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Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,956 ratings  ·  374 reviews
He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean.

Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English becam
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Crown (first published April 4th 2007)
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Start your review of Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign
Jason Koivu
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Right off the top you should be asking, "5 Stars for a book about pirates, Koivu?" Yeah well I have a thing for stories about randy seaman going after sweet sweet booty, what can I say?

Talty's pen puts a nice flourish on history that's appreciated, but hardly necessary considering his colorful source material. Patriotic Welshman Captain Morgan may not have seen himself as a pirate, after all he was only doing his duty for England, but if you were the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands at the time
Joy D
Have you ever wanted to know the truth about the Pirates of the Caribbean?
Have you ever wondered the difference between a pirate, a privateer, and a buccaneer?
Did you question how Captain Henry Morgan could have been both a pirate and a knight?
Have you ever heard of the great earthquake that occurred in Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1692?

This book provides the answers to these queries and more. The author has found an impressive number of primary sources from which to draw information. Talty is parti
Wow. I feel like I've got to take a week off after reading this one. A lot happens, man. (This is one of those books that proves reality is far more incredible than fiction.)I can say nothing more than that this must be the epitome of pirate literature - it may not be pirate Bible, but it's pirate Shakespeare at the very least. Loved it. Henry Morgan is a colossal figure in history, and this book gives him his due. (I read "Cup of Gold" by John Steinbeck about a thousand years ago - also about H ...more
Michael Jandrok
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having recently reviewed Colin Woodard’s excellent history of Caribbean piracy, “The Republic of Pirates,” and realizing that I had name checked this book in that review, I thought it necessary to dust off an older review that I had in the can for Stephan Talty’s “Empire of Blue Water.” It’s certainly a worthwhile exercise to pick up this book if, like me, you are spending some of your winter months dreaming of beaches and sand and things of a nautical nature. Which reminds me, I really need to ...more
Pirates (or privateers) always make sensational subjects, so author Stephan Talty didn't need much embellishment to make the tale of Henry Morgan into a fast-paced and thrilling book. I've read a handful of other accounts of Morgan and other privateers and found this one of the most successful renderings. And while Morgan cuts a definite dash, Talty doesn't shy from making it clear that it was ruthlessness as well as leadership skills, strategic thinking, and inventiveness that led to his succes ...more
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
I would definitely recommend this book. I was surprised how much I didn't know about pirates, or at least how little is accurately described in popular culture. It really is kind of a war book, mostly full of descriptions of battles and stuff, but they are interesting battles, and it's really impressive to see some of the tactics the pirates used against properly trained armies to defeat them! And I can't get over how political it all was, much more than criminal.

Did you know that many of the pi
Pirates - and Henry Morgan as one of the better known ones, are seldom a boring read, and this fast paced biography is no exception. Pirates (or privateers), military strategy, the 'silver train', the shear brutality of the pirate life - all make fascinating reading with a background of the dominant Spanish, and the English, French, Dutch and Portuguese largely playing second fiddle to them - certainly in the Caribbean and the 'New World' of Central and South America.

This book does well to keep
Melanie Unruh
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book will challenge everything you've learned about pirates from the movies. Real pirates were more brutal, less well-dressed, and drunker than in any movie. They were also utterly profligate, which attributed to their demise as much as the iron fist of any government.

One of the most enlightening aspects of 'Blue Water' has to be the analysis of shocking level of ineptitude with which Spain administered her colonies. Without the (non)contribution of the Spanish, the pirates would have had a
While this was an entertaining, interesting read, there was one thing that stuck out which I can't help but comment on (only because this type of narrative, in this day and age, really should not be pushed any longer)--during the early portion of the book, Talty briefly describes the early conquest of Mexico. He states that the Mexica outright believed that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl...which, as someone who has spent some time elbows-deep in the indigenous history of Mexico (however brief the semes ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is rare to find a history book which utilizes a narrative style that so immediate and engrossing as well as inclusive of satisfactory historical and cultural background to make sense of the topic. Talty's prose has the cinematic quality of a good novel that does not hesitate to inform as it entertains. A book worthy of its subject - the lost era of the real pirates of the Caribbean and the formerly shadowy figure of Sir Henry Morgan (is this the rum's namesake?) I cannot recommend this enough ...more
N.N. Light
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a fantastic historical account of the truth behind Captain Morgan and his bloody pirates. Not for the faint of heart.

Highly recommend!

My Rating: 5 stars
Jenny Karraker
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing

There is a tv commercial in which an elaborately dressed Henry Morgan is drinking among friends at a fancy party-- a serving girl spills a glass of wine and cringes, thinking she will be whipped. But in an act of mercy and perhaps even democratic flair, Morgan pushes over his glass and encourages all his guests to do the same thing. Not knowing anything about Morgan except seeing his name on the Captain Morgan rum billboards, I wanted to discover more about him. I didn't realize he was a real
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sea-stories
Excellent read for the adventure aficionado and history buff alike, Empire of Blue Water is pop history in its finest form.

Empire of Blue Water tells the story of Captain Henry Morgan, his privateers, and the battle for power in the Caribbean, at which they were placed front and center. In essence, Morgan was a hired gun for the English crown, sent in to secure England's hold in the region. His men were privateers, essentially paid mercenaries who wanted bounty and nothing else (not conquest, fo
Unabridged. Read by John H Mayer.


The term tsunami comes from the Japanese meaning harbor ("tsu", 津) and wave ("nami", 波). [a. Jap. tsunami, tunami, f. tsu harbour + nami waves.—Oxford English Dictionary:]. For the plural, one can either follow ordinary English practice and add an s, or use an invariable plural as in Japanese. Tsunami are common throughout Japanese history; approximately 195 events in Japan have been recorded.


