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Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates

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With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the Golden Age of piracy in the Americas. Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracys Golden Agespanning the late 1600s through the early 1700swhen With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Americas. Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracy’s “Golden Age”―spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s―when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them. Through engrossing episodes of roguish glamour and extreme brutality, Dolin depicts the star pirates of this period, among them towering Blackbeard, ill-fated Captain Kidd, and sadistic Edward Low, who delighted in torturing his prey. Also brilliantly detailed are the pirates’ manifold enemies, including colonial governor John Winthrop, evangelist Cotton Mather, and young Benjamin Franklin. Upending popular misconceptions and cartoonish stereotypes, Dolin provides this wholly original account of the seafaring outlaws whose raids reflect the precarious nature of American colonial life.


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With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the Golden Age of piracy in the Americas. Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracys Golden Agespanning the late 1600s through the early 1700swhen With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Americas. Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracy’s “Golden Age”―spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s―when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them. Through engrossing episodes of roguish glamour and extreme brutality, Dolin depicts the star pirates of this period, among them towering Blackbeard, ill-fated Captain Kidd, and sadistic Edward Low, who delighted in torturing his prey. Also brilliantly detailed are the pirates’ manifold enemies, including colonial governor John Winthrop, evangelist Cotton Mather, and young Benjamin Franklin. Upending popular misconceptions and cartoonish stereotypes, Dolin provides this wholly original account of the seafaring outlaws whose raids reflect the precarious nature of American colonial life.

30 review for Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates

  1. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    First off, Norton did a fine job constructing this book. It's got a great weight. Lush jacket, quality paper, a central eight pages of colorful plates, and nifty illustrations of flags, coins, ships and assorted pirate ephemera peppered throughout. A joy to every sense involved in reading. So bravo, Norton, this is what a book's meant to be and I'm pleased someone still remembers how to get that done. Turning into a lost art, this is, and we'll be all the poorer for it. That said, one could wish First off, Norton did a fine job constructing this book. It's got a great weight. Lush jacket, quality paper, a central eight pages of colorful plates, and nifty illustrations of flags, coins, ships and assorted pirate ephemera peppered throughout. A joy to every sense involved in reading. So bravo, Norton, this is what a book's meant to be and I'm pleased someone still remembers how to get that done. Turning into a lost art, this is, and we'll be all the poorer for it. That said, one could wish for a more captivating history of America's most notorious pirates. Dolin has no passion for the subject and spends most of his time summarizing material taken from other works. There's a lot of debunking of myth, and proofs rendered to rectify the record - which results, time and time again, in a list of all the many reasons he can't tell you much about much of anything. This may indeed be the case. I find it entirely credible to contend that pirates, as a rule, were not diligent record-keepers and cared more about scanning the horizon for spoils than jotting down their day's events in a captain's log. It is certainly reasonable to conclude that elusiveness was the name of their game and that an absence of documentation would stand as the mark of a man's expertise at playing it. If these tales died with the pirates who lived them, so be it. There's no need to spend oh-so-many pages tsk-tsking the current historical account to tell me so. Additionally...well, I'm just going to quote the inscriptions beneath two of those centrally-inserted color plates: 15: Since obtaining rights to an actual image of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was too difficult, here is a picture of a man posing as Depp/Sparrow in Hollywood, California. It's not the real thing, but a very good impersonation. 21: In honor of my finishing this book, my daughter, Lily, did this small painting of a pirate ship looking for its next victim. And that's about the size of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Chirp books has struck again! I am obsessed. This time I bought Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin and read by Paul Brion. You all know how I cant resist anything about pirates, especially pirate history. This book is the epic history of Americas most notorious pirates. In this book, the author goes into as much detail about the pirates, society and economics that affected pirates, and those in the American colonies who supported pirates. There are details of Captain Kidd, Edward Teach Chirp books has struck again! I am obsessed. This time I bought Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin and read by Paul Brion. You all know how I can’t resist anything about pirates, especially pirate history. This book is the epic history of America’s most notorious pirates. In this book, the author goes into as much detail about the pirates, society and economics that affected pirates, and those in the American colonies who supported pirates. There are details of Captain Kidd, Edward Teach (also known as Blackbeard), Sam Bellamy, and many more! There are also many historical figures who come into play, like Benjamin Franklin. The time period of this nonfiction spans the Golden Age of Piracy which goes from 1600 to the early 1700s. As I said above, I love pirate history…well, anything to do with pirates. I think what I find most fascinating is how pirates came to be. Belonging to a place, at that time, was a sense of pride. Pirates seceded from their place and pillaged and exactly violence in many different nations. It is not hard to figure out why they came to be though. They are a product of their society. Men who had debts were often press-ganged into the navy, which didn’t exactly have the best conditions. They depended on commerce and trade to make their living. Even though they were not popular at the time, their deeds inspired stories, legends, and lore. The book can be a little slow-paced, especially for someone who may not find the topic interesting. However, since this is something I am interested in, the pace did not bother me. A few years ago, I was able to see the Whydah treasure in San Diego’s Natural History Museum. It really brings the stories to life when seeing something like that in a museum. The narrator does a fantastic job of reading the story. He has a clear and firm voice that even adds a bit of suspense, especially when reading about the battles. Overall, I rate this audiobook 4 out of 5 stars!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    Wow, this was my first nonfiction book in a while. And of course, it had to be about pirates. This book deals with the reality of pirates and their effect on shipping around the Americas during the early colonial age. It explains how and why piracy rose and how and why it declined relating to the change in perception about pirates on the people who lived in the colonies. It also tells about how a mix of change of perception in the people and the new rules imposed by countries such as England Wow, this was my first nonfiction book in a while. And of course, it had to be about pirates. This book deals with the reality of pirates and their effect on shipping around the Americas during the early colonial age. It explains how and why piracy rose and how and why it declined relating to the change in perception about pirates on the people who lived in the colonies. It also tells about how a mix of change of perception in the people and the new rules imposed by countries such as England dealt the final blow to the golden age of Piracy. It is a very informative book and I liked how the author related the pirate's lives without having to rely on fictional accounts. good job.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.S.

