Cover image for Villains of all nations : Atlantic pirates in the golden age
Villains of all nations : Atlantic pirates in the golden age
Rediker, Marcus.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
240 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F106 .R42 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F106 .R42 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
F106 .R42 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Villains of All Nations explores the "Golden Age" of Atlantic piracy (1716-1726) and the infamous generation whose images underlie our modern, romanticized view of pirates. Rediker introduces us to the dreaded black flag, the Jolly Roger; swashbuckling figures such as Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard; and the unnamed, unlimbed pirate who was likely Robert Louis Stevenson's model for Long John Silver in Treasure Island.This history shows from the bottom up how sailors emerged from deadly working conditions on merchant and naval ships, turned pirate, and created a starkly different reality aboard their own ships, electing their officers, dividing their booty equitably, and maintaining a multinational social order. The real lives of this motley crew-which included cross-dressing women, people of color, and the "outcasts of all nations"-are far more compelling than contemporary myth.

Author Notes

Marcus Rediker is professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The so-called golden age of Atlantic piracy was the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Lawless rebels, including well-known men such as William Fly and Edward Teach--as well as numerous social outcasts, debtors, escaped slaves, and various predatory personalities--used terrorist tactics to prey upon merchant ships from New England waters to the Spanish Main. Rediker's revealing and often surprising work views pirates and piracy within the context of the social, political, and economic milieu of the eighteenth century. He does much to deromanticize pirate life, for these were brutal, sometimes heartless men, and many of them were prime examples of a variety of social pathologies. Yet, as Rediker illustrates, pirates often did create a distinct subculture with its own set of values, codes of honor, and taboos. Rediker is most interesting and provocative in his comparisons between this subculture and the broader, respectable society that helped engender it. An informative look at a popular topic. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rediker (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), a historian of maritime labor, opens his immensely readable study of the "golden age" of piracy (1716-1726) with the spectacle of an execution in which a notorious pirate, unrepentant and seemingly unconcerned to be facing death, reties the knot of his gallows noose with defiant ironic humor. For Rediker, pirates were bold subversives who challenged the prevailing social order and empire building of the five main trading nations. Emphasizing the hardship, injustice and brutality the average sailor faced in his career, Rediker suggests that piracy offered a more egalitarian seafaring life, as well as opportunities for revenge on the ruling class. Rediker uses captives' accounts, among other sources, to show how pirates meted out their own system of justice, torturing captains reputed for their harsh treatment of sailors, yet sparing others known for fairness. He explores pirate dialects, rituals and symbols, and shows how pirates inverted social norms, creating a carnivalesque way of life that featured fraternal solidarity, a precapitalist share system and the wanton destruction of property. A chapter on picaresque women pirates reveals links between their iconic image and Delacroix's painting Liberty. Using statistics to show convincingly that by the 1720s piracy posed a real threat to global trade, Rediker describes how nations launched a military-legal campaign against piracy, with cannon battles and gruesome public executions. Rediker uses this apocalyptic close of piracy's golden age to explore its suicidal side. Although Rediker's short study does not tackle later myths of piracy, it provides penetrating background to our enduring cultural fascination with the seafaring outlaws. Illus. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Scholar of Atlantic history Rediker (Univ. of Pittsburgh) has published a number of books and articles involving piracy, most notably Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (CH, Jan'88). This is his first book devoted solely to pirates themselves, however, examining particularly the era from 1716-26. Considering Rediker's past insights, this is a surprisingly standard collection of pirate lore, drawing heavily on Charles Johnson's 1724 General History of the Pyrates; explaining oft-examined pirate customs such as ship's articles; and recounting the exploits of famous pirates. Rediker's class-focused approach sheds light on the material, but he makes relatively few new assertions; rather, this book summarizes his understanding of piracy by drawing on his published previously work. It also highlights the continued relevance of pirate history. The author's examination of terrorist methods used by pirates and the authorities they rebelled against invites comparison to today's conflicts. While examining pirates' alternative social order, Rediker still conveys the romantic appeal of piracy: "Out of this complex array of forces would climb the pirate, with a dagger between his teeth." This informed, enthusiastic approach is an excellent introduction to pirates and a worthwhile reexamination for pirate devotees. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Public libraries, undergraduate collections, and above. W. L. Svitavsky Rollins College

Table of Contents

1 A Tale of Two Terrorsp. 1
2 The Political Arithmetic of Piracyp. 19
3 Who Will Go "a Pyrating"?p. 38
4 "The New Government of the Ship"p. 60
5 "To Do Justice to Sailors"p. 83
6 The Women Pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Readp. 103
7 "To Extirpate Them Out of the World"p. 127
8 "Defiance of Death Itself"p. 148
Conclusion: Blood and Goldp. 170
Notesp. 177
Acknowledgmentsp. 222
Indexp. 226