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Pyracy Pub Book Group

91 posts in this topic

I am reading "Under the Black Flag" again, and I must agree with Kass on the subject of the author's "stream of consciousness". The man has his tangents to be certain, but a good read.

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Cawthorne's book reminds me of a reference style material; a basic, general, dictionary-esqe of pirateness.

Cordingly seems to have a much more conversation tone throughout his writing. I agree with Kass and William. I tend to like his ADD style of writing though: as soon as a tangent dries up, he quickly forms another...

I can follow his thought process (borrowing from Kass's post):

Shipwrecks and Life at Sea--> the wreck of the Whydah--> (was caused by) some storms in the Carribean--> (which was why navigation was so important; a storm could take you wildly off course)--> (which leads into the importance of) charts and the primitive state of navigation--> then he talks about Dampier! (Dampier's importance is because he was such an astute observer of people, places, and natural history that his works are often included with the publications of more explicitly scientific expeditions.)--> (which leads back to) charts and navigation again--> (which was important because how were they to find) common stomping grounds for pirates--> (leading to) life aboard ship, drinking and gambling, and the importance of musicians on ship--> (therefore leading to how life aboard pirate ships also incorporated) the democratic nature of pirate crews and the pirate "code".

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lo all,

picked up Under the Black Flag in Sempteber but first time i found teh link fer the book group. Being the first "book" ever read on pirates I found it very enjoyable and with a wee bit o background reasearching; useful for gettin got know othre areas as well.

Shall endeavor to find the otehr books listed in the thread as well :angry:

Happy reading

Salty

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I agree that Cordingly's academics are more impressive than his esoterics. But, his information seems solid and well researched. He has bibliography packed with primary sources, and he does a good job debunking myth without insulting romance. I think it should be a part of any pirate's library.

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I'm resurrecting this thread from January, mostly because I finally read A book about pirates.

I didn't bother before, because it's really not how I ended up on this board, being more interested in a generally not well studied time period and the social, economic, and political attitudes of the time. Which, let's face it, eventually bring in the subject of piracy as an international force on mercantile exchange of the time.

I picked up two books, Under the Black Flag being one of them, which I haven't read fully yet. The other is VILLAINS OF ALL NATIONS.

Quick review:

Marcus Rediker seems to write books on the time period from a Labor perspective, viewing the interactions of differing class hierarchies as an inevitable outgrowth of the (capitalist), mercantilist sustem. The book is published by Beacon Press, a publishing arm of the Unitarians, a very liberal and 'progressive' outgrowth of the more activist leanings in the modern Protestant belief structure.

The emphasis in his work is of piracy as a form of proletariat revolution, and less as a result of greed. His points:

-The idea that being a 'hand' at the time, i.e. selling your labor for a living, was to essentially consign oneself over to death of one sort or another due to conditions. He regards working conditions at this point as a death machine.

-The 'upper classes' could not possibly have been less interested in the well-being or enrichment of anyone other than themselves, and treated their employees, slaves, and servants as subhuman primates to be exploited, abused, and killed.

-Ruling, controlling powers engages in constant terrorism and executions to impress and control the roiling lower classes.

-That pirates sometimes seemed less interested in 'loot' than in their freedom from what they regarded as paid slavery.

-Privateering inadvertently created the conditions for a nascent egalitarian movement, which led to...

-Pirates creating passably democratic forms of society more or less unprecedented in known history up to that time.

My take? Well, some good points, and an interesting perspective. His points about the pirate life being one of spontaneous social revolution are good; and I do feel he downplays the idea that anyone planned any of it (I sincerely doubt it). And it's worthwhile mentioning that in the early 18th century, telling your boss to 'shove it' didn't just cost you your job, it literally made you a criminal.

The book does shed some light on the economic and social times of the early 1700s, and how and why people ended up at sea without really wanting to be there, simply having no economic choice; which probably went a long way to creating a truly disaffected working seafaring class.

When costs go up, employment opportunity shrinks, and wages are cut, you have a potentially explosive situation. Rediker seems to feel these circumstances to be part of what created the 'golden age of piracy'.

Generally, a good read, and while I appreciate his perspective, it's obviously not the whole story (it never is), and I get the feeling that Rediker can barely keep himself from running into the street outside his classroom window at the University of Pittsburgh and chanting,

"POWER TO THE PEOPLE!"