    A fun history of pirates from the late 1600s thru the early 1700s, but focusing on those who plied the Atlantic waters off the American colonies. Some famous names such as Blackbeard and Edward Low pop up here, and which don't usually show up in the histories centered on the Caribbean. I found it interesting that many colonists appreciated the pirates because they often brought goods which were otherwise difficult to obtain into the towns, and pirates often walked and spent their loot freely A fun history of pirates from the late 1600s thru the early 1700s, but focusing on those who plied the Atlantic waters off the American colonies. Some famous names such as Blackbeard and Edward Low pop up here, and which don't usually show up in the histories centered on the Caribbean. I found it interesting that many colonists appreciated the pirates because they often brought goods which were otherwise difficult to obtain into the towns, and pirates often walked and spent their loot freely while on land. Some of the captains even had friends in high government places, and benefited from their protection. But this is not to say the pirates were viewed as heroes, especially in towns where a lot of merchant ships sailed from. Also, most of the pirates were quite brutal, and even when they acquiesced to the pirates on the seas, they were often lucky to be spared. And Dolin makes no bones about it - the pirates were not gentlemen and they weren't nice guys. There might not be a lot of new information if you've read a lot of pirate books, but I found it to be an entertaining read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Vallar

    For five decades encompassing the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, pirates played an integral role in colonial history and life. Initially, they were welcomed, but as the years passed, what was once profitable coexistence became a dogged determination to eradicate these sea marauders. Black Flags, Blue Waters presents the celebrities of this golden age of piracy with a narrowly focused lens. Most comparable volumes look at this historical period in a broad manner that encompasses For five decades encompassing the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, pirates played an integral role in colonial history and life. Initially, they were welcomed, but as the years passed, what was once profitable coexistence became a dogged determination to eradicate these sea marauders. Black Flags, Blue Waters presents the “celebrities” of this “golden age” of piracy with a narrowly focused lens. Most comparable volumes look at this historical period in a broad manner that encompasses the whole breadth of who, where, what, why, when, and how. Dolin examines one facet – those pirates with intimate connections to the American colonies – to showcase how world events and shifting attitudes led to them being seen as the “enemies of all mankind.” In doing so, he demonstrates how these criminals also became more legendary with the passage of time. This approach also permits him to showcase rarely mentioned pirates, as well as names familiar to many people today. The narrative unfolds in chronological order. The first chapter, Small Beginnings, sets the stage, providing necessary background information to orient readers. The next two chapters – Welcomed with Open Arms and “Where the Money Was as Plenty as Stones and Sands” – explores the financial connection between pirates and the colonists, as well as the danger this interaction posed to England, and the transitions that shifted piracy from the Caribbean and Atlantic seaboard to the Indian Ocean and Madagascar and back again. Crackdown, the fourth chapter, concerns the mysterious Henry Avery. While he has no tangible connection to America, his capture and plundering of a single ship made the pirates wealthy and severely impacted how governments, the media, and people viewed pirates. Like intermission at a theater, chapters five and six provide key information readers need to know to fully understand this historical time period. War’s Reprieve discusses the War of the Spanish Succession, when pirates all but disappeared from the world stage. In the war’s aftermath came the greatest upsurge in sea marauders that history has ever witnessed. It also gave rise to a different class of pirates than those who came before. Interlude, or a Pirate Classification covers the reasons for this and investigates who these people were and how they operated. The subsequent chapters – Treasure and the Tempest, The Gentleman Pirate and Blackbeard, and Fading Away – introduce pirates, such as Samuel Bellamy, Stede Bonnet, Edward Thatch, and Edward Low – whose personalities and exploits commanded the attention of the public and the authorities alike during their lifetimes. Also discussed are the pirate hunters and the laws and punishments enacted to end the marauding. Dolin concludes his narrative with his epilogue, “Yo-ho-ho, and a Bottle of Rum!” Here he explores the public’s fascination, both then and now, with pirates, including the discoveries of actual pirate shipwrecks. Maps and illustrations pepper the pages throughout Black Flags, Blue Waters. The majority appear in black and white, but a vibrant collection of color plates is also present. (One curious note concerning one caption is the identification of Low’s Jolly Roger. The contemporary accounts I’ve read describe his flag as a red skeleton on a black background, rather than a white skeleton with an hourglass and three drops of blood.) Unfamiliar words and brief historical tidbits are noted at the bottom of the pages where they occur, while source citations and longer explanations can be found in the end notes. Dolin also provides readers with a select bibliography and an index. The predominant personages readers meet are pirates, men such William Kidd, Henry Morgan, Dixie Bull, Thomas Tew, Francis Drake, John Quelch, and John Rose Archer. (Technically, Drake falls outside the time parameters of this history, but he did raid the American coast. Morgan, however, is a questionable inclusion. He may have been the greatest of the buccaneers, but his raids always centered in the Caribbean and Spanish Main.) But history and people never occur within a void. There are always others involved, and Dolin introduces these too. Among those who aided and abetted the pirates are Adam Baldridge and Governor Benjamin Fletcher. Victims who suffered at the hands of pirates include Philip Ashton and John Fillmore. Then there are those who helped to bring about their demise, such as Governor Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, and Captain Peter Solgard. Entertaining and compelling, Black Flags, Blue Waters is a swift-flowing, all-inclusive account of the history and evolution of piracy from 1680 through 1730. Dolin transports readers back in time so they better understand the time and places where intimidation, pillaging, cruelty, political intrigue, collusion, and punishment eventually led to the downfall of these “enemies of all mankind.” A worthy and must-read addition to any reputable pirate collection.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    3.5 I was lucky enough to win this in a Goodreads giveaway, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. For whatever reason, I've always been fascinated by maritime history in general and pirate history in particular (okay, I know exactly why; I grew up on the coast and read Treasure Island over and over), and what sets this particular history apart is that it takes a strictly non-romantic view of pirates. No theories about whether or not Bartholomew Roberts was secretly female, no credence 3.5 I was lucky enough to win this in a Goodreads giveaway, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. For whatever reason, I've always been fascinated by maritime history in general and pirate history in particular (okay, I know exactly why; I grew up on the coast and read Treasure Island over and over), and what sets this particular history apart is that it takes a strictly non-romantic view of pirates. No theories about whether or not Bartholomew Roberts was secretly female, no credence given to tales of Sam Bellamy's romance, no lamenting the fate of Captain Kidd - just the facts as the author found them. That may make the book sound dull, but it isn't. Rather it comes off as perhaps more trustworthy because it doesn't buy into the myths. While it is limited to the American coast, for the most part (with bonus maritime provinces), it's still what I'd recommend as grounding literature before reading more romanticized texts. My one complaint is that I do feel that Dolin could have gone into Anne Bonny a bit more, since she did live in the American South before going on the account. But since the Bonny and Read story is so heavily romanticized, I can't really blame him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Northumberland

