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Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign

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He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean. Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English becam He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean. Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English became legendary. His daring attacks on the mighty Spanish Empire on land and at sea determined the fates of kings and queens, and his victories helped shape the destiny of the New World. Morgan gathered disaffected European sailors and soldiers, hard-bitten adventurers, runaway slaves, and vicious cutthroats, and turned them into the most feared army in the Western Hemisphere. Sailing out from the English stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica, “the wickedest city in the New World,” Morgan and his men terrorized Spanish merchant ships and devastated the cities where great riches in silver, gold, and gems lay waiting. His last raid, a daring assault on the fabled city of Panama, helped break Spain’s hold on the Americas forever. Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler—including the notorious pirate L’Ollonais, the soul-tortured King Philip IV of Spain, and Thomas Modyford, the crafty English governor of Jamaica—Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the passions and the violence of the age of exploration and empire.


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He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean. Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English becam He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean. Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English became legendary. His daring attacks on the mighty Spanish Empire on land and at sea determined the fates of kings and queens, and his victories helped shape the destiny of the New World. Morgan gathered disaffected European sailors and soldiers, hard-bitten adventurers, runaway slaves, and vicious cutthroats, and turned them into the most feared army in the Western Hemisphere. Sailing out from the English stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica, “the wickedest city in the New World,” Morgan and his men terrorized Spanish merchant ships and devastated the cities where great riches in silver, gold, and gems lay waiting. His last raid, a daring assault on the fabled city of Panama, helped break Spain’s hold on the Americas forever. Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler—including the notorious pirate L’Ollonais, the soul-tortured King Philip IV of Spain, and Thomas Modyford, the crafty English governor of Jamaica—Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the passions and the violence of the age of exploration and empire.

30 review for Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws' Bloody Reign