If you have a chance, it's okay.

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I haven't read Villians of All Nations, because to me it appeared to re-cover much of what he already covered in Between The Devil & Deep Blue Sea. But I am a fan of his theories and viewpoints, if for no other reason than it helps me to justify my insane fascination with common thugs and criminals of the sea. B)

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Next is BATTLE CRIES AND LULLABIES, an overview of women's activities and roles in war through history. So far it's very good.

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I've been trying off and on to fight my way through UNDER THE BLACK FLAG, by the way. Where was this guy's editor? Aren't they supposed to EDIT?

It reads like he took copious notes on the backs of playing cards, shuffled them all up, and then wrote the book off them while stoned out of his mind.

I'll try to finish it sometime but I'm not promising anything.

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I'm re-reading the Thirty Years' War chapter in BATTLE CRIES AND LULLABIES; it's a little difficult to get a handle on some of it, as the value system is so very foreign to me, in specific some of the terms for women that, this author claims, had no negative connotations at the time. I'm not sure I buy that, and I'm looking into it before posting a full review.

As for the Thirty Years' War, it does seem that particular demonstration of Europeans' habit of pointless, interfamilial homicide bears more than a passing resemblance to the Great War, in that this mindless exercise went on forever largely because nobody seemed to have any clue how to stop it.

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Didn't make it through the abominably written UNDER THE BLACK FLAG.

BATTLE CRIES AND LULLABIES, Linda Grant De Pauww.

Very interesting compendium of women's roles in warfare and in greater male society; for instance, the treatment of Chevalier d'Eon is succinct, unusually accessible, and empathetic.

There is a revealing quote in here from an historian of cross-dressing, Marjorie Garber, who states, "the very concept of sexual orientation as a self-definition is itself of relatively recent, and local, vintage". Interesting point, and worth pondering in the larger context of human functioning roles.

There is a good section on camp followers and the human chain of baggage and people the armies carted with them during the Thirty Years' War, and the cultural behavior of same. Good pieces about soldiers' wives, who hired out for washing-work, cooking, gathering food, and foraging; prostitutes, some of whom were more official than others, and the militaries' attitude about what you might call 'comfort women'; and, of course, women sutlers, sellers of tobacco and sundries.

Interesting bits on human behavior in these endless trains of quasi-military force. Johann Jacob Wallhausen, on German infantry:

"A regiment of 3,000 had not less than three hundred vehicles and each wagon was filled to overflowing with women, boys, children, prostitutes and plunder. The vehicle is frequently so heavily overburdened that the horses or oxen cannot budge it".

On an occasion where a German captain attempted to ditch the women in the van at a river crossing, the soldiers broke ranks and refused to leave their women. His solution? Only lawful wives were allowed, with the result that 800 prostitutes became wives in less than two days, the entire outfit fanning out all over the place looking for churches.

Women would also fight over relative status over their place in the wagons, and involve their men with predictable results:

"This is no rarity, " says Wallhausen, "for when in transit, hardly a day passes in which three, four, or even ten soldiers do not lose life or limb for the sake of their women".

The bibliography is impressive, and I'm going to try to hunt up some of the titles.

For the purposes of the GAoP this book is limited, but as an overview of the concept of female soldiers, and of women dressing as men to BE soldiers or sailors, it's quite good, and I recommend it highly.

Oh, and a good reference to Dianne Dugaw's collection (1650-1850) of Anglo-American folk ballads featuring 'female warriors', as she terms them, samples of which can be found here:

http://cdbaby.com/cd/dugaw

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Next up:

AGAINST THE GODS, The Remarkable Story of Risk; Peter L. Bernstein.

A history of the development of the very concepts of probability, odds, and risk management. Risk management is a subject dear to my heart, and why I study history at all. How are you going to predict what people might do (to you) if you know nothing about them? and how can you know them without knowing where they come from, their history?

Sample quote:

'Hacking asserts that Pascal's line of analysis to answer this question is the beginning of the theory of decision-making. "Decision theory," as Hacking describes it, "is the theory of deciding what to do when it is uncertain what will happen". Making that decision is the essential first step in any effort to manage risk.'

This book has information on the development of the insurance industry in world shipping, which is its relevance here.

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It reads like he took copious notes on the backs of playing cards, shuffled them all up, and then wrote the book off them while stoned out of his mind.