    With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the Golden Age of piracy in the Americas. With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Americas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    William B

    Black Flags, Blue Waters is an equally amazing addition to the Eric Jay Dolin canon of historical non-fiction books! This title focuses on the history of Piracy in the American colonies. Many of the pirates showcased in this book have interesting stories that will surprise many readers. Many of the myths and misconceptions about pirates are debunked in this work and proves that the real-life stories were way more fascinating and eye-opening. I recommend this book for everyone because its a “Black Flags, Blue Waters” is an equally amazing addition to the Eric Jay Dolin canon of historical non-fiction books! This title focuses on the history of Piracy in the American colonies. Many of the pirates showcased in this book have interesting stories that will surprise many readers. Many of the myths and misconceptions about pirates are debunked in this work and proves that the real-life stories were way more fascinating and eye-opening. I recommend this book for everyone because it’s a gateway to the world of pirate history and it will leave you wanting to learn more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    William Bahr

    This is a very comprehensive book about Americas most famous (and not so famous) pirates. The book tells how privateers (private sailors a nation commissioned to go to war with its enemies and who shared in the spoils of ships they captured) often became pirates when the wars stopped. Specifically, after the wars ended, the privateers, often without other means of comparable livelihood, continued their depredations and, with their commissions canceled, they thus became pirates, or brigands of This is a very comprehensive book about America’s most famous (and not so famous) pirates. The book tells how privateers (private sailors a nation commissioned to go to war with its enemies and who shared in the spoils of ships they captured) often became pirates when the wars stopped. Specifically, after the wars ended, the privateers, often without other means of comparable livelihood, continued their depredations and, with their commissions canceled, they thus became pirates, or “brigands of the sea.” Another name for certain pirates was buccaneers; these were pirates from haunts in the Caribbean (Hispaniola: Haiti (west) and Dominican Republic (east)). Besides privateering, other things that were involved in the rise of pirates: Attempts to get around England’s mercantile system, which in many ways taxed or stifled the colonies; Victim ships with no vested interest in defending themselves against a black-flagged pirate ship raising the “no quarter” red-blood flag; and Revenge by mutinous seamen against cruel captains. Therefore, one saw the rise democratic elections of pirate captains, somewhat like land-based militias, where, to no great surprise, there was more drinking than drilling. These leaders were often chosen at the moment to be the right man for the job: leadership traits of command presence, daring, and having successful plans, navigation skills, etc. For a while, pirates were quite successful. The colonies were often home-bases, out from which the pirates sailed to plunder Spanish or Muslim ships laden with gold and other riches. The pirates would then return and share their treasure with their hard-money-starved communities through lavish spending and gifts. It was stated by one civic leader that “Pirates had been civil to him, and that the money they brought with them was an advantage to the country.” 1717-19 was the high point of piracy, with pirate captains such as Bellamy, Williams, LaBuse, Bonnet, Blackbeard (William Teach), Low, Moody, Vane, Worley, and Vane, a wide range of characters and character: Stede Bonnet was viewed as an aristocratic pirate; Edward Low, a sadistic pirate. Blackbeard, once pardoned, returned to his evil ways, but then paid “such prices” (likely worse than “10 cents on the dollar”) to captured ships to technically avoid being labeled a pirate. Nevertheless, in 1718, he was killed in battle with a Virginia government sloop and his severed head suspended from the winning ship's bowsprit to collect the reward. At a certain point, however, especially when the wars had ceased and the colonies became more prosperous, the pirates no longer hesitated to capture colonial ships. The colonies then saw pirates no longer supplementing but attacking much-loved fathers, brothers, and friends of colonists. Piracy then began its decline. Earlier the colonists welcomed pirates; they brought things of great value. But pirates mauling colonist property changed things. After a while, colonists no longer had confidence pirates would remain reformed after pardons. Pirates quickly returned to their “Eat, drink, and be merry” way of the often “easy living life” they’d known. Yet a combination of pardons, stricter laws, naval force, executions, and eradication of strongholds (often fortified islands) finally reduced the pirate population. New laws required officers and crew of all armed merchant ships to fight back in order to keep their ship from falling into the hands of pirates. Officers trading with pirates would be court-martialed. Now intimidating ships would no longer be easy. So, in the years 1716-1726, after the War of Spanish Succession (“Queen Anne’s War” 1702-1713), few pirates were left (especially after William Fly was hanged in Boston in 1726). The glory days of the pirates’ skull and cross-bones flag on the high seas finally came to an end. But, as the book well notes, their romance lives on. In conclusion, to protect precious cargo, troops follow trade. When they don't, pirate ships, captained by the oftentimes colorful characters aboard them, sail into view. And this well-written book gives us a very clear view. As a fellow author, I highly recommend it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    A good book, providing a history of Pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly the late 17th and early 18th centuries). Though the author states a goal of concentrating on those Pirates who emanated from or operated out of the American colonies, the book proves the difficulty of attempting to pigeonhole a phenomenon of such massive diversity. The result is a good history of pirates in this Golden Age, but not necessarily a history limited to the American Colonies. Using a wide array of primary A good book, providing a history of Pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy (roughly the late 17th and early 18th centuries). Though the author states a goal of concentrating on those Pirates who emanated from or operated out of the American colonies, the book proves the difficulty of attempting to pigeonhole a phenomenon of such massive diversity. The result is a good history of pirates in this Golden Age, but not necessarily a history limited to the American Colonies. Using a wide array of primary source material the author is able to provide some standardized observations and understandings of these pirates. The origins, actions, and processes of the pirates are nicely covered, giving the reader a broad understanding of the how and why. But at the same time the individual stories of pirates are covered, allowing the reader a better sense of the massive diversity inherent in the term piracy. We quickly see that the rationale for pirates in that era closely follows that seen in today’s piracy. The regular bouts of high-end conflict between the European powers in this period generated large number of privateer Sailors. The end of these conflicts meant that many of these Sailors quickly transformed into pirates, making great use of the hardware and impediments available to them during the periods of conflict. The pirates were drawn to the more lawless areas of the world (the American colonial coast, the Caribbean backwaters, and the African east coast) as these had both high profits and low risk of capture. In fact, though not an explicit thesis, by the end of the book I understood better why the combating of piracy is more akin to counter-insurgent operations in a post conflict region than to any straightforward maritime police work. A great book for those wanting to know more about piracy and the state of maritime conflict in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Thielen

