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Golden Age of Piracy

Book reports or world history research papers on The Golden Age of Piracy, by Hugh F. Rankin, report that the book is a 173-page study of piracy in the New World from the 1630s to the 1720s. It offers a concise but full description of the political climate that gave rise to privateering, piracy’s slightly more respectable cousin, as well as to piracy itself. Golden Age of PiracyBy describing the poor conditions that were the lot of the ordinary seaman, Rankin makes the reader understand why so many sailors gladly bore the risks associated with the crime of piracy. The book report should show that Rankin is now a professor of history at Tulane University in New Orleans, but a major portion of his life has been spent in the Carolinas, the central site of pirate activity in the New World.

The style of The Golden Age of Piracy is easy to read, and made interesting with the numerous quotes from documents of the time. He focuses on some of the more interesting pirate personalities including the women pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. There are copious illustrations, some more successful than others. The drawings in The Golden Age of Piracy of the various types of vessels, in particular, are useful in understanding the outcome of certain naval battles; however, some of the line-cuts of various persons, or of events such as hangings, seem amateurish and do little to further the reader’s understanding of the issues.

Rankin’s sources include a comprehensive assortment of contemporary documents, including the transcripts of various pirates’ trials. Overall, an interesting and well-written account of piracy up and down the Atlantic coast, The Golden Age of Piracy belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of American history.

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