Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: The Politics of Pirates: Crime and Civil Disobedience in Colonial America by Douglas R. Burgess, Jr.

Synopsis: The untold story of how colonial pirates transformed America and brought it to the brink of rebellion. The seventeenth-century war on piracy is remembered as a triumph for the English state and her Atlantic colonies. Yet it was piracy and illicit trade that drove a wedge between them, imperiling the American enterprise and bringing the colonies to the verge of rebellion. In The Politics of Piracy, competing criminalities become a lens to examine England’s legal relationship with America. In contrast to the rough, unlettered stereotypes associated with them, pirates and illicit traders moved easily in colonial society, attaining respectability and even political office. The goods they provided became a cornerstone of colonial trade, transforming port cities from barren outposts into rich and extravagant capitals. This transformation reached the political sphere as well, as colonial governors furnished local mariners with privateering commissions, presided over prize courts that validated stolen wares, and fiercely defended their prerogatives as vice-admirals. By the end of the century, the social and political structures erected in the colonies to protect illicit trade came to represent a new and potent force: nothing less than an independent American legal system. Tensions between Crown and colonies presage, and may predestine, the ultimate dissolution of their relationship in 1776. Exhaustively researched and rich with anecdotes about the pirates and their pursuers, The Politics of Piracy will be a fascinating read for scholars, enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in the wild and tumultuous world of the Atlantic buccaneers. (from the online description)

Review: Having an interest in both pirates and colonial America, I was eager to read this. It did not disappoint. Burgess makes a strong argument for his case: that piracy during the late 1690s was the source of the first civil disobedience on the part of colonies.
His writing is clearly meant for the education and the academic. The sentences structure, syntax, and vocabulary of the prose are complex. He cites sources from across academia, demonstrating extensive research. For the casual reader, this book might be a bit wordy. However, if you enjoy intellectual works, this book is for you.

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-61168-527-5
Date Finished: 2-22-2015
Pages: 291

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