    Colorful, engaging book about the 17th and 18th century pirates and their impact on American colonies and their economies, as well as seafaring in general. Dolin has rounded up the usual suspects such as Blackbeard, Henry Morgan and Captain Kidd, but also tells of the lives of pirates that are lesser known. Of special interest is that pirates flourished off American shores for economic reasons and faded because of the same. American colonists loathed the Navigation Acts, which stipulated that Colorful, engaging book about the 17th and 18th century pirates and their impact on American colonies and their economies, as well as seafaring in general. Dolin has rounded up the usual suspects such as Blackbeard, Henry Morgan and Captain Kidd, but also tells of the lives of pirates that are lesser known. Of special interest is that pirates flourished off American shores for economic reasons and faded because of the same. American colonists loathed the Navigation Acts, which stipulated that all goods coming to the colonies had to be aboard English ships with primarily English crews and transshipped through England so steep custom duties could be paid. It was far cheaper for colonists and merchants to trade with pirates and so their view of pirates was positive. Governors, too, had scant interest in prosecuting pirates, as they couldn’t afford to offend the merchants who supported them. And pirates often provided protection to the colonies in ways that the largely disinterested English government did not. Pirates waxed. When Americans were better able to provide their own goods, when governors were less afraid of offending merchants, when protection was less an issue – pirates became not a boon to the colonies, but a bother. Pirates waned. Most pirates met either swift bloody deaths or swung at the end of a hangman’s noose, but that seems to have scarcely deterred those who couldn’t resist the call of the pirate’s life. The author concludes the book with a genial look at pirates in literature, TV and movies, cheerfully conceding that little of what you read/see is historically accurate, but the subject matter is too irresistibly interesting to quibble about accuracy. So yo, ho, ho and a bottle or rum t’ye all!

