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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

“Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates”, by David Cordingly


336 pages, Random House, Inc., ISBN-13: 978-0812977226

David Cordingly's Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, constitutes the best researhed book on pirate history I have ever read. The information provided about the lives of this notorious anti-heroes, the reality of the life among them and the world of the 17th-and-18th Centuries is amazingly accurate and backed up with an extensive bibliography and footnotes. For those interested in pirate history throughout the ages, and especially the Golden Age of Piracy, this book constitutes a fundamental tool for understanding the pirate reality. When uncovering how the real people like Edward Teach and Calico Jack were, this book has no equal. Cordingly separates the myths from the real individuals behind them, proving that the reality is much more interesting than the romance, when uncovered. At the same time, the author discusses how the myths surrounding Blackbeard, the Women Pirates or Kidd's treasure, were formed and have survived through the years, becoming important elements of popular culture. Cordingly establishes why in our hearts, pirates were not sadistic villans, but rather “romantic outlaws living far from civilization on some distant sunny shore”, something most of us would dream to be.

It is difficult to find intelligent, well written, historically accurate accounts on such broad (yet obscure) topics as piracy on the high seas. It is even more difficult to find ones whose style doesn't dull the compelling nature of the institution. Cordingly, however, is able to put forth to his readers a refined historical account, that is long on both drama and accuracy. This book fills a gap, on the study of pirates, that existed between the overly scholarly and the overly sensational, giving both the history buff and the mildly curious a window into an otherwise difficult subject to research and report on. But unlike most historical works, there is no loss of romance, proof that history doesn't need the added flare of a coffee table publication if the humanity of the subject is stressed over the plain, dry facts. The lives of these sea-roving vagabonds are enough to lure the reader further into Cordingly's pages, but his style is enough to keep you loving it. ! I recommend this book wholeheartedly, especially to those who have never read any such account on the true history of piracy.

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