Wednesday, April 27, 2011

History 111: Under the Black Flag

For our next book the class picked Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly. The golden age of piracy crosses over into the eighteenth century, my cut off line for 111, and largely was acted out in the Caribbean and along the North American coast. That being said piracy in this period, even if it took place outside of European waters, was an extension of European politics, particularly the Dutch and English challenge to the decaying Spanish empire. Furthermore, in this period of transition from pre-modern to modern politics, pirates present a mix of both the pre-modern and the modern. One the one hand piracy is the product of the absence of State power and established navies and as such representative of a time before the modern State. On the other hand pirates represent the break down of established authority, whether political or religious, so critical for modernity. (See also "Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants.")


David Friedman said...

Let me recommend The Invisible Hook by Peter Leeson. It's an account of 18th century piracy written by a good economist, with quite a lot of information about what they did, and interesting explanations of why.

Izgad said...

Thank you.

From the description the book reminds me a lot of Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day. I am not sure if this was the author’s intention, but the lesson that I took from that book was that free markets work even with the worst sorts of people such as drug dealers and keeps them in line far better than even the police.