Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In The Sea Rovers: Pirates, Privateers, and Buccaneers, Albert Marrin provides an overview of piracy from 1567 to 1815, while emphasizing the more notable figures in roughly chronological order. Thus the book is both a history text and a collective biography. Marrin divides his subject into seven chapters. The first deals with Sir Francis Drake and his grudge against Spain. The second, “The Rise of the Buccaneers,” treats the group of French outcasts on Hispaniola who became a threat to Spanish shipping. The third chapter deals with Sir Henry Morgan, the last great buccaneer, who turned into a buccaneer-fighter. The fourth, “The Golden Age of Piracy,” shows what happened when American and English pirates moved into the Indian Ocean. The fifth chapter treats the legendary figures of Captain William Kidd and Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. The sixth chapter deals with three female pirates, “Sisters in Crime.” The seventh and final chapter shows how the United States Navy put down the Barbary pirates twice. The book is full of explanatory diagrams, maps, old prints, and engravings. It also has a useful bibliography and index.

The story of piracy is also the story of rich ships on which to prey. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spain had a monopoly on the wealth of the New World, so its galleons became the target of English and French sea rovers. When peace was concluded between England and Spain in the late 1600’s, both nations devoted themselves to stamping out the buccaneers, who then became outright pirates preying on ships of any nation.

When Thomas Tew found fortune in the Indian Ocean, he opened a new but short-lived source of wealth for pirates. Kidd, who was forced to take a commission to attack pirates and French shipping in the Indian Ocean, accidentally ran afoul of the East India Company; its officials in London vilified him as a pirate and had him hanged. Meanwhile, shipping to the American colonies offered easy pickings to pirates such as Blackbeard. Finally, when pirates from North Africa continued to attack American ships, the United States sent in its fledgling navy in 18031804 and 1815 and trounced them.