Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom--and Revenge
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Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom--and Revenge

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  325 ratings  ·  104 reviews
At the end of the fifteenth century, the Spanish Inquisition forced many Jews to flee the country. The most adventurous among them took to the high seas as freewheeling outlaws. In ships bearing names such as the Prophet Samuel, Queen Esther, and Shield of Abraham, they attacked and plundered the Spanish fleet while forming alliances with other European powers to ensure th...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 18th 2008 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2008)
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I thought this was so interesting. It tied together for me a lot of pieces of information I had about the experiences of Jews in the New World, (and Amsterdam, England and Spain) from the time of their expulsion through the founding of this country. David Liss, if you haven't read this book, you need to... I was thinking about "Coffee Traders" the whole time I was reading this. Kritzler discovered a couple of new pieces of information through his research... which surprised me; it doesn't occur...more

Although I can almost hear the sinews of loosely connected bits of history stretching as I read this account of Jews as pirates and privateers, it was amusing and somewhat believable. After all, it's the victors that write history.... A good read for both pirates and Jews. ;)
No, this is not a book about a popular theme park ride, or a book about a series of films originally based on the name of a theme park ride. It is a factual and historical book about pirates of the Caribbean…Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.

If you are looking for a fascinating book detailing the history of Jewish pirates of the Caribbean, then this is the book for you! Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for...more
Zohar -
This book is about a small part in the vast history of the Jewish people. This is an incredible book with many fascinating characters their intrigue, exploration and adventure. The author focuses on the Jewish pirates as well as the legitimate Jewish seamen (such as pilots, navigators, etc.) since, let's face it, there is a reason you never heard of Jewish pirates - there weren't that many.
Actually, "legitimate" might not be a good word since at that time many pirates were state sponsored (they...more
If this history had been a more careful, better sourced, I think I’d have liked it better. If it were historical fiction concentrating on two or three Jewish pirates, instead of talking about people across nationalities, cultures and politics (both religious and national) I’d have liked it better. As it is, it’s a better concept than it is a book. When I was Sunday School, or possibly Hebrew School, as a student many, many years ago, a teacher said that Columbus may have been Jewish but certainl...more
This was a fascinating bit of Jewish and Caribbean history I never knew before. We've been amused by piracy for generations, just look to Disney, but this book brings to life what it really meant to be a privateer (a sanctioned pirate) or an illegal pirate (one out for one's own good). The subtitle is a bit misleading, it is not really a story of "swashbuckling," it is more of a history lesson than an adventure story, albeit it is very interesting and entertaining. The main focus of the book is...more
I'll start out with some things I liked about this book:

* I learned some interesting parts of history, such as that Jews were banned from Britain by King John, and let back in my Cromwell (unofficially), and Charles II (officially)

* I learned a bit about the spread of sugar, and that for a long time it was a delicacy only affordable to the very rich

* I got some leads on things I'd like to learn more about at some point, such as the history of Jamaica

There was enough to keep me reading through...more
In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain. Some of them converted to Catholicism to avoid deportation. However, if they continued to practice their former religion, they became particular targets of the Inquisition. The author’s thesis is that part of Columbus’ agenda for his voyages was to find someplace where they could find refuge. The author presents a surprising amount of evidence for his case, especially in the history of Jamaica, which Columbus’ descendants kept free of the Inquisition f...more
I had always thought that the New World was discovered and settled by Spanish and Portuguese explorers who were devout Catholics, but I learned that Christopher Columbus, possibly a Sephardic Jew and converso (New Christian), set sail for the New World, August 1, 1492 - the last day before all Spanish Jews were to leave the country or be put to death. I also learned that no Catholic Priests were onboard Columbus' three ships. The crews were made up of Sephardic Jews who professed Christianity du...more
I enjoyed this book, I learned a lot from it, however there was a bit of a sour note. The author promises far more in the introduction than he is actually able to deliver on. This book is pretty much a history of Jewish settlements in the New World, legal and not. There are pirates, and the author does seem to have done what he could to find out about them. In the end however, this is a book with a lot of guesswork, even if it is educated guesswork. The simple fact is that due to the laws of the...more
The title was slightly misleading. Although the major players in the books may be pirates, it didn't focus much on piracy. Despite that, I enjoyed the book, which told about what went on behind the scenes in the era just after the new world was discovered. The story of the characters in the books has largely been left untold. Several adventurous Jews did their best to achieve basic human rights for their people, who had been persecuted in most of the places they settled.

