Villains of All Nations

By Marcus Rediker,

Book cover of Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

Book description

Pirates have long been stock figures in popular culture, from Treasure Island to the more recent antics of Jack Sparrow. Villains of all Nations unearths the thrilling historical truth behind such fictional characters and rediscovers their radical democratic challenge to the established powers of the day.

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Villains of All Nations as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I first read Rediker’s work as a graduate student, and from the first pages, I was “hooked.”

Want to understand what made pirates tick? In this book, pirates are recast not as violent, unthinking brutes but as ordinary, sea-going laboring men driven to lawlessness by the brutal demands of expanding Atlantic trade.

I especially appreciated Rediker’s situating pirate behavior and customs within the broader world of maritime life. He argues that these outlawed men created a floating society that was then the most egalitarian and democratic in the Western world.

This is my nonfiction pick for this list, and one of my favorite books on any historical period, ever. This was a foundational text for my own trilogy set in the golden age of piracy, and at least half of it is underlined and filled with my excited notes. This book takes on the period through what Rediker calls “history from below” exploring the lives of pirates, sailors, enslaved people, and those fighting against empires and the damaging effects of colonization in the 18th century. It stands against the depiction of pirates as lazy thieves, and instead paints a…

One of the most stimulating and polemical books ever written on pirates, Villains shows their social energy. In his account of pirates in the early eighteenth century, Rediker reveals the importance of history from below, which is often marginalized by traditional historical writing to focus on the experiences of the higher social orders. In fact, a ‘rhetoric of demonization’ about ‘peoples’ history’ often runs through writings by the elite classes.

Villains addresses key questions about piracy: who pirates were and where they came from? Why did people become pirates and what were their beliefs? How were pirates organized? How did…

From Claire's list on pirates in the age of sail.

Piracy has always been a threat in history and it was no exception that they were on the rise in the early 1700s. Yet there is something about the early eighteenth century that seemed to produce large, organized bands of pirates that the world had never seen. Rediker meticulously researches who were pirates and why they became so and how they came to be seen as early modern terrorists who must be stopped at all costs. Rediker argues that the British government poured every ounce of their resources to launch the “war on pirates” by using a dialectic of terror…

From Rebecca's list on the lives of pirates.

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