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Published on May 6, 2014
Marcus Rediker discusses his book, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, an unprecedented social and cultural history of pirates and their democratic, egalitarian and multiethnic society. Villains of All Nations explores the "Golden Age" of Atlantic piracy (1716-1726). This infamous generation provided the images that underlie the modern romanticized view of pirates, such as the dreaded black flag The Jolly Roger; swashbuckling figures like Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard); and the nameless, one-armed pirate who became known as Long John Silver in Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Rediker exposes pirate history and shows how sailors emerged out of deadly working conditions on merchant and naval ships, turned pirate, and created a starkly different reality aboard their own ships, electing their officers, dividing their booty equitably, and maintaining a multinational social order. The real lives of the real motley crews, which included cross-dressing women, people of color, and the "outcasts of all nations," are at least as compelling as the contemporary myth.