I loved reading about the...more
Unexpectedly good, not-cheesy, and severely exciting.
I really wanted to like this book. And, to a certain degree, I did. But I didn't enjoy it. It's interesting, if not entertaining, but it's not a terrifically written assessment of history.

My first problem is the title. You pick up a book called Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean and immediately imagine stories of swashbuckling rogues plundering the Spanish Main, swilling rum, and ravaging wenches (or, alternatively, an hysterical and stereotype-laden Mel Brooks movie). Instead, you get the story o...more
This is a real interesting book that I mostly recommend. Great kernels of information about the founding of Amsterdam's Jewish community, New York's first Jewish settlers, Jewish Brazil, the trips of Vasco Da Gama and Amerigo Vespuci, among others. Particular favorites were the mini-biography of Rabbi Samuel Palache in the middle; the explanation of Cromwell's role in the Jewish return to England; and the population transfer of Tortuga to Jamaica.

Still, there are details of this book that bother...more
Chip Etier
Mar 28, 2010 Chip Etier rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pirate and Jewish enthusiasts.
Christopher Columbus and Jean Lafitte were Jewish? You gotta be kiddin' me!

Edward Kritzler, author of The Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, is not kidding. He documents his narrative of exiles searching for a safe harbor with forty-five pages of notes, a four page chronology, and a web site: . Sir Neville Noel Ashenheim, Jamacia's first Ambassador to the United States, verifies the genealogy of Columbus while a hand-written letter from Lafitte confirms his...more
I wanted this book to be SO AWESOME. I mean, are you kiding me?! I saw it as I was walking out of the bookstore and I ended up going back and buying it without really looking at it. But, come on, clearly this book was going to be amazing!

But then in the car I started reading the foreword/introduction bit, and I was pretty immediately appalled. The book was pretty poorly written, and the premise was just really really weird and crackpot-ish.

My comment to Caryl sums it up pretty well...
"It was ver...more
I'd say "oy vey!" but these guys were sephardim. A book like this necessarily involves a fair amount of speculation due to the nature of the material. We have no way of knowing how committed individual conversos were to Judaism, and even the most committed of them had to go to some effort to conceal their Judaism in order to escape the Inquisition. To those interested in history of the diaspora, the age of discovery or the golden age of piracy, this will be a fascinating read.

The account here s...more
Bruce Nordstrom
May 18, 2014 Bruce Nordstrom rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs.
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I read the title of this book, and I said, "I gotta read this book." I started reading, and I was up late that night, and up early the next morning. Had to finish reading this.

I was fascinated with this book. It covered so many topics I was completely unfamilure with, and left me with a lot of topics to read about in the future.
There were several times while I was reading this that I couldn't help but think, "That doesn't do anything for your narrative. Why am I reading this?" A lot of things seem to be thrown in as an after-thought, in which I was reminded of Monty Python's adage, "And now for something completely different."

The information was good, and interesting when I could follow it. But there were times I got bogged down in minutiae.
An amateurish, overly-Judeophilic stab at popular history.