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Wood

    Great book! A well researched well-written history of pirates. The author captured the real pirates and dispelled many of the myths, although many did carry on reigns of terror sometimes brutally attacking their victims. I found many surprises including the common collusion from many people in the British colonies in the New World, even with the backing from many of the Colonial governors. Some common myths dispelled are that few pirates had peg legs and there is no evidence that they buried Great book! A well researched well-written history of pirates. The author captured the real pirates and dispelled many of the myths, although many did carry on reigns of terror sometimes brutally attacking their victims. I found many surprises including the common collusion from many people in the British colonies in the New World, even with the backing from many of the Colonial governors. Some common myths dispelled are that few pirates had peg legs and there is no evidence that they buried their treasure. The treasure was generally split among the crew, often with captains getting 2 shares, quartermaster (the position that manged how the booty was split, second to the captain, the book didn't mention the first mate prevalent in fictional pirate tales) 1.5 shares, and some other specialized positions 1.25 shares, This system was part of the pirate code that was fairly consistent from ship to ship. The code also dealt with punishments of the crew that disobeyed the code and generally the captain was voted on by the crew and many of the decisions were decided by a vote. I never guessed pirates were actually quite democratic. It is exciting to explore a more realistic history of how things actually were, although there is no way to ever know exactly what happened in the past.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    I picked this up because I quite enjoyed two of the author's previous works, Brilliant Beacons and Leviathan. I'm not a pirate "fan" but I do find the subject somewhat interesting. BFBW takes some unusual directions. First, it focuses on the Golden Age of Piracy, but Dolin includes the late 1600s as well rather than just 1715-1726 (a quick internet search indicates this view his view is not unusual; it's simply not what I was familiar with). Second, it focuses on pirates who were from the I picked this up because I quite enjoyed two of the author's previous works, Brilliant Beacons and Leviathan. I'm not a pirate "fan" but I do find the subject somewhat interesting. BFBW takes some unusual directions. First, it focuses on the Golden Age of Piracy, but Dolin includes the late 1600s as well rather than just 1715-1726 (a quick internet search indicates this view his view is not unusual; it's simply not what I was familiar with). Second, it focuses on pirates who were from the American Colonies and/or committed significant piracy off that coast. Third, the combination of the first two results in a sudden turn from the expected (buccaneers, Tortuga, Port Royal) into American Pirates in the Indian Ocean which was a thing I don't think I had heard of before. Dolin's writing is good as usual. I was quite pleased to see him approach the subject without any romanticism and he makes an earnest effort to separate fact from myth (always a difficult task with pirates). He also contrasts the different periods with the Golden Age of Piracy. This is one of his shorter books, at just over 300 pages of main text. I was a little surprised that, apart from a short epilogue about searching for pirate wrecks & treasure and pirates in pop culture, the story wraps up in 1726. While this makes sense in context of the book, the result is a century of lesser piracy in Florida (Black Caesar, the Keys pirates of the 1820s, Don Pedro Gilbert) and other parts of the eventual USA (ex: Jean Lafitte in Louisiana) are left out. I hope we'll get a sequel. High recommended, especially if you don't know much about pirate history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    An engrossing and entertaining non-fiction work centering on two major eras of piracy off America's eastern coast. I really enjoyed the effort to not inflate or exaggerate the stories and instead present as accurate an account as possible. You'd think this would make for a dry, dull book, but you'd be wrong. Both the inherent nature of Eric Jay Dolan's subject and his dynamic writing style (including frequent and much-appreciated tongue-in-cheek passages) keep things rolling right along. Don't An engrossing and entertaining non-fiction work centering on two major eras of piracy off America's eastern coast. I really enjoyed the effort to not inflate or exaggerate the stories and instead present as accurate an account as possible. You'd think this would make for a dry, dull book, but you'd be wrong. Both the inherent nature of Eric Jay Dolan's subject and his dynamic writing style (including frequent and much-appreciated tongue-in-cheek passages) keep things rolling right along. Don't be fooled by the book's length, either: roughly 30% of the pages are notes, bibliography, etc. It's a suprisingly fast, fun read. I also really enjoyed the historical illustrations and images!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Am

    A bit more history than epic, a straight and well researched retelling of a number of pirates that prowled the American coast. Occasionally captivating interludes combined with straight recounting, without flair or embellishment, of what can be validated in the historical record.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Pirates, in truth, where not the heroic figures that Treasure Island and modern myth suggests. Edward Low was a particularly savage pirate, who loved to torture his victims.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Klein

    Eric Jay Dolin writes a rollicking history of the "Golden Age" of American piracy. "Black Flags, Blue Waters" is not only heavily researched, but extremely readable. Much of what I thought I knew about pirates hadn't progressed much beyond the romanticized tales of buried treasure and swashbuckling buccaneers that captivates nearly every schoolchild, but the real history in "Black Flags, Blue Waters" is just as compelling. What I found most fascinating in reading the book was the fact that, Eric Jay Dolin writes a rollicking history of the "Golden Age" of American piracy. "Black Flags, Blue Waters" is not only heavily researched, but extremely readable. Much of what I thought I knew about pirates hadn't progressed much beyond the romanticized tales of buried treasure and swashbuckling buccaneers that captivates nearly every schoolchild, but the real history in "Black Flags, Blue Waters" is just as compelling. What I found most fascinating in reading the book was the fact that, during the late 1600s, the American colonies treated pirates not as outlaws, but as economic godsends. Puritan leader John Winthrop had no qualms with pirates' morality, describing a 1646 visit by pirates to Plymouth as “divine providence.” I also learned from the book that the target of many 17th century pirates were ships from the Muslim Mughal Empire carrying riches along with wealthy pilgrims en route to Mecca. The disparate reactions by the British government and its American colonies foreshadowed the differences that would lead to revolution a century later. Those names you learned as a kid--Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, etc.--are all here. There are tales of shipwrecks and treasure. Dozens of illustrations and maps further enliven the narrative. Highly recommended--whether you want to drink with a bottle of rum or not.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matt Nolan

    It's a good compliment to other books on pirates as this one covers a wide variety of pirates during the golden age, but doesn't just focus on those who operated out of Nassau.

  19. 4 out of 5

    St. Gerard Expectant Mothers

    A great history of the more well-known figures of piracy like Captain Morgan and Blackbeard. The book details the race for exploration between Spain and England and how each was affected by both political and economic motivations. Though it touches upon its application to modern day piracy, it does leave out some other influential pirates like Mary Read and Anne Bonnie. Still, a good nonfiction book nonetheless.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ti.Me

    Extremely well-researched and informative, this work could be used as a textbook on the subject. As entertainment, the book falls short, meandering on, slowly dripping trails of facts, with the feel of a never-ending reading assignment.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Coulter

    If you've got a drop of salt water in your veins or a thing for Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, you should read Eric Jay Dolin's new book, Black Flags, Blue Waters. There's just something about pirates that seems so romantic and mysterious--although the more I read about them, the more I realize how bloodthirsty and greedy they became, after initially being welcomed to the North American colonies. Dolin also debunked some myths I'd heard (nobody walked the plank or buried treasure on If you've got a drop of salt water in your veins or a thing for Johnny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow, you should read Eric Jay Dolin's new book, Black Flags, Blue Waters. There's just something about pirates that seems so romantic and mysterious--although the more I read about them, the more I realize how bloodthirsty and greedy they became, after initially being welcomed to the North American colonies. Dolin also debunked some myths I'd heard (nobody walked the plank or buried treasure on Gardiner's Island, apparently). This was a very enjoyable book, and I recommend it for those who enjoy history and a bit of swashbuckling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Davis