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Right off the top you should be asking, "5 Stars for a book about pirates, Koivu?" Yeah well I have a thing for stories about randy seaman going after sweet sweet booty, what can I say? Talty's pen puts a nice flourish on history that's appreciated, but hardly necessary considering his colorful source material. Patriotic Welshman Captain Morgan may not have seen himself as a pirate, after all he was only doing his duty for England, but if you were the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands at the time Right off the top you should be asking, "5 Stars for a book about pirates, Koivu?" Yeah well I have a thing for stories about randy seaman going after sweet sweet booty, what can I say? Talty's pen puts a nice flourish on history that's appreciated, but hardly necessary considering his colorful source material. Patriotic Welshman Captain Morgan may not have seen himself as a pirate, after all he was only doing his duty for England, but if you were the Spanish in the Caribbean Islands at the time he was tearing the place up, in your eyes Morgan was the lowest of the low. You also knew he was to be feared for his sudden and violent attacks as well as his intelligence and uncanny ability to get himself and his vicious-though-loyal men out of numerous seemingly inescapable scrapes. Talty relates story after story, each with an exciting flair we've come to know so well from actors like Flynn to Depp portraying Hollywood versions of what in this book is quite real. If you're not into bloody-minded treasure hunting pirates making daring raids and escapes during ye olden day of the age of sail, well perhaps this is not for you....And now I'll have to ask you to leave.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    Have you ever wanted to know the truth about the Pirates of the Caribbean? Have you ever wondered the difference between a pirate, a privateer, and a buccaneer? Did you question how Captain Henry Morgan could have been both a pirate and a knight? Have you ever heard of the great earthquake that occurred in Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1692? This book provides the answers to these queries and more. The author has found an impressive number of primary sources from which to draw information. Talty is parti Have you ever wanted to know the truth about the Pirates of the Caribbean? Have you ever wondered the difference between a pirate, a privateer, and a buccaneer? Did you question how Captain Henry Morgan could have been both a pirate and a knight? Have you ever heard of the great earthquake that occurred in Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1692? This book provides the answers to these queries and more. The author has found an impressive number of primary sources from which to draw information. Talty is particularly adept at describing the vicious battles initiated by the pirates in their insatiable desire for plunder. He does not shy away from describing the cruelty, torture, and debauchery of a piratical life. One wonders how these criminals can be as romanticized as they are in entertainment. Talty provides an in-depth biography of Morgan (1635-1688), while also imparting a wealth of information on English, Spanish, and French history. The reader learns details about battles on the Spanish Main, including Granada, Portobelo, Maracaibo, and Panama. It explains the reasons behind the rise and fall of the pirates under Morgan. I found it gripping, informative, and eye-opening.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    Wow. I feel like I've got to take a week off after reading this one. A lot happens, man. (This is one of those books that proves reality is far more incredible than fiction.)I can say nothing more than that this must be the epitome of pirate literature - it may not be pirate Bible, but it's pirate Shakespeare at the very least. Loved it. Henry Morgan is a colossal figure in history, and this book gives him his due. (I read "Cup of Gold" by John Steinbeck about a thousand years ago - also about H Wow. I feel like I've got to take a week off after reading this one. A lot happens, man. (This is one of those books that proves reality is far more incredible than fiction.)I can say nothing more than that this must be the epitome of pirate literature - it may not be pirate Bible, but it's pirate Shakespeare at the very least. Loved it. Henry Morgan is a colossal figure in history, and this book gives him his due. (I read "Cup of Gold" by John Steinbeck about a thousand years ago - also about Henry Morgan - and loved it at the time, but this book blows that one right out of the water, yes, with a nice broadside.) My thanks to Bettie whose site I found this on.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    Having recently reviewed Colin Woodard’s excellent history of Caribbean piracy, “The Republic of Pirates,” and realizing that I had name checked this book in that review, I thought it necessary to dust off an older review that I had in the can for Stephan Talty’s “Empire of Blue Water.” It’s certainly a worthwhile exercise to pick up this book if, like me, you are spending some of your winter months dreaming of beaches and sand and things of a nautical nature. Which reminds me, I really need to Having recently reviewed Colin Woodard’s excellent history of Caribbean piracy, “The Republic of Pirates,” and realizing that I had name checked this book in that review, I thought it necessary to dust off an older review that I had in the can for Stephan Talty’s “Empire of Blue Water.” It’s certainly a worthwhile exercise to pick up this book if, like me, you are spending some of your winter months dreaming of beaches and sand and things of a nautical nature. Which reminds me, I really need to start planning this summer’s trip to the coast……... “Empire of Blue Water” is a worthy addition to the canon of privateering and buccaneer histories. More of a narrative account than a dry recitation of historical documentation, it maintains its momentum all the way to the end. It's not a large work, but it packs a wealth of fun information inside its covers. The book covers the period from the mid-to-late 1600s, opening with Britain's capture of Jamaica from its Spanish settlers. The taking of Jamaica was a serious blow to the Spanish Empire, rocking it to its very core, especially in light of Jamaica's advantageous geographical position in the middle of the Caribbean shipping lanes. Talty follows the rise of Henry Morgan, perhaps the most famous privateer of his generation. The tension rises as Morgan begins a systematic campaign of (mostly) state-sponsored pillaging and looting of the Spanish Empire in the New World. “Empire of Blue Water” does a good job of relating what it must have been like to be a privateer in that time. To move his narrative along, Talty creates a "composite character" named Roderick, with the intention of giving the reader a window into the life of one such adventurer. This literary trick works most of time, as the author follows Roderick through many a tight spot. Roderick's life was hard one, no doubt, but the reader also gets the impression that men like Roderick wouldn't have had it any other way. The book is full of the political intrigue of the time, and it does a good job of covering the basic historical drivers in play during the period. Talty's impression of the Spanish Empire is not particularly favorable, as he continually drives home the point that the Spanish political system itself was often its own worst enemy. Caught in overbearing tradition and bureaucracy, the Spanish are often cast as bumblers and malcontents. It should also be noted that Morgan was a privateer, rather than a pirate. His raids were done under the cover of state-sponsored commissions, a detail that Morgan took very seriously, as he was at heart a man of the Crown. The book is a bit weak on source material, using a journal by John Esquemeling called "Buccaneers of America" as its primary source. Esquemeling was a member of Morgan's crew, and his somewhat sensationalist account of what happened on those fateful voyages should be taken with a grain of salt. Talty himself admits as much at various times in the book, but he liberally quotes from Esquemeling anyway. Nonetheless, this is a fruitful read if you have any sort of interest in the Caribbean history of privateering.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I read Stephen Talty's first novel "Black Irish" last year and was determined to read one of his histories. This one looked too good to pass up -- and he really spins a great yarn! What is about pirates? Books, movies, games are devoted to people who did such terrible things. Talty tells the already incredible story of two empires in great detail with clarity and wit. In this amazing complex multi-layered history, we are introduced to so many people and events, many of which have some fascinating I read Stephen Talty's first novel "Black Irish" last year and was determined to read one of his histories. This one looked too good to pass up -- and he really spins a great yarn! What is about pirates? Books, movies, games are devoted to people who did such terrible things. Talty tells the already incredible story of two empires in great detail with clarity and wit. In this amazing complex multi-layered history, we are introduced to so many people and events, many of which have some fascinating parallels to current events. But the most fascinating and misunderstood ones have to be the pirates. Whatever you call them, pirates -- corsairs -- buccaneers -- The Brethren, their role in the development of the western hemisphere is pretty much dismissed. Using Henry Morgan as the central figure, Talty portrays the differences between two empires. The Spanish Main and its holdings in the New World are held together by an authoritarian web of stiff bureaucracy. The burgeoning Restoration empire wants to ensure its own foothold in the New World. England begins to commission privateers to harass and break the grip of the Spanish on the lucrative trade routes. Morgan, as a privateer, considers himself a patriot representing English values and on a mission of national pride and a chance to gain position and make a lot of money for himself. He rises through the pirate ranks, learns from the horrific examples of his comrades how to ensure successful missions and maintain the goodwill of his men The Brethren. To the Spanish the murky difference between pirate and privateer is lost completely. From the Spanish Catholic perspective, the Infidels use horrible tactics to murder and terrorize their settlements and trading posts, along with the domino effect of Spanish surrender and giving in to ransom, until they lose Jamaica to the pirate gangs. Once they have Jamaica, the pirates establish a base of operations and end up building the richest and most wicked city in the world -- Port Royal. Between raids and various doings, they establish the rules for their dealings with each other -- that are very democratic on the surface. In the meantime, Morgan is watching and learning, and waiting for his chance to move up in the ranks. He eventually becomes Captain Morgan, and ultimately The Admiral. Under his stewardship, the pirates are able move beyond mere raids and organize to take targets and execute plans with military precision against the decaying outposts of the once-mighty Spaniards. Among the many great lines, is perhaps my favorite: " ... there was something in the pirate codes that disdained conservative business targets." This state of affairs goes on until the battle for Panama which ends up showing fractures on both sides. In losing the battle, the Spanish not only lose face but their monopoly, the prestige and authority of the crown and its bureaucracy is destroyed and the chinks in their system are exposed to everyone. In winning the battle, Morgan not only loses many men but more importantly, their trust. He will return to Port Royal without the vast riches and smaller shares that everyone had expected. With treaties signed, the privateers are quickly becoming liabilities for the English. Within the fractured pirate ranks, they will never be able to organize their ranks to stage a military attack. They are still able to hold Port Royal but are now also becoming an embarrassment to the merchants and planters of Jamaica. This state of affairs is brought to an end with the horrific events of the earthquake and tsunami of 1692 which destroys Port Royal and wipes out about 90% (I think) of the island's population. That's how the pirates slipped from history into myth and legend. Which reminded me of this great exchange in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" ... Ransom Stoddard: You're not going to use the story, Mr. Scott? Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. ** Audio version ... about 14 hours read by John H Mayer

