Wednesday, January 28, 2009


By Diana & Michael Preston

This is a biography of William Dampier the 17th century explorer and naturalist. He also happened to be a buccaneer and pirate.

Dampier was a typical English lad, if a bit precocious and pompous in his youth. Yearning to get on in the world, he went to the West Indies in 1674. But a life playing second fiddle to a Jamaican planter did not suit Dampier. He soon drifted into the company of lumberjacks. In the West Indies, logwood men were a tough bunch. Like the boucaniers of Hispaniola, the logwood cutters were frontiersmen living on the fringes of the Spanish colonies. And like the boucan-hunters, the logwood men liked a bit of piracy.

Dampier joined in the freebooting about the time that the raiders were moving into Pacific waters. Dampier accompanied them as medic on pillaging expeditions about the Spanish Main as well as in the Pacific. He was an unusual sort of pirate, as interested in carrying off scientific observations as loot (though he did pretty well in the matter of plunder).

A Pirate of Exquisite Mind follows Dampier on his many voyages and offers a wealth of detail thanks to Dampier’s own extensive memoirs. The Prestons examine not only the world that Dampier moved through, but also the man and his reaction to it. Anyone interested in the history of pirates and pillagers as well as those interested in exploration and science will find this book quite readable and informative.

-Dave Hardy

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