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On the Account in the ‘Golden Age’

Piracy and the Americas, 1670–1726

Journalist and historian Joseph Gibbs is Professor of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates). He is the author of Gorbachev's Glasnost (1999); the Civil War regimental history Three Years in the Bloody Eleventh (2002); and the maritime histories Dead Men Tell No Tales (2007) and On the Account (2012). He holds a doctorate from Boston University.

Piracy along American coastlines and in the Caribbean in the late 1600s and early 1700s is often seen today through a colorful set of modern media archetypes. The reality, however, was usually more ugly and frequently lethal. In this book, author Joseph Gibbs goes back to original memoirs, monographs, newspaper articles, and trial records to present a stark picture of piracy in the era of Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, and Ann Bonny and Mary Read.

A “prequel” to Gibbs’ well received On the Account: Piracy and the Americas, 1766–1835, this book similarly presents primary sources chosen for authenticity. The contents are introduced, annotated, and carefully presented for modern readers. They offer a glimpse of piracy far removed from, and often more engaging than, the romanticized version provided by later writers and filmmakers. They describe, for example, the ordeal-filled marches of the Caribbean boucaniers, who were tough enough to eat leather while sacking the cities of the Spanish empire. They also shed light on the pirates’ tactics at sea and on land; their practice of “forcing” captives to join them; their often-sadistic cruelty; and their ships’ “articles” and the primitive democratic standards they upheld.

Enhanced with classic maps and illustrations, The Golden Age offers an unvarnished look at those who sailed and often died under the dreaded black and red flags of the era. Readers will see pirates as they actually were – in pursuit of prey, in battle, and sometimes on the way to the gallows.

Pperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-617-2
Paperback Price: £29.95 / $49.95
Release Date: July 2014
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Extensively illustrated


List of illustrations


1. “For the most of his Majesties Honor and Service, and the safety of Jamaica” — The buccaneers, Henry Morgan, and the sack of Panamá (1670–1671)

2. “Through insuperable Difficulties” — Bartholomew Sharp’s buccaneer campaign (1680–1682)

3. “Those vile Remains of that abominable Crew” — Samuel Bellamy and the wreck of the Whydah (1717)

4. “A sort of People, who may be truly called Enemies to Mankind” — The Boston News-Letter covers the era of Blackbeard (1717–1719)

5. “Like a parcel of Furies” — Bartholomew Roberts captures the Samuel (1720)

6. “Profligate, cursing and swearing much, and very ready and willing to do any Thing on Board” — The trial of Ann Bonny and Mary Read (1720)

7. “All the Barbarity imaginable” — Edward Low, George Lowther, and associates, 1722–1725

8. “Such Bad Company” — Edward Low and Francis Spriggs as seen by prisoners Philip Ashton and Nicholas Merritt (1722–1724)

9. “Hung up in Chains” — William Fly and the end of the Golden Age (1726)


Books on English and colonial piracy, especially of its Golden Age in the early eighteenth century, have overwhelmed the lists of publications in the past decade. One would have thought that there could be nothing new of interest. Yet Joseph Gibbs’ On the Account in the ‘Golden Age’ has beaten the odds. The readable, deeply researched, intelligently selected, and at times authoritatively narrated accounts that comprise his chapters are a rich and serious contribution to the subject, and told with narrative verve and an historian's solidity.
Manuel Schonhorn Professor of British History and Literature, Emeritus, Southern Illinois University

In sum, On the Account is a worthy addition to the proliferating literature on the maritime Americas in the Age of Revolution. No comparable volume of carefully authenticated and resourced documents on the topic exists, and each chapter serves as a rich cache of primary material ready to serve as the bedrock of a course’s exploration of that topic or incident. … [T]he very valuable act of bringing together these rich, varied resources for an important and understudied era of maritime violence is a valuable contribution to our expanding knowledge of piracy in and around the Americas after the end of the ‘golden age’.
M.T. Rafferty, International Journal of Maritime History

There are wonderful historical details in these documents, ranging from the official attitude and discourse towards pirates, as found in the long-winded diatribes of the prosecuting attorneys, to prisoner testimonies regarding pirate violence and shipboard conduct, descriptions of 'Old Roger' and other variations of the infamous pirate flag, and the occasional professed words of the pirates themselves. . Gibbs's prequel of historical documents is ... a welcome addition to the field and would be appropriate not just for general readers but in the growing proliferation of undergraduate courses on the subject matter.
International Journal of Maritime History

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