The untold story of a heroic band of Caribbean pirates whose defiance of imperial rule inspired revolt in colonial outposts across the world. In the early eighteenth century, the Pirate Republic was home to some of the great pirate captains, including Blackbeard, “Black Sam” Bellamy, and Charles Vane. Along with their fellow pirates—former sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves—this “Flying Gang” established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could be equal citizens, and leaders were chosen or deposed by a vote. They cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Europe from its New World empires, and for a brief, glorious period the Republic was a success.
Pirates. Literary and cinematic inspiration for centuries, pirates in history shone brighter than many other “reputable” figures. What about pirates is so exciting? Even in 2021, I’m just as star-struck by the tales of these pirates as young James King was in the early 1710s. The adventures, the sea battles, the stories, the ships, the villainy, the inspiration, the heroism, everything that comes with stories of the pirates are easily my most favorite stories of them all. So when my audiobook browsing presented The Republic of Pirates to me as a recommended read, I bought and started it immediately.
I love absolutely everything about this book. The chronological layout of following the pirates through the years gave me a chance to read about different pirates more often than if it had been focused on each pirate individually. I was presented a “big picture” of “while Bellamy was over here doing this, Blackbeard was over there doing that” and I really appreciated that formatting. The cultural context was probably my most favorite aspect, outside of reading about the battles themselves. The context is so, so rich! Woodard describes what life was like on both land and sea, the political upheaval that drove the pirates to their careers, and why certain choices may have been made. Though I knew some things about pirates from other books, this historical account is so well researched and contextualized that I doubt there’s another book on pirates this in-depth as an overview of the Golden Age of Pirates. So, so well done.
The narrator, Lewis Grenville, also made this book incredible. This book could have easily been a boring read, but Grenville’s performance, paired with Woodard’s storytelling skills, often made me forget that I was reading a nonfiction book. Woodard used his imagination along with his research to paint the battles that had been recounted from letters and records so that it was just as exciting to read the historical account as it would have been to read a fictional take.
It is a pretty dense read and I do wish that the chapters had been broken up more, but overall, I learned so so much and enjoyed every second of this book!