To claim that a history book about Jews is overly Jew-centric seems a little unfair and maybe inappropriate, but when it became clear that every Jewish figure in this book was a downtrodden, brow-beaten 'good guy', pirates included, I had to question its intentions, and indeed its academic veracity—Kritzler crossed the line when he went out of his way to morally reconcile his Jewish heroes' involvement in the slave trade, while pages aft...more
So the Cohen Rodriquez brothers Moses and Abraham were inspired by a Pirate Rabbi that had been a pilot for the Barbary pirate, Barbarossa. They went to Brazil for the sugar trade, started the first synagogue in the New World there until the Inquisition caught up with them. They ended up in the Caribbean Island of Jamaica where they plied their trade skills when Henry Morgan the pirate was governor of Jamaica. And tried to take one of Spain's treasure ships. This book is not a historical novel,...more

Ahoy me matey's. What we be havin' here be a book about gentleman o' fortunes (aka pirates aka bucaneers aka eye patch wearing, cutlass wielding, peg leg walking humanoids) an' rather bad one at that! I be hopin' fer a good story full o' adventure on th' high seas, instead I got a long winded history lesson which port me wi' nay booty t' keep. Gar.

Sea dogs, like vampires, be pretty much th' "in" thin' starboard now. So when me first see' this har book naturally I thought, "wow, how...more
In 1492, the same year as Columbus’ first voyage, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the expulsion of all Jews from Spain. Many of these, along with conversos (Jews forced to convert to Catholicism, some still practicing covertly) took to the seas. Because of their skill in trade and finance, even with the ban in Spain many Jews established the commerce of the New World and prospered. However, when the Inquisition eventually crossed the Atlantic, the Jews’ survival depended on forging advantageous p...more
Tom Liskey
This is a must read for anyone interested in Latin American history. Kritzler breathes fresh life into an esoteric and oft-looked episode of Western history.
This book really taught me a lot about the history of the Caribbean, the Spanish Inquisition, and Jewish survival. I also agree with the theory that Christopher Columbus was a converso, along with many, many people who first settled in the New World. Very interesting, how Columbus left on the actual day that Jews were told to leave Spain or be killed. (

I did not realize that the Christian Inquisition went on for over 300 years, hunting down, torturing &...more
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I was a little mired in the end notes and all the characters, but I learned a lot about this period of history, which is often glossed over in history courses, despite our undying fascination with Columbus and the age of exploration.

This is really the story about how the Jews, driven from country to country in Europe, seize the opportunity to explore the new world in the hopes of finding a safe refuge where they can live and work without the constant fear of the Inq...more
Carol Catinari
Mar 10, 2013 Carol Catinari rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carol by: TOR Book Club
My current book club selection, this was most interesting. It tells of the Jewish pirates, buccaneers, financiers, merchants etc who settled different newly found lands in the "new world." Much of their wanderings were a result of the Spanish Inquisition and Expulsion. Although I tended to lose track of some of the characters now and then, it was a most interesting history of this period and the impact of Jews escaping persecution (some converting, some secretly practicing, etc). Woven into the...more
Nice book on Sefardi Jews, refugees from the inquisition, who became semi-merchants semi-privateers in the New World and whose support for the protestant countries, which did not persecute them as Jews, assisted these countries in conquest of large parts of the Americas. Perhaps a little too valorizing, I felt. Basically the story is rather sad. The persecuted of Europe assist in consolidating its power over other persecuted - the Indians and the Africans. The usual story - after all many Britis...more

I was excited to discover this book and approached it with eagerness. This story fills a deep hole in European History...I have a degree in European History. Though many know the persecution history of the period of colonization (Conversos, etc.) it is not presented well in text books that cover the history in survey fashion.
The editors did not serve the author or subject well. It read in a choppy fashion...several times I had to re-read...but it does fill part of a gaping hole. I hope for mor...more
Fantastic swashbuckling tale of how a Jewish advisor to King Ferdinand convinced him to subsidize Christoper Columbus' voyages in the hopes Columbus would find a new land for the Spanish Jews, victims of the Inquisition, to settle. Along with Columbus, travel sons of Dutch Jewish merchants who settle islands in the Caribbean, notably southern Jamaica and bring their trading success to that island, plot with the British and Dutch to overthrow the Spanish and alternately duck, dodge, intermarry or...more
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