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Pirates (or privateers) always make sensational subjects, so author Stephan Talty didn't need much embellishment to make the tale of Henry Morgan into a fast-paced and thrilling book. I've read a handful of other accounts of Morgan and other privateers and found this one of the most successful renderings. And while Morgan cuts a definite dash, Talty doesn't shy from making it clear that it was ruthlessness as well as leadership skills, strategic thinking, and inventiveness that led to his succes Pirates (or privateers) always make sensational subjects, so author Stephan Talty didn't need much embellishment to make the tale of Henry Morgan into a fast-paced and thrilling book. I've read a handful of other accounts of Morgan and other privateers and found this one of the most successful renderings. And while Morgan cuts a definite dash, Talty doesn't shy from making it clear that it was ruthlessness as well as leadership skills, strategic thinking, and inventiveness that led to his success. Interestingly, Morgan was best operating on land, not sea, as one might assume. It was his epic land-based raids that assured his fame, not pitched sea battles (though there is one wonderful episode involving the brilliant use of a 'fire ship' that is the exception). What I found especially interesting, however, was the how Spanish inflexibility and bureaucracy in the New World made it (relatively) simple for Morgan to defeat them time and again. Talty's descriptions of the bizarre workings of the Spanish court, the historical background on the shifting alliances among the British, French, Spanish, and Dutch, and the details of Morgan's campaigns were all masterfully done. He gave vivid accounts of both the top and bottom of the social ladder, summoning images that made, for example, death-obsessed Philip IV of Spain spring to life. Talty has a vivid style, too, that made listening to the tale even more enjoyable. I'd be remiss not to mention the reader of this audiobook, John Mayer, who not only has the ideal voice for reading such a swashbuckling tale, but who injected a certain humor and relish into the reading that struck a suitable piratical tone. Mayer's pacing and reading of the text only improved upon it and were always a delight. This reading is an abridged version of the book, I understand, but I can't think that reading the full text would be any improvement -- there are no tell-tale "gaps" that gave away the abridgment. This was the first of what I hope will be many audio CDs downloaded from a website maintained by a state-wide consortium of libraries. It took some "fiddling" to get the files into a format that would play on my iPod, but persistence paid off. It sure beats loading and ripping individual CDs checked out from my local library.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I would definitely recommend this book. I was surprised how much I didn't know about pirates, or at least how little is accurately described in popular culture. It really is kind of a war book, mostly full of descriptions of battles and stuff, but they are interesting battles, and it's really impressive to see some of the tactics the pirates used against properly trained armies to defeat them! And I can't get over how political it all was, much more than criminal. Did you know that many of the pi I would definitely recommend this book. I was surprised how much I didn't know about pirates, or at least how little is accurately described in popular culture. It really is kind of a war book, mostly full of descriptions of battles and stuff, but they are interesting battles, and it's really impressive to see some of the tactics the pirates used against properly trained armies to defeat them! And I can't get over how political it all was, much more than criminal. Did you know that many of the pirates worked for the British government? Yep- they were commissioned to help take down the Spanish crown! And they paid a percentage of their booty to the king. Also, they were really well-organized! They had insurance going into every battle that provided compensation for any big injury you might come out with. If you lost a leg, you got a certain amount, an arm, another, etc.. And wooden legs were worth as much as real ones because it was so hard to get a good one! They also rewarded courage, like if you were the first one into a fortress, or the first one to raise the British flag, you got extra treasure. And I also didn't know that being a captain really only referred to your status in battle; on a ship everyone was equal: they all slept in hammocks in the same big room (there was no captain's quarters, like in "Pirates of the Carribean" or "Peter Pan"), and voted democratically about pretty much everything. When they aquired a ship, they would gut it and refurbish it for their purposes, like car thiefs today. So interesting!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daren

