In this informative volume, Dolin (When America First Met China) focuses on “pirates who either operated out of America’s English colonies or plundered ships along the American coast” during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a period dubbed the Golden Age of Piracy. While he is an unabashed fan of popular culture’s treatment of legendary pirates, and includes a chapter on that topic, Dolin more than meets his objective of separating fact from fiction and establishing that there was “absolutely nothing romantic about , other than the legends woven about their exploits after they were gone.” Graphic descriptions of violence, such as sexual assaults of passengers, debunk the image of pirates as appealing rogues. This is also more than just a litany of raids on prospective prey and battles between pirates and governments; for context, Dolin lays out the history of “political intrigue and collusion” between pirates and colonists who encouraged them because they enabled colonists “to obtain the goods and money they so desperately desired despite the onerous trade restrictions put in place by the mother country.” Dolin’s interpretations could be debated—he asserts that Capt. William Kidd was really a pirate—but this is nonetheless an excellent starting point for readers interested in this misunderstood chapter of American history. (Sept.)
As he did with whales and lighthouses, Eric Jay Dolin gives us another sea-meets-shore epic wrapped in a swashbuckling narrative.... A fascinating adventure story filled with rogues, rascals, and ruthless renegades, this is stirring history that reads like a novel.
If you’ve never read Dolin before, prepare to have a new favorite historian.
A masterly and vivid account of the pirates who operated around America’s coasts in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Using an impressive array of sources, Eric Jay Dolin throws a fresh light on familiar stories, unearths some new and surprising facts, and skillfully sets the exploits of a notorious generation of pirates in their historical context.
A compelling examination of the economics, geopolitics, and strongsometimes madpersonalities that fueled the great age of New World piracy. Black Flags, Blue Waters illuminates a fascinating era of maritime history but also the dark actions of desperate men.
An entertaining romp across the oceans that shows how piracy is an inseparable element of our past.... Mr. Dolin has a keen eye for detail and the telling episode. Readers will learn fascinating tidbits of language, habits and cultural assimilation.
Gripping.... Dolin, who has previously written popular narratives about whaling, the fur trade and opium trafficking, finds another can’t-miss subject in the adventures of Kidd, Bonnet, Blackbeard and their ilk. Dolin makes it fresh by focusing on the interaction between pirates and the British colonies. His evidence is irrefutable: pirate cash and stolen goods were invaluable to colonial ports.
Elegantly written.... Black Flags, Blue Waters is distinctive and an excellent addition to this subdivision of maritime history.
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... Golden Age [of Piracy].
Black Flags, Blue Waters is rumbustious enough for the adventure-hungry, but it also hews to the facts as they are known about the pirate lives and activities.... Dolin’s book is not only a fine entertainment, but it draws the pirate in a clear light.
Once again Eric Jay Dolin has taken a massive subject and focused it into a single volume that is both well-researched and highly readable. This true story of the pirates who infested the shores of America during piracy’s “Golden Age” is a fascinating look at who and what these criminals and their accomplices ashore truly were. It is the perfect antidote for the Johnny Depp-ism that has infected this part of our nation’s history.
Black Flags, Blue Water is a terrificand at times terrifyingread. Tearing back the fiction of Hollywood movies, Eric Jay Dolin presents a frighteningly accurate and riveting portrayal of America's pirates and the surprising ways their ruthless trade affected the colonies and helped shape the American experience.
A vivid and surprising book. Black Flags, Blue Waters weaves old names and fresh themes in unanticipated ways, giving us a deep history of American piracy that reads like a blood-drenched thriller.
Bravo! Eric Jay Dolindeftly blending scholarship and dramahas captured the flotilla of rogues who tormented merchants and crews along the American coasts. He powerfully re-creates the pirate lifefrom outlaw ports to stolen ships, from sunken gold to mass hangings. However, truth to tell, we do differ on Captain Kidd but that’s what keeps the world of pirate scholarship so lively.
Black Flags, Blue Waters is a well-written and entertaining look at a relatively brief but significant period in American maritime history.
Dolin doesn’t just write a first-rate history of the Golden Age of Piracy, he puts us on deck with the men themselves, bringing us into the action and leaving no doubt as to why these great rogues matter to this day.
Dolin has produced an elegantly written history.... Black Flags, Blue Waters is distinctive and an excellent addition to this subdivision of maritime history.
Dolin has penned masterly histories of North American whaling (Leviathan), lighthouses (Brilliant Beacons), and now piracy. The golden age of piracy (late 1600s to early 1700s) is well known, with accounts ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure Treasure Island to David Cordingly's history Under the Black Flag, which dismantled Hollywood myths about buccaneers and swashbucklers. But Dolin focuses on pirates who raided or sought refuge along the Atlantic seaboard of colonial America, influencing politics and society. Pirates injected gold and loot into cash-poor communities, boosting local economies. Colonial governors and merchants outfitted pirate expeditions or took bribes to look the other way as pirate ships resupplied or repaired in coastal waters. Other colonials fought piracy, while pirates attacked the colonies—the notorious Blackbeard once threatened to sack Charleston, SC. Others were privateers, sanctioned by British or colonial authorities to raid "enemy" shipping. Dolin points out that pirates were mostly hardheaded entrepreneurs who relied on intimidation rather than brute force. VERDICT A colorful and well-researched study of piracy's glory days, rooted in historical context. Sure to appeal to pirate enthusiasts as well as serious researchers.—Michael Rodriguez, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
A brief but intriguing history of piracy's heyday.
The word "pirate" evokes numerous symbols and legends, but what were the pirates of yore actually like? Focusing on American waters during piracy's "Golden Age" of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Dolin (Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse, 2016, etc.) explains that pirates thrived in times of war, when privateering commissions provided a cover for more illicit activities. For a time, North American colonists welcomed these brigands, who simultaneously spent their ill-gotten gains in Colonial ports and provided an effective counter to unpopular English trade laws. Inevitably, however, they wore out their welcome, and a multipronged response by Colonial and English authorities in the aftermath of Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) virtually eliminated them. The author helpfully dismisses some of the more potent pirate myths. For example, there is little evidence that Cpt. William Kidd buried treasure on Gardiner's Island, New York; pirates tended to spend their treasure right away, not inter it. Moreover, no documentation exists of any "Golden Age" pirate forcing someone to walk the plank. But Dolin is at his best when he offers generalizations of pirates and their trade. The majority of pirates were white men in their 20s, but a significant number were black slaves taken from captured ships who "became valued crewmembers who fought alongside their white pirate brethren and shared in the spoils." Despite their reputation for violence, most pirates "never wanted to fight if they could avoid it," as confrontation only put their lives, ships, and potential cargo in jeopardy. Finally, a pirate ship was a highly democratic and regulated place, as buccaneers selected their captains by majority vote and abided by a written code that "governed their behavior, the distribution of treasure, and the compensation provided in case of injury."
A general lack of records compromises Dolin's efforts, leaving one wanting to know more about notorious pirates such as Blackbeard and Edward Low. Nonetheless, the author offers an informative and often entertaining blend of narrative history and analysis that should appeal to a general audience.