Easily my favorite review of UNDER THE BLACK FLAG.

Currently I am reading texts available to men and women of the period. This list includes contemorary books of the Golden Age of Pyracy and anything before. I've been purchasing facsimiles and downloading period documents. My reading list for the Summer includes:

DON QUIXOTE - I am part way through this one.

Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, which I am forced to read in English until I can master enough French to read it again in the original.

A NEW VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD by William Dampier.

THE GUNPODER PLOT SERMON (1606) by Lancelot Andrewes

And varied Persian poets such as Farid od Din Attar, Omar Khayyam, Jelaluddin Rumi, Saadi, Sanai, and Baba Taher.

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Under the Black Flag I can see that it could be tough to read, but I enjoyed it, there was some good research and a possible stoned shuffling of note cards. I did find myself wishing for more illustrations, especially of the ships described. A lot of general history on the pirate prime time.

I also read a Sea Rovers Practice (Little) at the same time. An interesting read, but if you didn't like the editing in Cordingly's book you might not like Little's either. It reads like an outline at times, the opposite of Under the Black Flag. more general history with an emphasis on tactics, but the tactics used then were never really tied to todays sea roving tactics (SEAL) despite the claim made at the beginning of the book. maybe I just didn't get it. I would recommend it if you like pondering the nuts and bolts of things. more illustrations. (what can I say, I'm a visual kind of guy)

Capt. Johnson's A General History of Pyrates just showed up from amazon today, the day I found this web site. I will leave it to you salty dogs to argue whether or not Defoe actually wrote it. I tend to side with Cordingly, but I will wait to read it before committing.

Zach's new book , Pirate Coast, was a great read but more about the diplomacy at the time than pirates. As usual for Zach, the research seemed sound to me and the narrative is easy to read. If you are familiar with the second line of the Marine's Hymn, "to the shores of Tripoli", (Semper Fi, Leather necks) this is a must read. I would have wished for more on Lt. Obannon, but it was still great. Zach may do for pirates what Ambrose did for WWII and Lewis and Clark.

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A Marine? Reading a BOOK?! It's the Apocalypse!

Seriously, Semper Fidelis from all my friends and acquaintances who have been in the Marines (although I have not). Welcome.

Tell you what, I'll pick up the 'Defoe' Pyrates book and read it (which I haven't yet). Get me off my high horse and read something stirring (besides, what with Red Wake over there making everyone look stupid, making plots about reading Arthur in French...)

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I have taken a literary detour from piracy for two weeks but will start reading

Dafoe/Jophnson next weekend. Post your thoughts sir, and i will attempt to keep up.

If Marines couldn't read, the navy would just drop them off anywhere.

Good day, YHS

Switters

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I'm currently reading Under the Black Flag and I really do enjoy it.

I like the pace and tone of the book, I guess I mainly like how it's not one of those boring academic books full of terms you have to go look up (rather than getting the glossary out, huzzah for glossaries!) that make you fall asleep after page one :)

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I guess I should explain that my opinion is really that UNDER THE BLACK FLAG isn't necessarily badly written, but just badly organized. That's why my blame falls more on the editor than the author. Authors should not (and in my opinion cannot) be trusted to edit themselves with very rare exceptions.

Did in fact finish AGAINST THE GODS, but since it's late (by my standards on a weekday) I'll get to a talk another time.

Picked up A GENERAL HISTORY OF PYRACY today.

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I believe you will out read me long before I learn sufficient French to read Le Morte d'Arthur in the original. Aye...by leagues.

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Aye. Me neither. Oh how I miss the History Channel...

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AGAINST THE GODS.

The thesis of the book is this:

A variety of impulses in the Early Modern period converged to create a philosophy of belief in mathematics, as applied to ‘Risk Management’. Statisticians; mathematicians; observers and record-keepers worked in unconscious concert to develop what we now know as ‘Modern Finance’.

What this guy proposes is that the accumulation of statistics, and the subsequent development of the Law of Large Numbers, resulted in a previously unknown (or unrecognized) phenomena: the ability to more or less accurately PREDICT THE FUTURE. He considers this event revolutionary; and I think he’s got something of a point.

(Or rather, whether the event was revolutionary or not really depends on whether or not you, the reader, personally believes that forecasting the future in order to make yourself money is really the highest purpose of humankind.)

