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A General History of the Pyrates

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,431 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Immensely readable history by the author of Robinson Crusoe incorporates the author's celebrated flair for journalistic detail, and represents the major source of information about piracy in the early 18th century. Defoe recounts the daring and bloody deeds of such outlaws as Edward Teach (alias Blackbeard), Captain Kidd, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, many others.
Paperback, 733 pages
Published January 26th 1999 by Dover Publications (first published January 18th 1724)
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Becky Yes they are. They are drawn from the original editions of Captain Johnson's books and from other contemporary sources and add a lot to the brilliance…moreYes they are. They are drawn from the original editions of Captain Johnson's books and from other contemporary sources and add a lot to the brilliance of this book. (less)
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Tal Good
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A book written by a sea captain about pirates and other sea captains during the time when pirates reigned. This book is essential for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the history of pirates. Johnson by no means appraises the deeds of these outlaws. As a sea captain himself, he is entirely against them and seems to be astounded by the public's interest of these outlaws. Due to the success of his book in 1724, he found himself writing more stories about pirates than he had previously ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent journalism. Please be advised this is original source material, written in 1724. Apparently they only used periods at the end of paragraphs then, the longest run-on sentences you have ever seen. Ascribed to Captain Charles Johnson but some old scholarship has decided it was really Daniel Defoe. Thats interesting but clearly whomever was the author, they were present at their trials and executions in England. Well researched, the author attempts to catalogue all the know pirates of Afri ...more
Although dated, this was an interesting account of some very notorious pirates. Of course it focuses on the golden age of piracy and the scalawags it produced. Replete with battle scenes, a glimpse into the lives of the offenders along with fascinating facts concerning the origin of the phenomena in the Caribbean. Of particular interest are the accounts of captaIn Jack Rackham (Calico Jack) and his two female cohorts Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Noel Coughlan
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
This book, originally published in 1724, recounts the misadventures of several famous pirates including Blackbeard, Ann Bonnet, and Black Bart. Actually, Blackbeard, despite his fearsome reputation, came across as less bloodthirsty than for example Captain Spriggs or Captain Roche.

There is some debate as to who wrote the book. Some cite Daniel Defoe as the possible author. I'll stick the guy named on the title page. :)

Many of the stories are fascinating. The book contains incredible detail, incl
charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)
an interesting read but it did get kind of tedious by the end
Rupert Matthews
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are even remotely interested in pirates then you absolutely must read this book.

It was written back in the 1720s, during the heyday of the pirates. The text is written by Captain Charles Johnson about whom very little is known. he was clearly a seamen as he gives a lot of details about ships and the sea. He may have been a pirate himself, and Charles Johnson may not be his real name. Some of the accounts are obviously based on the trials of the men who were hanged, but he also draws on f
Jul 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely challenging to read, and very repetitive. I would find myself reading sections over and over again trying to make heads or tails of it but there were also many chapters which I found absolutely fascinating and which really interested me. Very heavy reading, but interesting and insightful.
Jordan Powell
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Truly fascinating but bloody hell its hard work - not surprising when you consider when it was written.
Sep 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is interesting enough as an account of the misdeeds of the most famous personalities from the Golden Age of Piracy, but its greater value is its meta value as a historical document contemporaneous with the people and events it describes. The book is a mixture of history, recent events of that time, Herodotean second-hand reports ("we shall give our reader an account of the Portugueze settlements on this coast, as they were communicated to me by an ingenious gentleman, lately arrived fr ...more
Mateus Rocha
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read.

Curious thing, when I was in high school I hated everything about the Colonial Era, but now I'm just passionate about it. And man, pirates are so cool. This book gives you an idea of how was things like in that time. Golden Age of Piracy/Exploration.

So much useful information, specially for someone from Brazil, a colony of Europe. It was very interesting to read some letters from pirates describing how our coastline were...

