Sunday, July 25, 2010


By Alexander Exquemelin

No it’s not about an NFL team from Tampa, it’s about swaggering, cut-throat desperadoes who terrorized all in their path. No, I don’t mean the creative team that brought you Gigli either, I mean real pirates.

Alexander Exquemelin was a young Dutchman who went to the West Indies as an indentured servant, a slave with a contract that is. Finding the life of  a servant brutal, he went off to join the buccaneers, roving bands that hunted wild cattle in the interior of Hispaniola (nowadays Haiti & the Dominican Republic). These men were in constant conflict with the Spanish and many had taken to the sea to rob passing ships. In Exquemelin’s day they had grown strong enough that under leaders like L’Ollonais, Rock Brasiliano, Bartholomew the Portuguese, and Captain Henry Morgan, that they could form powerful fleets capable of seizing major cities and pillaging extensively.

Exquemelin gives us a unique first hand account of the hardships of frontier life in the West Indies. He is concise but there is a wealth of detail about the plants and animals, daily life among the colonists, and the trades they engaged in (besides armed robbery). Above all this is an account of the most notorious buccaneer chiefs and their war against the Spanish Main. The portraits of L’Ollonais and Morgan dominate the book. L’Ollonais is shown as a sociopath, practicing savage cruelty as matter of routine, but possessed of reckless personal courage in battle. Morgan comes across as a smooth, cozening rogue, but also as a man capable of using his abilities to unite disparate outlaw crews to undertake military campaigns of surprising strategic finesse and daring.

If you have any interest in piracy in the days of sail, you MUST read this book.

-Dave Hardy


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