The musket is thought to be the weapon that replaced the arqueb
I took in the audio version of this book, narrated by a gravelly-throated John H. Mayer. He turned the history into a tale that could've been told at the back of a dim sailor's dive, a place packed with rowdy pirates and privateers and buccaneers all whipped from salt and wind, all with scars, some with missing appendages. Havin read a few pirate romances, I knew reality wouldn't paint them in such a swashbuckling, to-die-for light, and sure enough, they were greedy cutthroats who pillaged and p ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book about privateer Henry Morgan. This is a very readable tale of Morgan's battle with the Spanish. The author takes time to build the settings, describing places like Port Royal, Panama City, and other places in great detail. He also juxtaposes the lawless Caribbean with political climate in London and Madrid which is very useful for understanding how a pirate like Morgan could have accomplished so much so quickly. While the book is non-fiction, the author has created a fictional pir ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enhanced and altered my perception of Morgan era pirates. Hadn't previously realized how much loot was obtained by raids taking place ashore. What I'll most remember are the passages about the superior weapons and outstanding marksmanship.

"Pirates adored speed; an extra knot could mean the difference between riches and handing. Like grease monkeys cackling as they dropped a supercharged V-12 into their father's vintage Olds ... Brethren took a stock mercantile vessel and made it into a thing bu
Mar 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Poor scholarship, boring prose, and pointless invention.

This is the kind of book that gives popular history writing a bad name. He invents an example pirate character, and uses him throughout. This automatically brings his accuracy into question, as he describes the action in various events in a way that obviously does not reflect reality, focusing as it does on someone who was not there because he didn't exist. (the device could work, if it was used only as an example of the typical pirate, bu
This was a great book. It was a fascinating nonfiction book about Port Royal in Jamaica during the 17th century. The true story of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Henry Morgan really had a huge part to play in defeating the Spanish in the New World. The book describes the difference between buccaneers, pirates, and privateers, and also describes how the divisions betweem were often blurred and nonexistent. These men were courageous and tenacious. They were also lawless and uncivilized, ex ...more
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Talty's book tells the story of the flamboyant Henry Morgan and his semi-official privateer war against the Spanish. Morgan continued to raid Spanish targets even after the British and Spanish concluded a peace, which technically made him a pirate, but he escaped the noose by pleading ignorance of the treaty.

Morgan was incredibly ruthless; many pirates worked hard to make their reputation for bloodthirstiness as real and immense as possible; this made it easier to coerce ships and even entire ci
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you ever wondered about pirates in the Caribbean during the late 17th century: who they were, what they did, where were their loyalties and why are they so fictionalized- then this is the book for you. It's not easy read, but it is less difficult to peruse than stolid history occurrence tracts. This follows Captain Henry Morgan's privateer occupation, his contemporaries and methods, and also the earthquake that ended Port Royal's existence as a pirate haven in Jamaica.

Understanding the specif
Tom Schulte
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is very engaging history of the The Brethren, Capt. Henry Morgan's real Pirates of the Caribbean. Along with the drama of a fireship ruse and a city-destroying earthquakes, it is interesting the actuality of buccaneer life. Rather than a criminal navy, they were more like a criminal marine corps: ships were a conveyance to get them to coastal settlements and departure points for laying siege, such as the pivotal struggle for Panama City having marched over 50 miles inland.

While it is not d
May 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Well written and very interesting.
Susan Greiner
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book about Captain Morgan and the real pirates of the Caribbean during the 1600s. It tells about the struggle for control of the Caribbean between the European powers. Spain held much of the area, imposing its Catholic Theocracy and stripping South and Central America and the Caribbean of its gold, silver and jewels. The British wanted a foothold to set up colonies based on a model of economic trade. Captain Morgan was hired by the British as a privateer to wrest control of ...more
Tom Oman
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not an amazingly well written book, but it is at least comprehensive. Not surprisingly it turns out there are very few first hand accounts of the age of the pirates and the official record of the time is written by officials who often had a vague and mythical understanding of the pirates. The author relies heavily on what seems like a handful of sources, a few of which I have read recently. Namely Esquemeelings account, which was also written as a popular bestseller in 1678 so it is more than li ...more
David Harlan
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Who doesn't love pirates?

- How are they not stumbling drunk all of the time? I assume that some of them were, but they also had to get things done occasionally, and I'm not sure how they consumed that much rum and still kept the ship right side up.

- What happened to the Spanish? I understand their king for much of the Morgan years was a grossly deformed madman, but its like they just gave up. The empire is terribly managed in a lot of ways. It is easy to criticize and hard to do, but there see
Chad Simons
I enjoyed this book. It was a little longer than some, without adding too much detail to the story. Its interesting how similar these books on pirates are. All had very similar experiences, at least the ones that have books about them. Lifespans for this lifestyle could be very limited depending on skill, but mostly on luck it seems.

Anyway, a good companion book to many other books about the pirates/buccaneers/privateers/hoodlums of the early times.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was surprisingly good. It buffed off a lot of the POTC nonsense and showed the pirate/privateers in a more historically accurate light, while still being very engaging and readable. A lot of history here I had never learned.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Captain Morgan was a irate of great fame and ability and to this day you can his picture on Rum bottles
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
3.5 stars. Interesting, but not fascinating. It was a good way to learn more history about that time period.
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Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Empire of Blue Water by Stephan Talty - 4 stars 7 14 Mar 23, 2020 09:10PM  

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Stephan Talty is the New York Times bestselling author of six acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction, as well as the Abbie Kearney crime novels. Originally from Buffalo, he now lives outside New York City.

Talty began as a widely-published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the author of t

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