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If a Pirate I Must Be: The True Story of Black Bart, "King of the Caribbean Pirates"

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  644 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
In a page-turning tale brimming with adventure, author Richard Sanders tells of the remarkable exploits of Bartholomew Roberts (better known as Black Bart), the greatest of the Caribbean pirates. He drank tea instead of rum. He banned women and gambling on his ships. He never made his prisoners walk the plank, instead inviting them into his cabin for a friendly chat. And d ...more
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing (first published February 20th 2007)
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Jun 16, 2008 Rhiannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this for my A-Level history personal investigation, and it's really good for facts. A great combination of quotes and other evidence, explanations of how everything was at the time, little sashays off into the lives of other important figures such as Blackbeard or Calico Jack, and impressive storytelling make this a great book for either study or just interest.

Not only that, but you will undoubtedly find yourself becoming attached to the pirates, and when the inevitable conclusion co
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
Shiver me timbers! Thar be a book worth the read! Arrr!

I had only a small idea what to expect when I picked up If a Pirate I Must Be: The True Story of Black Bart, "King of the Caribbean Pirates" by Richard Sanders. A selection for my book club (known as the Manly Book Club by its members, but more on that another time), it had been described as containing some surprising insights into pirates that weren't commonly known. And this was true: I learned a lot about the men who sailed the seas of
Oct 01, 2007 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone intersted in historical non-fiction
I've never been too interested in pirates, but late one night on the History Channel, I saw a special about pirates and became intrigued by the story of Black Bart. So I went to his Wikipedia site and found out what sources people were referencing and found this book.

I found myself rooting for the pirates every time the author recounted how they took a prize or (much more rarely) found themselves in battle. He was really good at conveying the personalities of certain members of Roberts' crew, an
Oct 13, 2014 Sonya rated it really liked it
Well written and entertaining in clear and easy to read way. A good slice of history of pirate life as well as the slave trade. Very interesting and shows how myth and reality are mixed with today's idea of what pirates are like with historical documentation mixed in.
Jesse Decker
Jun 19, 2011 Jesse Decker rated it it was ok
I bought this on a whim during Amazon's summer sale for Kindle books, and it ended up being a solid reminder to always download a sample first, even if the book's really cheap.

It's not that the the book was horrible; it offered some insights into pirating activity in the early 18th century. The flow of the writing just wasn't as strong as the other books I've been reading lately, and for that reason it wouldn't have passed the sample test. The author too often pointed out uncertainty in his own
Aug 14, 2012 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up off the "new" book table at my local library, remembered being intrigued with pirates as a kid, playing a video game called "Pirates", etc. and thought I'd give it a try. This is well researched non-fiction presented as an adventure story, or as close to an adventure story as the facts will allow. Speculation is identified as speculation, with reasons why it might or might not be valid, and the story serves as a window into life in the early eighteenth century.

My three star rati
Jan 21, 2012 Wade added it
One of the better historical books I've read. Intriguing for anyone about the early 1700s this book captures the life of the most famous pirates and reveals conditions on ship for the British French and slaves in West Africa. This is well written and engaging and I was on my seat the whole time despite it being non fiction. The Europeans are lucky there weren't more dynamic pirate leaders because their reign was tenuous and sloppy at best and a couple more Bart's could have taken them down for d ...more
I have read a lot of pirate books... and I would say this is the best of them. It covers the story of Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart). Unlike most pirate books, it sticks to HIS story mostly. Most of the other books I've read about pirates spends more time talking about general pirate life and lore. Of course, as with any history book, some parts are filled in as best as can be considering lack of information or the credibility of certain sources, but over all this is a well researched and writ ...more
Jan 08, 2009 Walt rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read on piracy.
Not only is the text easy to read - none of the dull academic dryness; but it is full of excellent information.

