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A facsimile edition of a classic source for the history of piracy, as used by Robert Louis Stevenson in the writing of Treasure Island. Captain Charles Johnson's General History of Pirates was one of the best-selling books of 1724, when it was first published. It provides a sweeping account of what has come to be called the Golden Age of Piracy. It went through four editions in two years, and without doubt owed a substantial part of its success to a dramatic writing style that vividly captures the realities of pirates' savage existence. The book contains documentary evidence of events during the lives of its subjects. In the 270 years since its original publication, Johnson's work has come to be regarded as the classic study of one of the most popular subjects in maritime history.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780851779195
ISBN-10: 0851779190
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 26mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Conway Maritime Press Ltd
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 15-Jul-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » The first edition of Captain Johnson's book about pirates appeared in 1724. Its success then reflected the avid interest of the time in the violent exploits of men - and women - who caused terror and disruption on the high seas, and it also inspired later stories about pirates, including Treasure Island and Peter Pan. As well as a mention in his introduction of earlier pirates like the notorious Barbarossa, Johnson gives a detailed account of the lives of some 20 pirates, including the better-known Blackbeard and Captain Kidd, and, where they can be corroborated, his facts mainly seem to be true. This leads to perhaps the most intriguing question: the one of Captain Johnson's identity. Where did he get all his information? Did he attend pirates' trials? Was he a pirate too? He seems to have knowledge only a seaman or insider would have about the details of pirate activities - their backgrounds, raids, rape and pillage, in-fighting between crews and corruption on land, much fascinating information about the areas where acts of piracy were committed, such as the West Indies, West Africa, Madagascar and Brazil and, not least, the inevitably violent ends met by most pirates. Johnson's book was written towards the end of the main period of piratical lawlessness: these men's lives, on the whole, were nasty, brutish and short and they had little opportunity to enjoy any successes. In spite of the interesting insight into the period and information which destroys any lingering thoughts of the pirate as romantic hero, there is an inescapable repetitiveness about their lives which can become tedious. Still, this is a remarkable work, and anyone interested in 18th-century writing or the piratical tradition is bound to enjoy it. Also included are contemporary woodblocks, extracts from letters and trial accounts, and a glossary and footnotes. (Kirkus UK)

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