    Eric Jay Dolin writes entertainingly about many seafaring topics, even unsavory ones, in this case, piracy.. A specialist in ocean life, he also writes about the history of lighthouses, and the questionable joys and misadventures of pursuing PhD. studies. His books are to print what Ken Burns' documentaries are to film. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica. Subsequent to that, I researched many subjects about the West Indies. Black Flags, Blue Waters' history is presented in an easy narrative Eric Jay Dolin writes entertainingly about many seafaring topics, even unsavory ones, in this case, piracy.. A specialist in ocean life, he also writes about the history of lighthouses, and the questionable joys and misadventures of pursuing PhD. studies. His books are to print what Ken Burns' documentaries are to film. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica. Subsequent to that, I researched many subjects about the West Indies. Black Flags, Blue Waters' history is presented in an easy narrative that combines personal, national, and political histories seamlessly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    George

    I loved this book. A detailed, well researched and compelling account of the golden age of piracy, through it's eventual decline. Other pirate books have focused on the exploits of the pirates, or on individual pirates and their careers, or on pirate "society", this book was different in that it delved deep into the working relationship between pirates and the colonies of early America and New England. Although everyone naturally thinks of the Caribbean when they think of pirates, no one really I loved this book. A detailed, well researched and compelling account of the golden age of piracy, through it's eventual decline. Other pirate books have focused on the exploits of the pirates, or on individual pirates and their careers, or on pirate "society", this book was different in that it delved deep into the working relationship between pirates and the colonies of early America and New England. Although everyone naturally thinks of the Caribbean when they think of pirates, no one really considers how the pirates were able to thrive for so long, i.e., how and where they disposed of the goods and merchandise they seized and spent all their ill-gotten wealth, and what effect that had on the early American colonies. I was surprised to learn that many "respectable" communities were active partners in piracy, and benefited greatly from the influx of goods, and currency (which was always in short supply in the colonies). Almost all of the "Pine Tree" shillings in circulation in colonial America were made from re-minted Spanish silver pieces of eight! As long as pirates were raiding Spanish, Dutch or French ships in the Caribbean or Mogul ships in the Indian Ocean, the colonies were happy to accept, harbor and even protect pirates as they brought in exotic, expensive, and hard-to get imported goods at bargain prices, and freely spent money on equipment and supplies, alcohol and prostitutes, and in so doing, infused much-needed cash into the colonial economy. It was only after the loss of several pirate strongholds or "kingdoms" (Port Royal in Jamaica destroyed by earthquake in 1692, Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and Nassau in the Bahamas) that pirates were forced to start raiding local shipping. When pirates started menacing local trade, communities that formerly welcomed the pirates turned to enemies actively assisting in stamping them out, and their doom was sealed. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative book. If you love history and pirates, add this one to your "pirate bookshelf".

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Corleto-Bales

    Enshrined in popular mythology as admirable scamps, (mostly by the imagery in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island") pirates--or privateers, if you prefer--were, for lack of a better word, criminals on the high seas. Ordinary trade, commerce and law was thrown overboard as pirates were financed and encouraged by nation-states to attack the trade ships of their enemies. Starting in the late-sixteenth century with Sir Francis Drake, (knighted for his plunder of Spanish ships) state-supported Enshrined in popular mythology as admirable scamps, (mostly by the imagery in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island") pirates--or privateers, if you prefer--were, for lack of a better word, criminals on the high seas. Ordinary trade, commerce and law was thrown overboard as pirates were financed and encouraged by nation-states to attack the trade ships of their enemies. Starting in the late-sixteenth century with Sir Francis Drake, (knighted for his plunder of Spanish ships) state-supported piracy lasted over 100 years and then morphed out of control of its creators. Mutinous crews overthrew their captains and set out to rob anyone they could, often mercilessly. Allegedly democratic in some ways, (pirate crews often elected their own captains) their real legacy is terror, robbery, rape and insecurity. By the second decade of the eighteenth century, the scourge of piracy was pretty much stamped out by the power of the state, at least off the American Colonies. And good riddance.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    I picked this up as a light read between two weightier tomes and it was what I wanted. The book focuses on pirates from or who plied their trade in what would become the United States. It's a good narrative history and some of the tales are very memorable. It's not a deep dive, it's not an adventure tale, it's a nice easy read on an in interesting subject.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    For the most part, when we think about pirates, we think the Caribbean and the Spanish Main and dressing up on September 19th - it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Dolin asked his children what his next book should be about, they immediately said "Pirates!" So he decided to focus on pirates and their activities along the eastern U.S. coast during the so-called Golden Age. Dolin did extensive research not only into the overall subject of piracy but into many of the well-known names. For the most part, when we think about pirates, we think the Caribbean and the Spanish Main and dressing up on September 19th - it's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Dolin asked his children what his next book should be about, they immediately said "Pirates!" So he decided to focus on pirates and their activities along the eastern U.S. coast during the so-called Golden Age. Dolin did extensive research not only into the overall subject of piracy but into many of the well-known names. Starting with Drake and his 'sea dogs' under Elizabeth I to antagonize their Spanish enemies and get some valuables along the way, the author then starts in the 1630's with the histories of Dixie Bell and Henry Morgan as they are known. Some names are familiar - William Kidd, Edward Theath or Blackbeard, Calico Jack Rackham with his female crew members, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Samuel Bellamy. While others flashed like a lightning strike - quick to appear and just as quick to disappear into history. Then there was John Quelch who raided Brazil. There were three Caribbean bases of operation - Tortuga off the coast of Hispanola; Port Royal, Jamaica; and New Providence, Bahamas - there was also a major English/American pirate outpost in Madagascar which contributed to the slave trade. Thomas Tew and Henry Avery among others would raid ships belonging to the Mughal Empire, which caused considerable trouble for the East India Company and England. In the early years, many colonial governments tended to be more concerned with the economic prosperity and goods the pirates made available without the English tariffs and customs. That's if the goods even made it to the colonies - the 'good stuff' was quickly picked over in England - so many items provided by pirates were very welcome. Also, pirates were willing to pay fees directly into the governor's pockets in order to sell their cargo and purchase provisions and crew entertainment. That changed as piracy moved to cover all ships, not just Spanish and French. Even American merchant vessels were under attack - and depending on the captain, it may have been better to go down fighting. Crew and officers were tortured in order to get plunder, cargo deemed not worthy could be left behind or tossed overboard. And it was not just precious metals, it included sails, clothing, food, water, alcohol, rope, replacement masts, cannonballs and cannons. Then the ship was burned or scuttled. Abandoned with what remained of the crew aboard it - crew and especially those with a skill like navigator, carpenter or surgeon were pressed into joining the pirate crew under pain of agonizing death. The ship could be taken as a consort and put under the command of another pirate or if in better condition or equipment, would be exchanged with the pirate vessel. The merchant crew could be placed aboard to attempt to survive, set ashore on some island or held prisoner until another ship was captured or released. Dolin also goes into the articles of agreement, the duties of captain and especially quartermaster who divvied up the spoils as well as other important crew members. The basic dress code - they looked like every other sailor of the time. Hygiene was optional at the time period and diseases ran rampant mostly due to bad water, spoiled food or sexual activities. Difference between types of ships and basic tactics. The black flag which was individualized by some captains and crew with skulls, bones, skeletons, whatever struck their fancy. Eventually, the English government offered a King's pardon for those who had been pirates. And hundreds did take advantage of the royal generosity. Unfortunately, depending on the location 20% to 50% of those that took the pardon returned to piracy. And if being found guilty of piracy was a death sentence. For the most part, the golden age of Atlantic piracy was over by 1727. Of course, rarely do we consider modern pirates like those who cruise near Somalia, Indonesia or the Gulf of Guinea near Nigeria. It was an interesting look at the beginning of the American colonies and showed that out childish ideas of pirates being limited to the Caribbean was all wrong. It was certainly not an easy life. Some managed to make some money and disappear back into history but for most, it was hard and cruel and often ended at the end of a hangman's noose. 2020-153

