since primary sources on the Laffite's don't exist in the quantity or detail we'd like, but in terms of narrative history its a really solid and interesting work.

Its funny to think about this last age of piracy in the New World mostly happened via legal or at least semi-legal means. Much of the books
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Davis turns the potentially exciting story of "treacherous" pirates into a story as dull as an annual report written by lawyers and accountants, because he relies too much on raw reporting of legal and accounting records.

Davis is in love with this research, and spends too much time pointing out the faults of the sources and and not enough summarizing them to a higher level. Like many non-fiction books I have read in the last couple of years, Davis seems bound to justify the purchase price by th
Boquillas Kid
I don't often review, but...

I just finished reading this. It started out intriguing, but quickly became a miasma of facts, figures, and dates. VERY dry reading, and finishing it was a tough haul. One would think that from the cover art and the subtitle, that it would be a rousing romp, but one would be very wrong. I do not recommend it (unless you are the kind of person who enjoys reading cargo manifests, series of dates and times, as well as seemingly endless lists of names involved to the Nth
Feb 02, 2009 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
so far, kinda boring...may have to skip ahead. Also, alot of hearsay. For example....he might have gone here, and might have done this. If it's a history, I want facts, if it's historical fiction I want entertaining story. By the way, being from Louisiana, I do think it is really cool because I have been to all of the locations mentioned, and I do have a thing for Jean Laffite, but it is still pretty dry reading. Also (my bros-in-law who both liked this book), I checked the index for my maiden n ...more
May 31, 2011 Aimée rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read large books in a day.

This book took more than 3 months to read. It was so horrendously boring that I would read 2 and 3 pages a night before passing out.

I'm a Louisiana History teacher and fought my way through this. It was the driest, worst book I may have ever read. Jean Lafitte is my LA history crush, next to HPL. But this book made me want a divorce from my privateer.

There is no heart, it rambles, and it lacks anything truly interesting.

But, I have finished. And will never read it aga
Jul 29, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-books-read
I continued my pirates theme with this book on the 1800s world of pirates, privateers and the battle over trade in the Gulf of Mexico.
Davis has an exhaustive look at Pierre and Jean Laffite and the history of privateering in the Gulf. Notes and bibliography alone total almost 200 pages.
This book touches on efforts to take Texas from Spain, and does mention Laffite connections to slave-runner Jim Bowie, but the action predates much of the early history of the Republic of Texas.
I'd like to get to
L.D. Watson
I have real mixed feelings about this book. To read this thing you really must want to know everything there is to know about the Laffite brothers (yes, that is the correct spelling of the name). The book is great in that it you get to see so much about the lives of these two fascinating personalities. The problem is that it is easy to get bogged down in so much detail the you loose perspective. Frankly, it is not an easy read but at the same time these people were amazing and I personally could ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
great, minutely detailed history of heretofore dimly understood characters who were actually very important in the early history of New Orleans and Louisiana, both for their well-documented and popularly hailed role in the Battle of New Orleans (the true facts of which are much different than the colloquially known version) as well as their involvement ( direct or indirect) in various filibustering expeditions in Mexico and various other Caribbean locales. My only complaint is that the book is s ...more
Ted Haussman

I could not wait to finish this book . . . because it was so dull. Agree with prior reviews which say that history professors do not always make the best writers of history. In terms of detail, this book has plenty although the amount of time the author speculated about what the Laffites
"probably" or "surely" did or with whom they met got annoying and was an unwlecome distraction.

In terms of holding my attention, I'd rate this a 1 star, but I gave it two because it did contain so much detail an
There have been many biographies of Jean Laffite, mostly they are romanticized evocations of an era when New Orleans dripped with Spanish Moss and scoundrels. Hot-blooded Creole gentlemen met with swords under the Dueling Oaks to determine who would win the favors of languid octaroon mistresses.

While octaroon mistresses do figure prominently in William Davis’ tale of the Big Easy’s best-known outlaws, Davis takes a flinty eye to the antics of the last great corsair.

May 28, 2008 Adriana rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Gulf Coast Pirate Lovers
Recommended to Adriana by: Me
Shelves: notable-mentions
Another interesting piece of history. I have come across the Brother Pirates Laffite so many times in the novels purposely read in the summer, my summers are for trash reads, that I finally decided to delve a bit deeper into their history. Not only were they instrumental in the war of 1812, but they were very prosperous privateers, haven been given their letters of marque. I enjoyed this read, very much, no matter the reviews.
Kandice Newren
Oct 11, 2014 Kandice Newren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This a great book. It gives a lot of information about what is known about the pirates Laffite. The author does a great job of listing what is anecdotal, what is probably true, and what is false. He uses a lot of great resources that proves he's done his homework. It took me so long to read because there were so many footnotes with extra little tidbits. If you want to know about the Laffites, and also other pirates during the 1800s, I would recommend this book.
Dec 06, 2007 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays-etc
it was rather rambling and not the most gripping of books, to say the least. but when you're doing research on jean and pierre lafitte and new orleans around the year 1815, it's all you need.

by the way, always research after you have more than half your novel written. i'm either incredibly rooted in reality, accidentally derivative, or just plain psychic.

The LaFfite name is synonymous with mystery and piracy alike. After reading this novel, though, much of that shroud of mystery is dispelled, yet the intrigue remains. As the story of these two ambitious brothers unfolds, it reveals much more substance to these two infamous figures and gives the reader a glimpse at life in these times.
Jul 22, 2009 Wayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched, engaging bit of history right up until the conclusion of the War of 1812. Then Davis seemed to lose his narrative thread and wandered into the swamps of many passing people and places, with long inventories of those involved with the Laffites in fillibustering and freebooting in Texas, but without much context or story. Read the first part; skimmed the second.
Slow going. It's well-grounded in focusing on documentary evidence, to accurately portray the subjects of so much folklore, but I'm not so steeped in that folklore, meaning I'm left with a dry account of things that should be anything but dry. Perhaps the pace will pick up as I progress.
Sep 24, 2014 Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Hellish banditti" is how Andrew Jackson described the Gulf pirates of the early 19th century. For me this book was less about piracy and more about how wild and lawless our country's borders were 200 years ago.
Jan 24, 2016 Leah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've only gotten a couple hundred pages into this book. The topic is fascinating, but the writing is so dreadful, I just can't get through it. I've been trying to read it for the last few months. Will be shelving it for a while.
Jul 05, 2008 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this one sometime around last November, I'm only putting books up here since I started working in the oil field. I enjoyed this book, it looked in a historical perspective of smuggling and privaterring and pirating in the Gulf Coast, primarily in Louisiana and eastern Texas.
Feb 09, 2008 Laylah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a fascinating read. Reality brought to the romantic images we have of piracy that manages not to destroy what draws us to these stories.
Jan 13, 2009 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another wonderfully researched and well written non fiction historical book that for some odd reason always made me want to drink coffee.
Kathleen Valentine
Jan 06, 2010 Kathleen Valentine rated it liked it
Interesting, easy read but takes a lot of leaps in logic. Still a good historical background of these very interesting men.
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Currently professor of history at Virginia Tech, William C. Davis has written over fifty books, most about the American Civil War. He has won the Jefferson Davis Prize for southern history three times, the Jules F. Landry Award for Southern history once, and has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

For several years, he was the editor of the magazine Civil War Times Illustrated. He has also
More about William C. Davis...

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