Famed for his enduring fictional masterpieces Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe also possessed considerable expertise in maritime affairs. As a commission merchant, importer, shipowner, and an active journalist who reported “ship news” and interviewed surviving pirates, Defoe achieved a high degree of authority on the subject of buccaneers. His knowledge was such that his book, A General History of the Pyrates, remains the major source of information about piracy in the first quarter of the 18th century.
Reprinted here in its entirety, this fascinating history abounds in tales of flamboyant outlaws and their bloody deeds: Captain Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard; Captain William Kidd, whose trial and execution created a sensation throughout London and the world; Bartholomew Roberts, one of the most successful pirates of the era, whose crews captured an estimated 400 prizes in three years; Mary Read and Anne Bonny, who disguised themselves as men to sail under the Jolly Roger with the ill-fated Captain John Rackham; and many more.
An engrossing blend of fact and fiction — incorporating Defoe’s celebrated flair for journalistic detail — these lively tales of seafaring rogues and rascals and their ill-gotten gains will captivate armchair sailors, maritime enthusiasts and any lover of adventure on the high seas. This unique work has been edited by noted scholar Manuel Schonhorn, who has also supplied a provocative Postscript to the Dover Edition offering insights into the vast popularity of this subject in today’s theater, movies, TV specials, magazine articles, lavish books, and maritime exhibitions. In an added “Note on the Author and the Text,” Professor Schonhorn also examines the arguments for and against Defoe’s very authorship of this important book.