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ellie J.

    4/5 stars Recommended for people who like: history, pirates, US history, historical overviews I can't quite put my finger on why, but for some reason I just don't lie this one as much as I did Under the Black Flag. There's nothing wrong with the book, Dolin does a good job giving an overview of the history of pirates in US waters and, like Cordingly, also focuses on pirate hunting than pirate life a little too much for my taste. Perhaps the main issue I have with Dolin is that he repeats himself 4/5 stars Recommended for people who like: history, pirates, US history, historical overviews I can't quite put my finger on why, but for some reason I just don't lie this one as much as I did Under the Black Flag. There's nothing wrong with the book, Dolin does a good job giving an overview of the history of pirates in US waters and, like Cordingly, also focuses on pirate hunting than pirate life a little too much for my taste. Perhaps the main issue I have with Dolin is that he repeats himself in the book, retelling the same stories he told earlier in the book to make a different point, though I suppose there are only so many famous US pirates that we really know a decent amount about. Starting with the good, Dolin is very descriptive about the types of people the pirates were, what they looked like when we do know, and the details for the ships and their crimes. While it didn't go into too much detail re: daily life, it does give a broad overview of life as a pirate in general, which is still helpful for my purposes. It was good to know the different kinds of ships that pirates used and the manner in which they acquired them, as well as where pirate hot spots were and why. He also goes quite in-depth about the process of being jailed, tried, and executed. While not my area of interest at the moment, Dolin did provide far more detail on the matter than Cordingly did and I was able to grasp a better understanding of the process should I need to. One thing I particularly liked that Dolin touched on was how the colonies helped pirates. I suppose I hadn't really thought about it too much before, but it makes sense that the colonies and cities where pirates docked and traded would like the pirates and prefer that they weren't captured. It gave good insight into why the patterns of piracy were what they were and also how they were able to get away with it for so long. I also think it's a good prelude to the financial irritations that prompted the Revolutionary War. For the bad things, as already mentioned, I found Dolin to be rather repetitive in his points. A lot of the anecdotes he used were either repeats with more details in different areas or focused on different episodes of the same person, which made it seem like a repeat story anyway. The repetition of stories and points made it a bit difficult to get through the book as my mind would wander away and I'd either be completely distracted or I'd find myself reading and not absorbing any of it. I also thought, again as mentioned, that Dolin focuses a lot on the hunting of pirates rather than on other aspects of piracy, though that could be because he limited himself to pirates that primarily functioned in US waters. I think Dolin had a good idea going into the pirate havens in the Caribbean or along the coast and more detail about that would've been interesting, but again, the havens largely focused as a revolving point about how piracy was dismantled, etc. Overall, the book was fine and informative, but I feel just 'eh' about it and don't really have any strong feelings one way or another.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    I won Black Flags, Blue Waters via a goodreads giveaway. This was an entertaining and very interesting history of piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy (late 1600s to early 1700s), largely centered around Americas English colonies. There has already been much written about piracy during this time, but Ive not read it, so I cant directly speak to how much this book contributes to that discussion. But I did very much enjoy it as it gave me new insights into that time period, and interestingly I won Black Flags, Blue Waters via a goodreads giveaway. This was an entertaining and very interesting history of piracy during the “Golden Age of Piracy” (late 1600s to early 1700s), largely centered around America’s English colonies. There has already been much written about piracy during this time, but I’ve not read it, so I can’t directly speak to how much this book contributes to that discussion. But I did very much enjoy it as it gave me new insights into that time period, and interestingly mentioned several names I’d read about in different contexts, such as Cotton Mather, who was present for the hanging of many convicted pirates. And of course, there were a number of pirates I’d heard of elsewhere, such as Blackbeard (Edward Thatch), as well as many more whose names were new to me. I found it fascinating how different regions, and more specifically, different politicians treated pirates. Some were very against them and did all they could to fight them, though their resources were often lacking. Others directly profited from the actions of the pirates so they quietly, sometimes not so quietly, supported them. Many times sailors would seek letters from officials recognizing them as privateers, which officially gave them the right to attack the vessels of countries currently considered enemies. Many of these privateers, were in fact, pirates, going after merchant vessels and using the paperwork to justify their actions if questioned, though they weren’t always able to convince authorities of their “innocence.” As may be the case with many folks, most of my exposure to pirates has been in the fictional stories of movies and books, much of which appears to have little in common with history, at least the history we can verify. Much is still unknown when it comes to specific pirates and some of their actions. They didn’t tend to fully document their own lives, so much of what’s known is third-hand, and sometimes written many years after the events. But much is also documented, and well-represented in this book, which contains a very large section of notes and references at the end, as well as a select bibliography. Interspersed throughout are also a number of illustrations, photographs, and maps that I thought added some great context to the discussion, sometimes showing examples of the types of ships mentioned, other times showing portraits of individuals or maps of the areas where conflicts occurred.