    Pirates - and Henry Morgan as one of the better known ones, are seldom a boring read, and this fast paced biography is no exception. Pirates (or privateers), military strategy, the 'silver train', the shear brutality of the pirate life - all make fascinating reading with a background of the dominant Spanish, and the English, French, Dutch and Portuguese largely playing second fiddle to them - certainly in the Caribbean and the 'New World' of Central and South America. This book does well to keep Pirates - and Henry Morgan as one of the better known ones, are seldom a boring read, and this fast paced biography is no exception. Pirates (or privateers), military strategy, the 'silver train', the shear brutality of the pirate life - all make fascinating reading with a background of the dominant Spanish, and the English, French, Dutch and Portuguese largely playing second fiddle to them - certainly in the Caribbean and the 'New World' of Central and South America. This book does well to keep up the pace, in outlining the political setting, concurrent with Morgan's life. There are plenty of exciting battles, hard times, pirate loot and plenty of Morgan mocking the Spanish, who he certainly tormented for the whole of his adult life! Well researched, this certainly didn't read as if it was embellished - there is a large bibliography and page after page of footnotes which establish the events portrayed in the book. One of the interesting devices used in the book is the 'standard' pirate - named Roderick. His background and career is described side by side with Morgan, and was useful in demonstrating how out of the ordinary Morgan's career was. Roderick was nineteen years old, short (five foot four being a common height in those days), English (as most of Morgan's men were), and unmarried - in one survey of Anglo-American pirates from 1716 to 1726, only 4 percent had taken a wife. He was blue-eyed, lean and quite strong for his size. Roderick had grown up in Dover, one of the great seaports of England, which were veritable factories for sailors and pirates. He went to the docks not only out of tradition (his father and grandfather had earned their living on the water, rolling into their hovels after six long months away with tales of Morocco and Corsica) but because he had an itch for adventure and newness. He looked with astonishment on friends who became clerks or cobblers... It goes on to describe his signing up as a sailor on a merchant ship, which is taken by pirates near Barbados, and given the option to join up. Later he becomes one of Morgan's regular men, and we follow his career. For me it was a very successful device. Some of the more interesting parts for me were: - the fact Morgan was a clever military tactician, but only for land based manoeuvres - he was practically a danger to himself and others in a ship. He continually runs aground, treating his ships as transportation alone - getting him to his battle ground. - The Spanish being so caught up in bureaucracy, and so concerned that if they provided too many troops to the New World they may start to think for themselves, and stop transporting the riches back to Spain. They effectively made it impossible to successfully defend against Morgan and his ilk, who were really only limited by the pirates themselves, and their inability to maintain a long term fighting force. Four stars from me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Unruh

