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28 April 2014 @ 08:07 pm
Life Among the Pirates: The Romance and the Reality by David Cordingly  
Continuing my quest to learn about the Age of Sail...

I'll confess I was a little bemused by the rationale for this book which combines a history of piracy in (broadly speaking) the 17th and 18th centuries with digressions into books, stories and movies about pirates. I suspect there is something of a case of wishing to have your cake and eat it. By combining both the "romance" and the "reality" Cordingly gets to discuss the actual historical tales of actual historical pirates while also indulging in a certain amount of swash and buckle. I wasn't convinced it always worked. Far more time is devoted to the reality so it often came as a bit of a surprise when thing moved into literary or film history and the transitions were not always well executed. Chapter 9, for instance, starts out discussing the styles of ship favoured by pirates and ends up with a potted history of pirate films with the two sections rather clumsily linked together by observations about the constraints imposed by filming on the creation of realistic sets of pirate ships.

To be honest, I suspect Cordingly of being more interested in real pirates than in imaginary ones, which was fine for my purposes and while he took care to stress many of the realities of piracy he displayed a certain relish for tales of pursuit and confrontation so the final impression remains one of adventure and derring-do. The book isn't as authoritative as Rodger's books on the Royal Navy are and reads more as a set of interesting tales than as a detailed analysis of the phenomenon. However it was easy enough to read and perfectly entertaining.

In short a fun book, very much aimed at the lay person, but with a slightly odd structure in places.

Now all I need to do is find a book about the Merchant Navy

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/114178.html.
a_cubeda_cubed on April 29th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC)
I haven't read it, but I've seen some positive reviews of this series:


the early volumes of which seem to be the kind of thing you're looking for.
louisedennislouisedennis on May 1st, 2014 08:52 am (UTC)
They do look good - though distinctly pricey (or at least Amazon UK only seems to have them in hardback).
a_cubeda_cubed on May 1st, 2014 11:12 am (UTC)
shorter, cheaper single-volume paperback by the same author. Probably doesn't focus on the age of sail, though. I can't tell from the descriptions online, but it's probably a condensation of the previous five-vol set.

The Merchant Navy (Shire Library) [Paperback]
Richard Woodman (Author)
ISBN-10: 0747812322

Your University library seems to have Vols 1-4. Not that surprising given that Liverpool was a historically important port.
louisedennislouisedennis on May 1st, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)
I saw that, I have some Shire Library publications from my family history stuff and they tend to be little more than pamphlets. I should probably check out what the page count on that one is.

EDIT: yeah, 56 pages.

Edited at 2014-05-01 11:29 am (UTC)
a_cubeda_cubed on May 1st, 2014 01:45 pm (UTC)
Did you spot the final note about Liverpool University Library having copies of the bigger volumes?
louisedennislouisedennis on May 1st, 2014 01:47 pm (UTC)
No I didn't, I'll bear it in mind.