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The Pirate Wars

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  90 ratings  ·  18 reviews
The Pirate Wars takes the romantic fable of oceangoing Robin Hoods sailing under the "banner of King Death" and contrasts it with the murderous reality of robbery, torture, and murder on the high seas. Noted maritime historian Peter Earle charts centuries of piracy, from Cornwall to the Caribbean, from the sixteenth century to the hanging of the last pirate captain in Bost ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 2003)
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Melissa Proffitt
More scholarly than Cordingly's Under the Black Flag but drawing on many of the same sources, I found this slightly less readable but every bit as informative. Earle is more sanguine about the possibility of black men being equals in pirate crews rather than property (Cordingly's argument is pretty persuasive) but he does an excellent job of comparing the myth to the reality, and I like his organization, both chronological and topical. He also makes no secret of his love of the British Navy and ...more
Rick Brindle
An excellent book that tells you almost as much as you'd ever need to know about pirates. Immensely readable, in fact I read it twice on the same holiday. Peter Earle educates the reader in a very easy way, making the topic vastly entertaining and accessible. By no means sympathetic to the pirates of history, he tells it like it is, portraying them as ruthless murderers who obeyed no laws, and yet the fascination for them remained. As well as their thoroughly dastardly side, we are also told abo ...more
Alex
I found Peter Earle's work to be informative and very entertaining. He makes his arguments in an unpretentious, frank, clear, and concise manner. Additionally, the book is the perfect length as to make sure the reader won't lose interest. Frankly, I was a bit disheartened to read the vociferously negative reviews that lambasted the book as dry and boring. No, it's not some romantic grade school level tale of piracy on the high seas; however, as an academic piece, I can emphatically say that it i ...more
Aaron
I recommend this book for anyone who has a deep or passing interest in pirates or the history of piracy. This book details the history of piracy in the western hemisphere, from the beginnings in the 1500's all the way until it was more or less wiped out in the mid 1800's. There are quite a few details that may come as a surprise to those who read it, the stories of the hoards of treasure that pirates were said to possess do indeed have some truth in them. The richest of the pirates were the "Red ...more
David R.
I liked the perspective: that pirates were a scourage worthy of being extirpated from the high seas. And Earle does a fine job documentating that process with special emphasis on the 17th and 18th centuries. But it is a bit too dry. Still, we need to see more of these efforts to de-glamorize murderers and robbers.
Megan
I feel the need to clarify that there was nothing truly bad about the book. But there was nothing truly enjoyable about it either. While the accounts of piracy are written in an easy to understand way that doesn't glorify brutality and stealing, I found the explanations for the rise of piracy to be unsatisfactory. I confess I'm a bit of a Marxist where piratical history is concerned, and I disagreed with the author's interpretation of why piracy came about. As other reviewers have mentioned, it ...more
Jonathan
"The Pirate Wars" by Peter Earle starts with the first pirates recorded and follows along time and geographical setting explaining differences and happenings. The resource amount and usage in the book is excellent, with letters and journals quoted from pirates or navy soldiers to clarify the author's stories. The diversity of pirates mentioned makes the book more interesting and exotic. The organization of the book can sometimes be unclear, where areas of geographical setting can change immensly ...more
Mark Allen
This is an academic treatment of piracy rife with footnotes of clarifications, extended extractions and citations from first-hand source materials such as Johnson's 1726 history of piracy, British Admiralty records and letters, and Esquelmeling's account of Morgan in the mid 17th century.

If you're looking for a good academic introduction to the subject this the place to start. It's readable enough for someone with a passing interest in piracy, but some of the other recent books about piracy, inc
...more
Ben Dial
I love the history in the book, and I did learn quite a bit from it. It has probably the best historical reasoning for how piracy grew to its peak in the early 18th century than any other book I have read on the subject. Unfortunately, it reads a bit like a history book. The adventure and danger of piracy and those who hunted them was lost in the detail of dates, names, places and overall dry writing style.
Bap
This book is a monumental achievement. It is a stunning that anyone can write about 250 years of Pirates with all the vitality and fun drained out of it. Blackbeard and his ilk must be spinning in their graves. It is enough to want to go to an all you can eat seafood place. Arrrr me maties.
Paul Pensom
Informative but terribly dry. Guilty I think of trying to fit too much into one book, when putting some flesh on to the bones of just a couple of these fascinating monsters would have been a more interesting route. Blackbeard alone is surely worthy of his own history.
David Cole
Jul 12, 2008 David Cole rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dead pirate ghosts who want to relive their exploits through the printed word.
A nice overview of the piratical era with some great bits of bet-you-didn't-know-this info but having read White Gold by Giles Milton which tackles similar territory, this one comes off somewhat dry.
Patrick
This book was packed with information, but was not that interesting. It reads a lot more like an academic study then something that was written for entertainment. There are better books on pirates.
Frank Taranto
An interesting overview of the history of Pirates in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediteranean Sea. Tells the story of both the pirates and the navies that hunted them.
Jennifer
I found this to contain a lot of interesting information about piracy, but it had no life. There was the rare flash, but that's all.
Amy
Jun 21, 2010 Amy marked it as to-read
This book smells weird. Like, really weird. Probably won't finish it because every time I pick it up, I'm distracted by the weird *smell*
Andre Gedeon
An amazing history lesson.
Jonathan
This book explains piracy's history. Originally, the Christian pirates of Malta and the Muslim pirates of Barbary conducted a sort of religious warfare. They attacked shipping and settlements and sold members of the other side's faith into slavery. Spain's riches caused a sort of piracy condoned by other European governments, including England. After Spain fought some wars with other European countries, this form of state-sponsored piracy mainly died off. During major European Wars, each side wo ...more
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