Although it is fiction, Captain Blood is based firmly on historical events. The Monmouth Rebellion took place, but it came to an abrupt end with the Battle of Sedgemoor (early July, 1685), the battle in which Lord Gildoy is wounded. Rafael Sabatini based the opening scenes of his book on the diary of a real doctor named Henry Pitman who cared for some of the soldiers wounded in that battle. Pitman, too, was arrested and tried by Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys during what are remembered as the Bloody Assizes, and he too was sentenced to death—a fate he avoided only because he was transported to the West Indies as a slave.
Blood’s subsequent career as a privateer was based loosely on the exploits of seventeenth century Welsh privateer Henry Morgan, as related by Alexandre Exquemelin in his famous De Americaensche Zee-Roovers (1678; The Buccaneers of America, 1684). Sabatini’s narrative voice, however, claims to draw his material from the account of Blood’s activities kept by Jeremiah Pitt, and he establishes an air of verisimilitude by noting the latitude and longitude of certain events as supposedly recorded by Pitt. Acknowledging the resemblance between Blood’s career and Morgan’s, Sabatini cleverly suggests—in a fiction within a fiction—that Morgan’s chronicler must have had access to Pitt’s account in compiling his own.
The shifting political alliances that Sabatini dramatizes as taking place in the Caribbean are accurate. The British colony of Barbados and the buccaneers’ lair of Tortuga were much as the novelist depicts them, and buccaneers did attack Maracaibo and Cartagena, although Sabatini alters the details to suit his story. It is in his seemingly...
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