I find it worthwhile to speculate as to the nature of this ‘revolution’. Obviously, numbers have been around a long time; but put to what purpose? Why did the emergence of a pastime of counting have such massive consequences in Europe, specifically England, at the time (Early Modern)? The New World contained number and calculating systems of great sophistication, put largely to the same purposes (census-taking and goods quantification); but the argument could be made, and is elsewhere other than this book, that the purpose of American math was to discern the wishes of the Gods; and the author of ATG makes an argument that the number systems of the ancient Greeks had the same intent.

So the capability for sophisticated math doesn’t necessarily lead to the development of a new world order. But in this case, the ability to extrapolate an accumulation of numbers into an idea of what may happen in the future, led to the launching of thousands of ships and the creation of a worldwide mercantile empire.

Somehow the thing got turned on its head, and instead of math being a method of determining the Will of God, it became the preferred method for determining the Will of Man. Instead of rolling bones to mystically predict the future, humans began rolling bones, tallying the outcomes, averaging them out, and creating a science of prediction in which ultimately, Man comes out on top. Every time. And screw God (This is probably a good place to mention the antipathy of the Church towards the new sciences of numbers; it was felt they ran in opposition to the passive acceptance of the Will of God, and boy, they were right).

One of the more interesting factoids is the mention of the importance of the issuance of annuities in royal finances to bankroll 17th – 18th Century wars, and how the newly founded science of predictive statistics created an environment in which these issues could be made to profit every single time, leading to the beginnings of what we now know as the insurance INDUSTRY, as opposed to what previously existed, which were more in the nature of more or less closed, mutually supportive subscription societies or guilds.

Anyway. It’s worth noting, and the guy has a point, that fealty to a Crown only goes so far; and running around the planet for the glory of a far-off king or queen has limited scope. SOMETHING sent all those Englandmen off on fools’ errands to encompass the globe; and this author basically argues it was the assurance of the safety of their money on the part of the financiers.

He’s probably substantially in the right.

Some brain-breaking insights into annuities, finance, and gambling of the period, here:

http://www.immediateannuities.com/annuitymuseum/

http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/

http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat...at/lifework.htm

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Aye. Me neither. Oh how I miss the History Channel...

Well I don't even have the history channel, nor the discovery channel, or nat geo wild, or animal planet.

Belgium sucks tv wise :(

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There's an interesting question, Hildekitten; what kind of TV do you have in Belgium?

I'm always interested in mass media in other countries and/or cultures...

So what have you got? Satellite dishes? Government-owned channels? What's the usual lineup of shows and programs? Please let us know, I'm at least very interested in knowing what goes on the airwaves elsewhere in the world. This is off-topic, but if it's burdensome to anyone, PM me, please; and besides, this thread location was kind of moribund before anyway; let's revive it.

Oh, and a fine welcome to the newcomer from the Land of Tintin!

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There's an interesting question, Hildekitten; what kind of TV do you have in Belgium?

I'm always interested in mass media in other countries and/or cultures...

So what have you got? Satellite dishes? Government-owned channels? What's the usual lineup of shows and programs? Please let us know, I'm at least very interested in knowing what goes on the airwaves elsewhere in the world. This is off-topic, but if it's burdensome to anyone, PM me, please;

I've pm'ed you, because I didn't want to bother people with tv in a thread on books :)

and besides, this thread location was kind of moribund before anyway; let's revive it.

Seems like a good idea. I think we just need a new book on pyracy (there's plenty after all) to discuss.

How about X Marks the Spot? I've not read it yet, but I've heard plenty of good things about it. I would love to hear what you guys think!

Oh, and a fine welcome to the newcomer from the Land of Tintin!

Thank you kindly sir :)

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Thanks again, Hildekitten. Interesting.

Agh, I've been blowing off Defoe and reading through Hobbes' LEVIATHAN instead. Sorry, I'll get on it. Promise. But for a variety of reasons I won't get into my major concerns this week were the conflict of rational vs. irrational, and the concept of social ontology of the human as group being vs. individual entity, and the subsequent potentials of inclusion or exclusion in societal structures.

Really, it's a question I struggle with from time to time about what creates the circumstances in which a person or group of people can dehumanize another group or individual...

...long story... but I'll get into something more fun this weekend.

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