cover image Terror of the Spanish Main: Sir Henry Morgan and His Buccaneers

Terror of the Spanish Main: Sir Henry Morgan and His Buccaneers

Albert Marrin. Dutton Books, $21.99 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45942-2

While debunking romantic myths and misconceptions, Marrin (Commander in Chief: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War) ably proves fact stranger than fiction in his portrait of the legendary buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688). Supported by meticulous research, Marrin paints buccaneers as outcasts and thieves with little to lose who brutally and violently plundered Spanish ships and colonies in the 17th century. Henry Morgan, the son of a ""middling"" Welsh farmer, sought adventure at sea and became the leader of these bandits; he was knighted by King Charles II of England for thwarting Spain's interests in the New World. Marrin details the economic and political factors that contributed to the rise of the buccaneers as well as the social climate, including religious beliefs, standards of cleanliness, threat of vermin and violent forms of torture. With candor, Marrin explains what's missing from historical accounts as well as his own conclusions when faced with such gaps. For example, speculating on Morgan's passage to America, he writes, ""Through their writings [other 17th-century sailors who made the journey], and with a little imagination, we can join them on a `typical' Atlantic crossing."" A thorough ""Notes"" section references his abundant sources. Although Marrin's often gory account is not for the weak of stomach, most readers will find this gripping and complex historical drama impossible to put down. Ages 11-up. (Feb.)