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    Interesting... but tedious in large part. I suppose that is a feat in itself, making a history of pirates an exercise in tedium, but as it turnout, that is more historically accurate than the swashbuckling tales of violence and derring-do. There were buckles swashed, and daring deeds done, to be sure... but they were more notable for their infrequent occurrence. Dolin depicts the actualities of pirate economics interwoven within colonial coastal economies and nourished by the corruption of Interesting... but tedious in large part. I suppose that is a feat in itself, making a history of pirates an exercise in tedium, but as it turnout, that is more historically accurate than the swashbuckling tales of violence and derring-do. There were buckles swashed, and daring deeds done, to be sure... but they were more notable for their infrequent occurrence. Dolin depicts the actualities of pirate economics interwoven within colonial coastal economies and nourished by the corruption of colonial officers. Prior to the so-called Golden Age of Piracy (roughly 1715-1725) pirates largely preyed upon foreign shipping in far away seas - Spanish treasure ships and French merchants, ships of the then existent Indian Mugrab Empire trading across the Indian Ocean plus British East Indian shipping. Some depredations of shipping in the Caribbean occurred, but it largely targeted Spanish and French shipping. The pirates brought all their wealth back to the colonies. Fully half the book covers this pre-Golden Age period of the late 1600's. The tide began to turn against pirates during the Golden Age when they began to focus their efforts upon all shipping from all countries and colonies from Newfoundland to the Caribbean, up and down the American coast. They no longer were an asset bringing in wealth, but a detriment to order and economic health and well being. This was the time of Blackbeard, Edward Low and similar famous pirates. Dolin narrates their individual histories, as best as the historical record can attest to them, and the anti-pirate efforts the successfully ended piracy as a common threat on the high seas. It is a well researched, well written history of a specialized subject during a limited era. As I said, it is more often tedious in the telling, a text book approach to the subject of piracy with diverting asides into pirate culture and pirate activities (dispelling a number of popular misconceptions about pirates along the way), individual stories of selected pirates, and the societal and governmental responses to them. This is a history of piracy as an enterprise more than a tale of pirates, and a good one. If you have an interest in the subject, this history will teach you much you probably did not know.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Richard West

    The actual book is 312 pages, the remaining 67 are Acknowledgements, footnotes, Sources, and an Index, most of which nobody reads. For years I had been looking for a recently published book on those denizens of the high seas, the pirates who - when we were kids, always seemed to be singing "yo ho ho and a bottle of run," something about "16 men on a dead man's chest" and of course were always threatening to make someone walk the plank for some misdeed or the other and go to Davy Jones locker. The actual book is 312 pages, the remaining 67 are Acknowledgements, footnotes, Sources, and an Index, most of which nobody reads. For years I had been looking for a recently published book on those denizens of the high seas, the pirates who - when we were kids, always seemed to be singing "yo ho ho and a bottle of run," something about "16 men on a dead man's chest" and of course were always threatening to make someone walk the plank for some misdeed or the other and go to Davy Jones locker. Then, they'd take off over the high seas and go bury their treasure on some deserted island. Sadly, according to the author, none of that was true. Oh well, another myth shot down! If they were around today - other than the real pirates who inhabit the waters around Africa and terrorize shipping - the ones in this country would be your friendly neighborhood gang banger, robbing the nearest KFC and 7-11, and going back to the "hood" where they would plan their next caper. Another myth destroyed - pirates were supposed to be lovable rogues! Author Dolin concentrates on US pirates, giving others only a brief mention, so we really don't know what all those dastardly villains were up to - other than harassing our home-grown pirates for control of the high seas. At only 9 chapters - most chapters are about 30+ pages long - and seem a bit tedious in spots, making it difficult to stop to go get a drink or do something else if nature calls. Still, it did satisfy my desire for a book on pirates which is what it was supposed to do and it was, overall, entertaining. Normally, it would only take me about 3 days or less to read a book this length - so why did it take so long to read this one? I should know better than to try and read a book during the school year - there were a couple of days when I never even looked at it (for obvious reasons).

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