Unlike most pirate books, there is little rehashing of the same stories. Sanders looks at things critically and makes arguments about piracy and commerce. He also critically discusses the two leading primary sources on pirates in relation Black Bart Roberts. It is an excellent work of nonfiction that reads like a novel.
Jan 11, 2014 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
As I have been going to the Renaissance Festival with my siblings, dressed as pirates, I thought reading a good about a real pirate would be interesting. I was not disappointed - although being real pirate back in the Golden Age of Piracy was not really like Captain Jack Sparrow. I enjoyed it immensely. Most pirates had very short lives - not a good career choice.
Jul 29, 2007 Rachel rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE
Meh. When will historians learn that history doesn't have to bore the reader to tears? Throwing innumerable facts and figures at a person doesn't make one want to continue to turn pages. Bleah. Don't read this. If I could've made this NO stars, I would've.
Laure "Voop"
Feb 04, 2009 Laure "Voop" rated it it was ok
The book started out well and was engaging, but then lost steam by the middle. I found that it just became a dry recitation of events after a while.
Sera Hartis
Feb 06, 2017 Sera Hartis rated it it was amazing
I quite enjoyed this book! I found the insight into pirate life stripped of the Hollywood glamour and costumes fascinating. The authors does a wonderful job separating the different periods of Roberts career, while fleshing him and his crew out as people not just propaganda. A quick, fun, informative read for anyone curious about pirates. But be warned, you'll want a glass of punch most of time you're reading this.
Amanda Edmunds
Mar 20, 2017 Amanda Edmunds rated it it was amazing
Excellent. An account compiled from contemporary sources about the life and times of the world's most extraordinary pirate Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart. A must read for any history fans or those with an interest in the Golden Age of Piracy.
Ebster Davis
Mar 18, 2015 Ebster Davis rated it liked it
The negative: I feel like for being a book about Johnson "Bartholomew" Roberts, this book didn't have nearly enough to say about him.

I mean, like, I get that the historical records from that period are pretty sparce, but considering the author did such a good job with putting all these little pieces of history together to tell the story of "The Golden Age" of piracy, a little more could have been infered about the life of the man who this book is supposed to be about.

I got to the part where *s
Salima Korri
Sep 26, 2012 Salima Korri rated it really liked it
Reading my first book about Pirates, I was excited as ever to pick out a second one, this one. Hearing so many stories already about Black Bart Roberts, I wanted to know more, so when I read the blurb and understood that this book was going to be the 'true story' about him, I grabbed it and immediately started reading it.

However this book is NOT a story, it is more of a fact book and that is why it took me so long to finish because I needed time to digest the information. Don't get me wrong, but
Verity Brown
Aug 03, 2015 Verity Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

If you want a quick read that will introduce you to the world of real-life pirates, this is definitely a book worth choosing.

Although "Black Bart" (Bartholomew Roberts) isn't as well-known as pirates like Blackbeard--I had barely heard of him and didn't realize that "the Dread Pirate Roberts" of The Princess Bride fame was a reference to him--he was actually one of the most successful pirates ever.

Success being relative. In the course of about three years, he seized more prizes than any other p
Feb 22, 2011 Ollie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the Welsh and pirates
Bartholomew Roberts (aka Black Bart) was the greatest pirate the Caribbean and Africa ever saw. He was also Welsh and probably gay. In a period of ten years - between 1712 and 1722 - he raided 400 ships, a figure dwarfing any other pirate before or after him (including the more notorious Black Beard). Roberts, unlike his men, didn't drink or care for chaos. He brought to piracy an order and focus that brought them riches but also made them the focal point for England's anger.

The most fascinating
Apr 04, 2015 Teri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pirates have been a recent guilty pleasure of mine, having been lured--quite reluctantly at first, I might add--by my other love, video games. I didn't actively hate pirates--I've always enjoyed a good pirate movie or two--but until recently, I generally found pirates as interesting as zombies...which is to say not a whole lot.

Thanks to the many hours of time logged in the colorful and expansive world of Assassin's Creed Black Flag, I've changed my stance on pirates significantly. Having gotten
Dec 19, 2009 Jenn rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenn by: James
Shelves: history-pirates
I have really been enjoying a lot of history books on pirates the last year or so - quite an interesting genre. "Black Bart" or Bartholomew Roberts - was a "forced man" after the slave ship he worked was taken over by pirates. The entire culture of pirates is fascinating because it is a major reaction to the unfair and abusive practices that seamen and other common workers experienced during this era. Pirate ships had codes of behavior and articles that meant that a captain didn't actually have ...more
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
Look, I'm not going to lie: Past Kirsti bought this book solely because it's about a pirate named Bartholomew Roberts. And I was going through a huge Princess Bride obsession when I stumbled across this. The Dread Pirate Roberts, you guys. For real. How could I NOT read this book?

