–by Michael Pierce
BLACK FLAGS, BLUE WATERS: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin. Liveright Publishing Corporation. Available September 18, 2018.
The Golden Age of Piracy existed for a relatively short time, from the late 17th century through the first quarter of the 18th century. It was a time when men, and women, of derring-do sought adventure and fortune on the high seas. In the end, there was a lot of adventure, very little fortune and, unfortunately, relatively short lifespans for those who were determined to live such a life.
Eric Jay Dolin has written a tour de force history of this period in American history. BLACK FLAGS, BLUE WATERS brings to life the famous, the not-so-famous, and the infamous of the ranks of American pirates during the aforementioned Golden Age.
Dolin has woven a masterpiece of a narrative of the time, giving readers a view into the lives of the pirates themselves and how, thanks to collusion with a variety of American Colonial officials and citizens, the Golden Age began with those engaged in the business who were welcome in coastal towns and cities.
At the beginning, the pirates brought much needed revenue into the colonies, while lining the pockets of politicians. These English pirates could do no wrong, as they were preying on French and Spanish shipping out of the Caribbean, and the French and Spanish were old, bitter enemies of the Crown.
That all changed with the end of Queen Anne’s War (aka the War of Spanish Succession) in 1713. The Crown was making quite an effort to be friendly toward Spain. Around 1710, French privateers were wreaking havoc on Colonial fishermen, a problem that was not resolved until 1713. King George later issued an amnesty for all pirates who would turn away from that practice.
Pirates would take the amnesty oath, and in the end, they would violate it and return to piracy. Significantly, they switched much of their operations to the Mughal Empire, and to the East Coast colonies. Robbing “infidel” Mughals was one thing, robbing merchant ships coming out of colonial ports was an entirely different matter.
The Golden Age of Piracy began to dwindle by 1720, and it all but ended around 1726, when many of the better known pirates of the age had either been hanged, killed in combat, drowned, or (for a lucky few) melted into general society in the colonies, in Great Britain, or in other parts of the world.
Author Eric Jay Dolin has given us a vivid glimpse into this world. Using excellent primary and secondary sources, along with period maps and illustrations, he has brought the pirate world to us and placed us right in the middle of the action, or in the pirate kingdoms of the Caribbean or the island of Madagascar.
Just in time for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, for yourself or a family member or friend, pick up a copy of BLACK FLAGS, BLUE WATERS. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll come out with a better knowledge of this important period of American history.