Lane (History/Coll. of William & Mary) offers an overview of the history behind the romances of piracy on the ""Spanish...


"PILLAGING THE EMPIRE: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750"

Lane (History/Coll. of William & Mary) offers an overview of the history behind the romances of piracy on the ""Spanish Main."" Lane's thesis regarding piracy in American waters (his focus here) is that by and large piracy in the Caribbean (and, significantly, in the Pacific as well) had its roots in the response of the rest of Europe to Spanish and Portuguese imperial designs on the New World. The first Caribbean pirates were, in fact, French Huguenots, English ""privateers"" (the latter ostensibly acting on behalf of Queen Elizabeth), and Dutch sea-rovers, staunch Protestants all, who were particularly ill-disposed toward the Catholicism of the Iberian thrones. The best known of these--the Englishmen John Hawkins and Francis Drake--have earned inflated reputations as scourges of the Spaniards, but the Dutch may have inflicted even more damage on Spanish interests in the New World, as Lane points out in detail. Yet our highly colored picture of the pirates and their crews derived more from the final and briefest cycle of piracy in the New World; in the aftermath of the War of the Spanish Succession, just prior to the beginning of the 18th century, a new breed of buccaneer emerged, anarchic, owing allegiance to no flag but his (and, in isolated cases, her) own, and robbing from Spanish, English, French, or anyone else's shipping without discrimination. The most valuable contribution of this book is to put these most famous marauders into a larger historical context and to point out how brief their reign of seagoing terror really was. How disappointing, then, to discover that our fabled swashbucklers were little more than waterborne bandits who practiced a particularly ruthless form of political expediency. Lane recounts his tale in an amiable if somewhat dry voice, and the resulting book is more interesting than stirring. A useful corrective to the mythology of the pirate, but one wishes it were a little more hearty.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0765602571

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Sharpe

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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