It gives you an idead of the day-to-day
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, research
This is the book that started it all. Adventure! Swordfights! Pirates! Woodcuts of nekkid ladies! Captain Johnson's book has something for everyone. Is "Charles Johnson" really a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe? No one knows for certain, but most of our pirate tales start here, with this volume that captivated audiences in the 18th Century and hasn't been out of print since.
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the archaic language and frequent relaying on unnecessary levels of detail made some parts of this book hard going, it was still a very interesting read. It even made me laugh a couple of times, either with instances of the Pirates' ribald humour, or the original author's obvious disdain for much of the current ruling class.
E Owen
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting glimpse into the golden age of piracy (however questionably accurate) and it still remains one of our best sources for their history. The question still stands: who was Captain Charles Johnson?
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The essential guide and start for any pirate historian, it’s full of flavor and boy is it dry at times, but this is where the legends of piracy begin. How accurate it is however is still debated, but still, this is THE starting point.
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
More a historical curiosity than anything else. Other books on the topic can offer better overviews of the subject and more detailed portrayals of the pirates' exploits.
Adam Robinson
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some chapters are a bit slow, with just court records. However, there is enough detail and action to make for an interesting read over all.
Sophie (RedheadReading)
This was an interesting account of the lives of some of the most famous pirates from the Golden Age of Piracy! Given the time it was written in, I was pleasantly surprised at how readable it was.
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Originally published in 1724, probably by the same author more popularly known for writing Robinson Crusoe, A General History of the Pyrates was meant to introduce a then-contemporary audience to the notion of piracy, who pirates were, why mariners became pirates, and what pirates did. The author makes clear from the outset that this is not a compilation of fantastic tales; he goes out of his way to confine himself to known and corroborated facts about the lives of the pirates/crews detailed the ...more
Mary Pat
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book is the origin of many of the pirate stories that inspired later famous fiction (such as Treasure Island). Some of it is undoubtedly factual, especially with regards to the laws and trials of pirates. However, some of the stories are surely embellished (whether by the author, or the pirates themselves when they told their tales to others).

It does not glamorize the pirates, with tales of their brutality and, in specific, how many of them were hanged by the Crown. The action sprawls over
Nathalie Maes
This was just not for me.

And honestly, that's my own fault. I should have looked into it more. I wanted a book that would give me nice life descriptions of some of the more famous pirates back in the day, because I'm genuinely interested in that sort of thing and I was hoping for something that's more exciting to read than a Wikipedia page. Some cool side info on piracy in general was also a nice addition!

Unfortunately the "general history of the pyrates" is a bit too... general for me. It had m
Dave Stone
May 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
this book was published in 1724 making it older than the United States. so it is no surprise that the language is archaic and it is not tailored to modern readers. an interesting reference book and starts out fun as a series of short adventure stories, but Daniel Defoe gets repetitious after 5 or 6 chapters. my biggest struggle was the "They and Them" problem. Example: "they said to them that they looked like them and were they them that they looked like? they said no in reply and asked who they ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Old-timey book, but I knew that. I needed it for an assignment I was writing for my exams, and it did just the trick. While it does have fanciful stories they mostly seem to be true, seeing as all other sources either agree or have no proof.

A good book for studying pirates, and a great book if you want to get obsessed with the history of female pirates, as they are ludicrously badass, like something out of a movie.

Three stars, because while it is very informative, the language is very old and so
Nick H.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: pirate-history
I gave this book a 3 star rating only because there are a number of stories that seemed too large for life based on other readings and tellings. It seems maybe Defoe began his fiction career in parts of this book. Nevertheless it's quite interesting to read a book written during the days of the Golden Age. He definitely goes in depth for many pirates, including some I have yet to hear of again. The language makes it a slightly more difficult read but overall I recommend it for any pirate histori ...more
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
didn't have the actual book @ the library & had to listen to it.
pretty tedious. probably would've skipped long lists of names, etc if i had the book in front of me.
not a one star b/c some of the stories of the different pirates were interesting.
Al Lock
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting read, and clearly shows where Defoe got some of the ideas for Robinson Crusoe. Fairly brief coverage of each pirate that it deals with, and not necessarily in chronological order, which can make it a bit confusing.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book goes into far more detail than I was expecting about nearly every pirate in history, how they were viewed by the countries in that time and how successful they were in their endeavours. It's a tad long in the teeth, but a decent read.
Jon Raymond
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you really care about the primary source of almost everything we know of Pirates, this is your book. If you're only vaguely interested in Pirates, you might want to revisit this after another read.
Ivan Radnić
Nov 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very detailed adventures of the pirates around the globe at the time writer lived (some of the hisotrical facts are probably made up for the sake of the story) but nonetheless, great insight into the piracy.

Starz tv show "Black Sails" covers some of the pirates in this book.
Adriel Hartnett
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A refreshment for my brain, tho the language is quite difficultto comprehend, I endure. This is a great reference ❤
Suzanne Taylor
Aug 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't bother finishing this one. It was way too tedious for me.
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Daniel Defoe (1659/1661 [?] - 1731) was an English writer, journalist, and spy, who gained enduring fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest practitioners of the novel and helped popularize the genre in Britain. In some texts he is even referred to as one of the founders, if not the founder, of the English novel. A prolific and versatile writer, he wrote m ...more

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