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Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates Hardcover – Aug 20 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (Aug. 20 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679425608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679425601
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #595,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Though literature, films, and folklore have romanticized pirates as gallant seaman who hunted for treasure in exotic locales, David Cordingly, a former curator at the National Maritime Museum in England, reveals the facts behind the legends of such outlaws as Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Calico Jack. Even stories about buried treasure are fictitious, he says, yet still the myth remains. Though pirate captains were often sadistic villains and crews endured barbarous tortures, were constantly threatened with the possibility of death by hanging, drowning in a storm, or surviving a shipwreck on a hostile coast, pirates are still idealized. Cordingly examines why the myth of the romance of piratehood endures and why so few lived out their days in luxury on the riches they had plundered.

From Publishers Weekly

Widespread piracy began in the Western world in 1650 and ended abruptly around 1725. Cordingly, formerly on the staff of the National Maritime Museum in England, describes who became pirates (mainly volunteers who joined up when their ships were captured); what they wore (scarves or handkerchiefs around their head, just like in the movies); and how they were armed (literally, to the teeth). Pirates, says the author, were "attracted by the lure of plunder and the desire for an easy life." They were not the clean-cut heroes of the Errol Flynn films either, but cutthroat murderers. Some of the famous pirates are portrayed: Sir Francis Drake made his name by plundering silver on the Spanish Main; Sir Harry Morgan is famous for his ransom of Portobello to the President of Panama for 250,000 pesos; and Captain Kidd remains mysterious because of his buried gold and silver on Gardiners Island, near New York City. Fictitious pirates are also surveyed, such as Long John Silver and Captain Hook, and the allure they still have over us is explored. Even if you don't know a corsair (a Mediterranean-based pirate) from a buccaneer (a Caribbean pirate), this book will delight and inform. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON was thirty years old when he began writing Treasure Island. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Baloo on May 19 2004
Format: Paperback
Ahoy, reader, the pirates you know today from movies and stories are not too far from the originals, but are wonderful and romanticized caricatures of the buccaneers and corsairs of the 18th century. This we learn from the excellent book Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly, in which the author tells the stories of the lives of real pirates of old. Cordingly goes into great color and detail about the reality of pirates and their history.
In the first chapter, entitled Wooden Legs and Parrots, Cordingly describes the actual appearance of buccaneers and corsairs. From the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson we first accepted the image of pirates personified by Long John Silver and Captain Hook. Pirates were linked with, pirate maps, black schooners, tropical islands, and one legged seaman with parrots on their shoulders. Cordingly identifies peg legs, parrots, filth, and harsh captains wearing dashing clothes.
Who were these lavishly-dressed, smelly, unkempt, vagabonds of the sea? David Cordingly catergorizes pirates in two ways. Buccaneers were pirates from the Carribean and Corsairs were pirates from the Mediteranean.He also goes into depth about specific people such as, Bartholomew Roberts, Sir Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Henry Morgan, and Captain Kidd.
In to battle and back to the sea, this is the life of a pirate; David Cordingly elaborated well on this fact in his book Under the Blak Flag. By reading his book you can tell he is an experienced writer and a more-than-credible authority on pirates. He uses sources and quotes very well in this book, and organizes the main points rather well. His writing style is easy to read and you find yourself being caught up in his stories of pirate history and legend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Lawrenz on Oct. 9 2001
Format: Paperback
Despite it's flaws, Cordingly's "Under the Black Flag" is worth a read. It is not really intended as a "history" of piracy (as some seem it think), rather it explores the reality behind the popular conception our society has of pirates and piracy itself, the innaccuriacies that have crept into their pop image.
Even from the later days of piracy, authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson have presented a slightly romanticized image of pirates. Authors that followed him added until the truth of piracy was partially obscured. Cordingly achieves his goal of decifering the romanticism and it's orgins quite well through the course of the book, explaining the structure of the pirate world, how they operated, what sort of men and prizes they went after, and where many of the misconceptions of Pirates may have come from. The book is filled with many interesting anecdotes and stories about specific pirates and the authors who wrote about them.
The main problem I had with this book was simply the fact that it was dry. While it had some sections that were fascinating and kept my attention easily, other parts were boring. It was clearly intended as more of light read, yet at times I felt like I was plowing through a more scholarly piece of work. I had to force myself to get through them at times. What results is an inconsistant read.
That said, I would still recomend this book to people interested in pirates. While there are other books that have more on specific pirates and specific events, this book is a fairly decent overview, and its analysis on the development of the pop culture image of pirates is invaluable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Derrick Peterman on May 30 2004
Format: Paperback
Whenever historical figures such as pirates are so common in popular culture, I often wonder how accurate the representation is. This book engagingly answers these questions. Not surprisingly, there is some truth to the modern image of a pirate. For example, they often dressed with scarfs, lots of guns, and even kept parrots as pets. On the other hand, they were largely brutal criminals, not jovial, romantic figures usually portrayed in stories.
With such a fragmentary history, the big challenge is to present a coherent picture of pirate history. Cordingly doesn't always pull this off. I found the book disorganized in places, and some of the chapters have fairly loose threads holding the material together. A lot of the excursions into analyzing popular culture are not particularly insightful, and interfere with the strength of the book, telling the story of pirates.
Overall, a fun and interesting read on a criminal class that is well recognized, if not well known.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "goalieguy385" on March 1 2004
Format: Paperback
Under the Black Flag entertained me. I really enjoyed reading this book. I was 17 when I read it. This was before Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean came out. After seeing the movie, I had to laugh because Disney did keep the real story behind a pirates life as G rated as possible. I recommend this to anyone who loves non-fiction books about pirates.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8 2003
Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous pans of this book. Ridiculously repetitive, poorly organized, largely dependent on secondary sources, Under the Black Flag has little to recommend it. Cordingly takes an inherently interesting subject- the reality of the Caribbean pirates- and finds a way to make it boring. Furthermore, the ponderous writing style and endless digressions on the image of the pirate in literature, the stage or screen soon overshadow the few good stories the book contains. There have to be better books out there on pirates.
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