cover image Piracy: The Complete History

Piracy: The Complete History

Angus Konstam. Osprey Publishing (UK), $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-1-84603-240-0

If you think pirating is about hoisting the skull and crossbones, swigging from bottles o'rum, and making lily-livers walk the plank, prolific history author Konstam is here to correct those romantic notions with a far less glamorous, but no less interesting, high seas history. The ""golden age"" of piracy, upon which most pirate lore is based, lasted only a quarter of a century, from 1700-1725, but the practice has been around as long as seamanship-often masquerading as naval heroism. Konstam includes Cretans, Viking sea raiders, French corsairs and even Sir Francis Drake in his rogues' gallery. The lives of most pirates were mostly Hobbesian: nasty, brutish and short. Indeed, the most notorious-Charles Vane, Calico Jack Rackham, and Edward ""Blackbeard"" Teach-usually ended up with their heads in a noose or on a pike, though escapes weren't unknown: two female pirates, Mary Read and Ann Bonny, got pregnant to avoid death sentences. Modern pirates still lurk off the coasts of Indonesia, Africa and South America, employing automatic weapons and speedboats in place of cutlasses and frigates. Though it may take some of the wind out of their favorite Hollywood scallywag's sails, this engaging, comprehensive account of one of the world's oldest profession should fascinate pirate-lubbers. Illus.