Kirkus Reviews - Starred Review
March 1, 2007
Disregard Robert Louis Stevenson's rowdy buccaneers, the Disney factory's lively rascals
andthose musical lads from Penzance: Here are the real pirates of the Caribbean, and the
facts are as colorful and exciting as fiction.
The Golden Age of Piracy came early in the 1700s, when seagoing criminal enterprises
reached unprecedented supremacy under leaders like Edward Thatch, better known as
Blackbeard. Cruising under black flags (yes, they really did fly the skull and crossbones),
they sailed the waters off Barbados, Cuba, Hispaniola and Ocracoke. When not engaged in
battle, the transnational outlaws practiced democracy, equitably sharing all sorts of booty,
including rum and slaves. Indeed, the life of the lowliest member of a pirate crew was
considerably better than that of a mariner aboard a merchant ship, a hand on a
commissioned privateer or, particularly, a pressed sailor on any vessel of the British royal
navy. Maritime writer Woodard (Ocean's End, 2000, etc.) tells the story of these swaggering
brigands and their complex maneuverings in politics and business. That's right, business:
Blackbeard, for example, sported mighty whiskers done in dreadlocks to inspire terror
mostly for the purpose of ensuring that his financial demands were met-and they were, quite
bountifully, until he was decapitated by a Scots highlander during a pitched battle aboard a
British sloop in 1718. The author captures all the high drama inherent in the peregrinations
of warring vessels performing extraordinary feats of seamanship under the direction of
artist/navigators. Additional color is provided by cameo appearances by such contemporary
notables as Cotton Mather, literary lights Addison and Steele and castaway Alexander
Selkirk, the prototype for Robinson Crusoe. Woodard's thrilling narrative neatly navigates
the Caribbean's dangerous seas. Maybe they really did snarl, "Arrr!"
An Age of Sail adventure, pleasantly recounted.
April 15, 2007
The early eighteenth century was the so-called golden age of piracy, particularly in the
Caribbean. Although much of the romantic musings about "pirate honor" is nonsense, an
unusual group of pirates, led by Edward "Blackbeard" Teach and Sam Bellamy, actually set
up a functioning government in the Bahamas with pretensions to establishing a form of
social justice. Their "republic" attracted deserting sailors who could not tolerate harsh naval
discipline, runaway slaves, and impoverished farmers. In this republic, called New
Providence, a rough but democratic and egalitarian ethos apparently took hold. But,
according to Woodard, the British government saw the existence of this independent entity
as an intolerable threat. So, on the theory of sending a thief to catch a thief, they sent
Woodes Rogers, a former privateer, to crush the republic. This breezy, fast-moving book is
filled with exciting action and colorful characters. It will provide general readers and those
with a special interest in the period much enjoyment. -Jay Freeman
"If you love pirates, well-researched history and a good story, Woodard's book is the right read."
-- The Daily Advance (Elizabeth City, NC), 17 May 2007
"The book offers one of the most realistic views ever of the Golden Age of Piracy in the 1700s...
The Republic of Pirates is narrative history at its best."
-- Winston-Salem Journal (NC), 13 May 2007
"Generous with...research and analysis....[A] forceful, illustrative stud[y] of the lives of men who
refused to play by the rules...[that] succeed[s] in refuting persistent Hollywood images of pirates
as misunderstood rascals just out for some fun. ."
-- Toronto Star , 20 May 2007
"Colin Woodard... has produced an entrancing tale of piracy colored with gold, treachery, and
double-dealing....Woodard's breezy narrative is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon with a cask
of rum by your elbow and a flintlock in your hand.."
-- Maine Sunday Telegram (Portland) , 13 May 2007
"The Republic of Pirates...adds a new dimension to an era that was, in equal parts, thrilling
and disturbing...What [the pirate captains] and their crews achieved, and destroyed, is the focus
of Colin Woodard's fascinating book [which offers] rip-roaring adventure stories from a distant
past [and]...an opportunity to understand pirates as they truly were -- and be grateful that the
worst of them, at least, are gone."
-- New York Times Book Review , 3 June 2007
"Just in time for the third installment of Disney's fanciful pirate franchise comes [this]
myth-busting chronicle of the so-called golden age of piracy....Woodard...challenges what we
think we know about these ruffian, dispelling notions of dictatorial rule aboard ship in favor of
an image of egalitarianism."
-- Boston Magazine, June 2007
"Woodard...did his homework, and provides vivid, sometimes graphic accounts of interactions
between pirates and their prey."
-- The Post & Courier (Charleston, SC) , 1 July 2007
"It's a rollicking tale, filled with rich details of the lives of men who, for their own personal gain,
challenged the spread of empires.."
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune, 5 June 2007
"The Republic of Pirates is, by all accounts, an entertaining and informative bit of
re-revisionist history [and]... further proof that Woodard is a smart dude."
-- Portland Phoenix (Me.) , 7 June 2007
"Fascinating simply in the breadth of its research...Woodard has done an impressive job of
sifting through conflicting, often apocryphal accounts and countless muths and legends to offer
an engrossing depiction that is every bit as gritty, suspenseful and electrifying as any in fiction.
And I promise, reading the book is far shorter and infinitely more rewarding that sitting through
the Pirates of the Caribean sequels."
-- Powells.com, 23 June 2007
"Meticulously researched and thrillingly told... Woodard brings this slice of outlaw history
gloriously to life, realizing a worthy tome for anyone who's so much as muttered a tiny "arrrr.""
-- Baltimore City Paper, 19 September 2007
"A well-researched book that goes far beyond the popular visions of pirates in movies and
-- The Capital Times (Madison, WI), 16 August 2007
"The heroes in The Republic of Pirates are more nuanced than anything Disney could cook up.
And as the adage goes, the truth is stranger -- and more interesting -- than fiction."
-- Bangor Daily News(Me.) , 22 June 2007
"A beautifully researched book.... For my money, it makes a better story than "Treasure Island."
And it's true!
-- Dave Wood in River Falls Journal (WI) , 25 July 2007