Sadly, this was far less fun than The Princess Bride would have suggested. It wasn't bad, per se. It was just a little dull. And fairly dry a lot of the time. A lot of "and then they sailed here and captured a bunch of
Jun 15, 2011 Joy rated it really liked it
I picked this book up on a sale at Amazon, and it turned out to be much better than I expected. Who knew there was a real "dread pirate" Roberts, who was arguably the most successful pirate captain of them all? Bartholomew Roberts was an officer on a slaver ship when he was forced to join a pirate crew when his ship was taken off the coast in Africa, and just a few short months later he became their captain. Over a two year career he and his crew took over 400 prizes, including the most lucrativ ...more
Josh Hamacher
Jul 28, 2011 Josh Hamacher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This short book tells the tale of the pirate "Black Bart" (he never went by that name himself), Bartholomew Roberts. He stands out as by far the most successful pirate of the "golden age" of piracy (~1650-~1730), although he's less known to modern readers than certain other pirates.

This book is compiled almost exclusively from first-hand material and provides a vivid account of what pirate life was really like during this era. Roberts himself was a fascinating character, a quiet, reserved Welshm
Whitney Archibald
Nov 10, 2010 Whitney Archibald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A random pick by bookclub, which ended up being really fascinating. I learned so much about real-life piracy -- mostly bad and ugly, not much good. I haven't read historical non-fiction in a while, and it was nice not to have to wonder what was fact and what was fiction (for the most part, at least -- I know historical objectivity is impossible, yadda yadda). I'm embarrassed about how much of my historical "knowledge" comes from historical fiction.

It was really interesting to examine the moral q
Karenbike Patterson
Feb 18, 2016 Karenbike Patterson rated it liked it
Most people think of Black Beard or Captain Kidd when they think of pirates but Bartholomew Roberts was far more "successful" in the number of crew he had, the number of "prizes" he captured and the number of miles he traveled in two years from 1719- 1721.
The book details the pirate ships, merchant ships, and slavers that traveled the Atlantic. Pirate life was democratic and egalitarian but also autocratic. The ships and crew were far less barbaric than slave ships and few men were killed. They
Feb 09, 2016 Dave rated it liked it
For me, the book had pluses and minuses - worth reading, but hard to enthusiastically recommend. I knew almost nothing about 18th century pirates and I learned a lot from author Richard Sanders. The book is packed with interesting information. The reader is taken chronologically through Bartholomew Roberts' (Back Bart) reign of destruction through the Caribbean and Atlantic from 1718 to 1723. The author makes a compelling case that Black Bart was the most successful pirate of the age. And in the ...more
Nov 05, 2010 Valerie rated it liked it
This is the story of Bart Roberts. Bart began life as John Roberts, a Welsh sailor from a well-off family. In his mid-30's John was serving as 3rd mate on a slave ship that was attacked by pirates. John was forced to join the pirate crew and less than 2 years later was known as Bart Roberts, the most succesful pirate captain of the 'golden age of piracy'.
The book tells about Bart's life and career as a pirate. For one thing, he rarely drank and for the most part kept casualties to a minimum. Whi
Jul 28, 2012 Kateri rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Finally finished this book! I loved the subject matter,,, I mean, who doesn't love real life pirate stories,,, but unfortunately it just wasn't narrated in a way that kept me intrigued. At some point in the book I figured there would be some more ships taken by the pirates and that eventually (based on the large amounts of foreshadowing) things would go badly for the pirates. I do appreciate the author's ability to weave together so many different texts and first hand accounts, giving what felt ...more
At times focused and other times expansive, this story of Captain Bartholomew (Black Bart) Roberts is uneven but engaging. Occasionally, the author places Roberts’s actions into a larger pirate/maritime history, which adds depth and context to the Black Bart legend. Although it alludes to other infamous characters in pirate lore, it stops short of specifics (i.e., claiming he’s the most successful captain and commanded the largest crews, without establishing a basis of comparison). The big excep ...more
Mar 14, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well researched. At times, Sanders descriptions are vivid and engaging and at other times, they are dry and tedious. This is a book that can be put down and picked up easily as it is not so engaging to demand attention but interesting enough to continue reading. Sanders does not romanticize pirates but does offer insight into the reasons behind their unrest and what might have driven a sailor to embrace piracy. He avoids anachronistic judgment by pointing out that the pirates were n ...more
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Richard Sanders is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who first became fascinated with pirates while living in Columbia during the 1990s. He now lives in London.
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