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Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  610 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Villains of All Nations explores the 'Golden Age' of Atlantic piracy (1716-1726) and the infamous generation whose images underlie our modern, romanticized view of pirates.

Rediker introduces us to the dreaded black flag, the Jolly Roger; swashbuckling figures such as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard; and the unnamed, unlimbed pirate who was likely Robert Louis Stev
Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 15th 2005 by Beacon Press (first published June 15th 2004)
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3.90  · 
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 ·  610 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This was a purely enjoyable read. Pirates live up to their reputation.

There is absolutely some romanticization going on here. Rediker wants to justify a lot about what pirates did, saying it was for noble political reasons. And he provides many illustrative anecdotes that back up what he says. He definitely convinced me, but I still think it's highly probably other barbarities existed that he didn't bother to cover because they might not jive with his narrative.

Overall, I continue to think his
Sarah Jaffe
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
sometimes, you just have to read a radical history of pirates. and sometimes it's just what you need.
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
After reading The Many-headed Hydra co-authored by Peter Linebaugh, I picked this book up. Although Rediker follows the same theme as that previous work, the tone of Villains of All Nations is more academic and less overtly political. That's not to say that Rediker does not continue the materialist theme developed in The Many-Headed Hydra, which is that piracy of the 17th & 18th Century was both encouraged by and a reaction against the political and social policies of the Great Powers.

The b
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think the academic accountability code is more like... guidelines than actual rules
Another review of something I read a long time ago. This book accidentally prompted me into skepticism of the massive accountability issues in humanities scholarship, at a young, tender, and idealistic age.

Now, I tend to be defensive of the humanities. (Though more defensive of the arts, and more personally located there.) I understand many humanities students' and scholars' resentment of the derision and anti-intellectualism they face from both the ignorant public and, frankly, the STEM fields
Grace Harwood
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is it about pirates that is so universally appealing to the romantic imagination? One need look no further for the answer to this question than this fabulous book which tells the story of the pirates in the "golden age" of piracy (a brief period from about 1690 to about 1730 or so). The book provides a clear history of piracy on the high seas, with fascinating character outlines and histories provided for all the best-known (and most beloved) pirate figures (think Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, ...more
Lauren Albert
Rediker has an agenda. He wants to show that when the pirates were cruel, it was in revenge for cruelty. What they were is what they were made into by the exploitative economic system they were born into. Perhaps mostly true. But he sometimes over idealizes his subjects who still often tortured sailors and officers to find valuables on the ships.

“They transformed harsh discipline into a looser, more libertarian way of running their ship that depended on ‘what Punishment the Captain and Majority
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Focuses on the "golden age of piracy" which the author places from the late 17th to the early 18th C. The book places the pirates in the historical and economic context: the global trade and empires of the great european powers in the New World and the opportunities this provided for the men who lived by stealing from this trade. The brutal and strict world of life afloat the trade and naval ships of the era provided - according to the author - the "dialectic" that created the brutal pirates, pi ...more
Karl Flohrschutz

Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Hardcover)
by Marcus Rediker

Think you know all about Pirates you probably don’t. This was possibly the most interesting history of the Caribbean that I have ever encountered . Marcus Rediker has provided us with a history not only of the Pirates but with some of the most interesting origins of American capitalism where it came from and how we got where we are . if you thought Americans were the first to create the free society that we
Jeff Mauch
If you're looking for the romanticized tales of pirates, this isn't the place. This is a more academic, intensely researched broad history of the peak of the pirate age. It's a hard look at the social aspects that led people to pirating as well as the social orders among pirate crews. It's a bit of a dry read at times, but I feel I find pirates even more fascinating now that I've read it. It's incredible the amount we've played up pirates in popular culture, but it makes sense because they and t ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fascinating history of the age of piracy. Rediker's Marxist perspective leads him to focus more on the positive qualities of the pirates and less on their negative qualities than I would have liked, particularly since Rediker paints the lawful authorities in such a bad light. That being said, the book was illuminating in several ways and there's no questioning the strength of Rediker's research. Presuppositional disagreements aside, this is an excellent book chronicling the social dimensions of ...more
3.5 stars. Not as entertaining as it could have been - more like an academic essay than a popular history, which is certainly not bad, it just results in a pretty dry book - but still fun by way of its subject matter. It's a much narrower look at the history than I thought - covering just ten years of the "golden age" of Atlantic piracy - and I'd like to read some more histories before I go accepting all of Rediker's statements and theses, but it was fun! A good, non-overwhelming entry into pira ...more
Alan Driscoll
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rediker's lively history is openly political; highlighting the democratic and anarchist motivations of the great pirates without shying away from their violence. The book suffers a little from being academic; it contains plenty of anecdotes and is not heavy on jargon, but its structure and repetitions are more alike to a thesis than a popular history. All that aside, it's an interesting dive into an interesting topic, and comes highly recommended.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was super interesting, not just because of its subject matter, but because of the author’s perspective. He definitely goes out of his way to defend pirates and side with them in their rebellion against the established authorities of the time. While I’m definitely not convinced that pirates were justified in their illegal behaviors, I enjoyed learning more about the context of the time and the conditions of seamen that drove many to piracy.
Jesse Levinson
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rediker writes an incredibly readable and enjoyable history of Atlantic piracy. He looks at the issue from a radical lens, making a compelling argument that piracy had an anti-capitalist element, which threatened international trade and necessitated brutal and repressive innovations by state actors. It’s a good book that makes examine contemporary issues through a new lens.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good social history of the last third or so of the "Golden Age" of Atlantic piracy. Underlines the grievances of common sailors that caused them to "go on the account" and sail under a black flag. Concentrates more on the life stories of ordinary pirates rather than celebrity captains like Blackbeard.
Lauren Ross
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very intriguing look at the Golden Age of Piracy and the bloody end of the pirate way of life as the empires of the world cracked down on them.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although repetitive at times, this is a fantastic introduction to pirates. Just enough information to satisfy without overwhelming.
E. Merrill
Wonderful content, decently written, horrifically edited...
Scriptor Ignotus
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-history
This is a fascinating little monograph about the Atlantic Pirates during the "Golden Age" of the 1710s and 1720s. "Atlantic" is the only geographical term that can almost capture the range of piracy that Rediker discusses here. During this period of relative lawlessness on the high seas, pirates operated out of port cities from Boston down through the Carolinas to the Caribbean islands. They also raided the Portuguese slaver fortresses along the west coast of Africa. They established maroon comm ...more
Elin Nilsson
A book retelling the ventures of the real pirates during the golden age of piracy in the early 18th century. I've always had an interest in pirates, and learning more about these people was very interesting to me. Piracy back then was a protest, a revolution, and more of a democracy than the ruling nations. People turned pirate to escape from the horrendous lives of being employed by the merchant navies. I especially, obiously, liked the chapter about female pirates, which talked about the impac ...more
Richard Pierce
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy movies like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' , you may enjoy this book. The author tells you who the pirates were, what they did, when they did it, where they did it and why they did it. He explains the difference between buccaneers and pirates; the periods of Atlantic piracy from 1650 to 1726; what piracy represents in the context of their political, economic and social circumstances of their day. Author covers the period 1716- 1726 which he calls the most successful period of the time b ...more
The fact that he's my professor and his lecture was very interesting doesn't make this book any better....
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: maritime-history
Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates of the Golden Age by Marcus Rediker as a maritime history is something of a slightly slanted romantic historical portrayal of pirates as noble, albeit flawed, heroes of the proletariat.

