Thieves of the highest magnitude—think Napoleon—get a good tattling from DuMont in a continuation of her Changed History series.
These are thieves who really did change history by moving the stolen items around the globe, sometimes in a small span, around Paris, for example, and sometimes from one continent to another. DuMont starts with the Venetians, who not only stole St. Mark’s body, but made alarming gains during the Crusades. She moves on to Francisco Pizarro and his conveyor belt of gold and silver from the Incan Empire to Spain. It took Francis Drake six days to empty one of King Philip’s Spanish treasure ships of its gold and silver. That is the same Drake to whom Queen Elizabeth gave “more ships to cram more Africans aboard to sell in the West Indies.” DuMont can come off as glib, but for the most part she is just throwing sauce in the face of egregious greed. There is also one heroic con man: Robert Smalls, an African-American pilot who ran the Confederate blockade of Charleston to take freedom for himself and a good number of slaves. DuMont also names secondary characters, which is particularly satisfying, as in introducing Vivant Denon, Napoleon’s choice to direct his growing art hoard and inventor of the modern museum.
A sassy, historically sound visit with some of the more (mostly) rudely audacious characters who have taken what wasn’t theirs. (Nonfiction. 11-16)