The Villains of All Nations is book written by Marcus Rediker that follows the origins of the pirate boom before and after the War of Spanish Succession. The book covers infamous pirates like Bartholomew Roberts, William Fly, and Edward Teach also known as Blackbeard. It discusses the grim environment of working the seas for the government, what lead many people to turn to piracy, the tale of the first women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, how piracy impacted slavery, the pirates bonds of brotherhood under the Jolly Roger, and the events that lead to the death of the pirate era itself.
Many times the writing style of the book at time felt distracting, confusing, and even frustrating. For example, whenever Rediker would refer to a quote to back his argument, he would present the quote word for word in the same language people used back then just as they talked without the the author directly trying to decipher what exactly the quote was trying to say.
The letter on page 82 where Governor Spotswood letter concerning the growing number of pirates is a good example.
For me this was confusing because I think the author assumed that the reader knew pirate lingo thus me having to take the surrounding text and understand it in my own way. Another issue that slowed and at time made me reevaluate what I was reading was the random capitalization of words that are not even nouns like Convenient, Warning, and Flying Aspect. Although the book lacked illustrations of the author style of providing his ideas with plenty of quotes and factual examples of events enforced to me that Marcus Rediker credibility was never in question.
The authors style of writing although receptive provides plenty of evidence with quotes and examples of proven events to enforce his ideas. Something I noticed while reading is that most of the important information was on the first few pages followed by examples or events to support Redikers ideas. This was the case in chapter six about the women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Looking back, the first 6 pages were all I needed to read to understand how the rare occurrence of women pirates actually was. As Im progressing through the book the reading tended to get more and more bias towards the pirate way of living.
Rediker paints a portrait in my mind that all pirates were honest but misused laborers and that only issued their brand of justice towards those who manipulated their power towards those less then them, although true, as Im reading I had to remind myself that not all pirates were high and mighty and there were certain pirates who who terrorized those who were in a similar position before they became pirates. For all the examples the author provides Redikers writing is very vague towards the darker side of piracy and doesn’t provide enough background information from those innocents whose life suffered from acts pirates committed.
The book itself to me was not my cup of tea. Nothing from the reading blew my mind. For example, if I never picked up the book and some who did read it presented facts that person learned from the reading nothing would have caught me off guard or have surprised me about the life of the pirates I didn’t already know. Now because I didn’t find a majority of the book enjoyable and honestly just felt like required reading, there were actually a few stories that I found to be intriguing. One of the bits that I found insightful was the establishment of a pirate crew.
I found that because of the majority of pirates from that era came from similar backgrounds they drafted a code of conduct that all pirates agreed upon. And because the leader didn’t have absolute power like the countries the pirates originated from thus they were able to coexist because they didn’t like the style of the environment they originally wanted to escape from and the real leader aboard the ship were the crew. The brand of justice pirates toward vessels they captured was something I found fascinating.
For example, on page 88, the incident involving the capture of Captain Snelgraves vessel by the pirate Thomas Cocklyn. Initially Snelgrave resisted Cocklyns takeover so as Cocklyns crew overpowers Snelgraves and is taken by the pirates. Certain that Snelgrave will be killed or beaten for resisting, Snelgraves crew comes to their captains defense thus Cocklyn sparring the respected captains life. Because of the degree of respect Snelgraves had, Cocklyn not often seeing a government captain holding such admiration from a crew offered him a new ship and profits from a captured slave ship for his return to England.
This story really caught my attention because of the level of hospitality pirates show to a captain who held such respect with his own crew. Putting myself in the the position of a sailor back in that time I can see why many were attracted to the life of a pirate. The life of a sea faring man during the early 18th century was a grueling way of work. Wages were low, decease was rampant, ships were cramped, and discipline from officers was brutal, sometime murderous. The pirate life symbolized freedom and liberty and a brotherhood that stood for being “ one for all. ”
In conclusion, if I had to rate Pirates of All Nations on a scale from 1 to 10 I would give it a 4. In my opinion the book had some interesting stories concerning the era, but lacked in the storytelling aspect to me as a reader I was expecting from a book about pirates. With that being said if I had to recommend this book to someone it would be a person that has already some basic knowledge about the age of piracy whos looking for supplemental knowledge about the information he probably already knows. For the student, or casual reader who is looking for an exciting tale about the adventures of pirates should look elsewhere.
The book touches on some interesting subjects such as the final moments of a pirates life before certain death, the incidents of pirates treating captains of captured vessels who’s fate was determined whether or not they treated their crew with respect, and pirates impact on slavery were subjects that Rediker does not fully dive into. The one lesson i really pulled away with and I think all young adults like myself is the level of freedom they were able to achieve by taking the plunge and joining a pirate crew and to voyage to the unknown.
Cite this Villains of All Nations
Villains of All Nations. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/villains-of-all-nations/