Today most of us know what we know about pirates from classics like Treasure Island and the films starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley. But who were the real pirates of the Caribbean and where did they come from?
And how were they tamed? David Cordingly’s latest book reveals the true story to have been at least as fascinating and gripping as the legends. When the Treaty of Utrecht ended the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, there was an explosion of piracy across the Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard of North America.
Hundreds of unemployed sailors roamed the seaports and many were tempted to take to piracy. Unable to attack enemy targets any longer, they replaced their national flags with the black flag and became ‘pyrates and enemies of all mankind’. Nowhere was the problem greater than in the Bahamas.
So, after years of ignoring the problem, the British Government was forced to act. Three warships were despatched across the Atlantic with orders to suppress the pirates and it was agreed that a Governor of the Bahama Islands be appointed ‘to drive the pirates from their lodgement’.
The man selected for the nigh impossible task was Captain Woodes Rogers, a former privateer who had made his name (he rescued Alexander Selkirk, the model for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe) and his fortune (GBP9m) by leading a highly successful voyage round the world. This is the story of his battle with the pirates, told in David Cordingly’s inimitable style.