The book begins with the July 12, 1726 hanging of pirate William Fly in Boston, for which the infamous Reverend Cotton Mather served as attending clergyman. Rediker attempts to elevate Fly by making him out to be a folk hero fighting a noble but doomed battle against th
Ryan Mishap
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"...damn ye, you are a sneaking puppy, and so are all those who will submit to be governed by Laws which rich Men have made for their own Security, for the cowardly Whelps have not the Copurage otherwise to defend what they get by their knavery; but damn ye altogether: Damn them for a Pack of crafty Rascals, and you, who serve them, for a Parcel of hen-hearted Numskuls. They villify us, the Scroundrels do, when there is only this Difference, they rob the Poor under the Cover of Law, forsooth, an ...more
Billy Marino
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me far too long to read this thanks to some laziness post graduating, but every time I picked it up I was captivated. This is the first book by Rediker that I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. His style of writing is fluid and weaves together historical fact and accuracy with often entrancing story-telling of an obviously interesting topic. After this short book, he has quickly become one of my favorite historians. On to the book itself. The topic was narrowed, focusing mainly ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A historical book about the 1720's pirates. Definitely worth a read.

The premise of the book boils down to, piracy was mostly a response of normal people against an oppressive society.

Sailors lived in a world where their lives were generally hard and short. So when sailors abandoned their post to become pirates, they spent their time indulging in hedonistic life-style that unconsciously suggests their grasp of the dangerous world of seafaring and their short life expectancy.

Then, sailors lived in
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a concise, interesting and enjoyable book.

It examines the golden decade of piracy (1716-1726), with an emphasis on the customs, beliefs and life conditions of pirate; historical events are briefly summarised to provide context, but their description isn't the focus of this book at all.

The author isn't too impartial in his recounts, often skewing over the pirates' crimes and trying to read most of their actions as politically motivated - but he also provides the individual perspective of
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not so much an account of the exploits of individual pirates or their crews (although full of anecdotes), "Villains" is Rediker's broader analysis of the lifestyle, social structures, and culture of pirates in what he refers to as their "Golden Age". Rediker (who co-authored the highly recommended "Many Headed Hydra" with Peter Linebaugh) delves into the lives of merchant seamen during the early eighteenth century and the reasoning behind their common turn to piracy. The social structure that "f ...more
Jul 31, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was another work-related read for me, since I did an article on it because the author is a local professor and we were tying this in to the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie, to show what life was really like for pirates and their pursuers. While it is more in the academic mode, it is well written and very informative. I was struck by what short period was covered by the ascendancy of the Atlantic pirates, whose lives have led to so many fictional tales and common lore. Equally compelli ...more
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Marcus Rediker is Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Research Fellow at the Collège d’études mondiales in Paris. He is the author of numerous prize-winning books, including The Many-Headed Hydra (with Peter Linebaugh), The Slave Ship, and The Amistad Rebellion. He produced the award-winning documentary film Ghosts of Amistad (Tony Buba, director) ...more
“Seamen could expect little relief from the law, whose purpose in the eighteenth-century Atlantic was, according to Jesse Lemisch, “to assure a ready supply of cheap, docile labor.” 2 likes
“John Atkins, the naval surgeon, spoke of the transition from privateer to pirate as going from “plundering for others, to do it for themselves.” 2 likes
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