The History of Piracy

Book: The History of Piracy
Author: Philip Gosse
Publisher: Dover Publications, republished in 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0486461830
ISBN-10: 0486461831
Related website: (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Gosse, Philip. The History of Piracy (originally published in 1932 by Longmans, Green and Co., New York City, NY; republished in 2007 by Dover Publications, Mineola, NY). The author begins, “To write a complete history of piracy from its earliest days would be an impossible undertaking….What the following pages attempt to do is to show what conditions, geographical and social, preceded the rise of piracy, to trace its periodical rises and declines, its forms and fortunes, to depict the more outstanding members of its profession, and finally to show how national organization, backed by the steamship and the telegraph, brought it to an end.” The book has seventeen chapters, plus an Epilogue, divided into four main sections: “The Barbary Corsairs,” including the Barbarossas; “The Pirates of the North,” such as the Vikings, Hanseatics, and English Corsairs; “The Pirates of the West,” such as the Buccaneers of North America; and “The Pirates of the East,” from Africa, India, Arabia, Japan, China, and the Malay Archipelago.

Author Philip Gosse is identified as “an eminent authority on pirate lore and literature.” I picked The History of Piracy up in “The Pirates of the Caribbean” gift shop when we visited Disney World last year. It is well written, and the stories are told in a lively, informative, and comprehensive fashion. A few curse words are used, primarily in quotations. Even three cases of female pirates are covered. Some famous pirates, such as Blackbeard (Edward Teach) and Captain William Kidd are given their due, but others like Jean Lafitte are barely mentioned. The book will not appeal to everyone, but anybody interested in pirate history, or history in general for that matter, will enjoy it. There are seven Appendices, quoting documents from the days of “The Classical Pirates” of ancient Greece and Rome to a 1929 newspaper article on “Modern Chinese Pirates.” Also found in Dover’s reprint are seventeen black-and-white illustrations and four maps from the volume’s original publication.

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