    This book will challenge everything you've learned about pirates from the movies. Real pirates were more brutal, less well-dressed, and drunker than in any movie. They were also utterly profligate, which attributed to their demise as much as the iron fist of any government. One of the most enlightening aspects of 'Blue Water' has to be the analysis of shocking level of ineptitude with which Spain administered her colonies. Without the (non)contribution of the Spanish, the pirates would have had a This book will challenge everything you've learned about pirates from the movies. Real pirates were more brutal, less well-dressed, and drunker than in any movie. They were also utterly profligate, which attributed to their demise as much as the iron fist of any government. One of the most enlightening aspects of 'Blue Water' has to be the analysis of shocking level of ineptitude with which Spain administered her colonies. Without the (non)contribution of the Spanish, the pirates would have had a much harder time of achieving the successes that they did in the Caribbean. Satisfying read for this history buff.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Poor scholarship, boring prose, and pointless invention. This is the kind of book that gives popular history writing a bad name. He invents an example pirate character, and uses him throughout. This automatically brings his accuracy into question, as he describes the action in various events in a way that obviously does not reflect reality, focusing as it does on someone who was not there because he didn't exist. (the device could work, if it was used only as an example of the typical pirate, bu Poor scholarship, boring prose, and pointless invention. This is the kind of book that gives popular history writing a bad name. He invents an example pirate character, and uses him throughout. This automatically brings his accuracy into question, as he describes the action in various events in a way that obviously does not reflect reality, focusing as it does on someone who was not there because he didn't exist. (the device could work, if it was used only as an example of the typical pirate, but it is only used that way on its first introduction). Long passages read as if he is just putting in every fact he found, regardless of relevance. Which could have its place, but the facts themselves are questionable (and very little is cited in the endnotes). Without proper citations, I can't tell if his sources differed from others I have read, if he got several facts confused (as when he says Anne Bonny died of a fever in jail, while Mary Reed disappeared, instead of the other way around. Without even getting into the difference between vanishing from the historical record and 'disappearing from the face of the earth), or if he was just making it up. The constant presence of the invented Roderick makes the possibility that he was making it up as he went along loom large in the mind. It honestly reads a bit like a novel written as a particularly dull schoolbook (a stream of contextless info bits). As fiction, it is poorly written. As history, it is sloppy. I do not recommend it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stormie

    While this was an entertaining, interesting read, there was one thing that stuck out which I can't help but comment on (only because this type of narrative, in this day and age, really should not be pushed any longer)--during the early portion of the book, Talty briefly describes the early conquest of Mexico. He states that the Mexica outright believed that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl...which, as someone who has spent some time elbows-deep in the indigenous history of Mexico (however brief the semes While this was an entertaining, interesting read, there was one thing that stuck out which I can't help but comment on (only because this type of narrative, in this day and age, really should not be pushed any longer)--during the early portion of the book, Talty briefly describes the early conquest of Mexico. He states that the Mexica outright believed that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl...which, as someone who has spent some time elbows-deep in the indigenous history of Mexico (however brief the semester felt), is incorrect. Since I didn't read a physical copy of this book to see where he was getting his sources, I can only assume that Talty relied on a Spanish account of the conquest. Honestly, while this seems like a 'small' thing, and I understand it is within the context of this book, it is really not appropriate in this day and age when we have indigenous primary sources that state otherwise (and are able to note the bias in the Spanish primary sources, too).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mmetevelis

    It is rare to find a history book which utilizes a narrative style that so immediate and engrossing as well as inclusive of satisfactory historical and cultural background to make sense of the topic. Talty's prose has the cinematic quality of a good novel that does not hesitate to inform as it entertains. A book worthy of its subject - the lost era of the real pirates of the Caribbean and the formerly shadowy figure of Sir Henry Morgan (is this the rum's namesake?) I cannot recommend this enough It is rare to find a history book which utilizes a narrative style that so immediate and engrossing as well as inclusive of satisfactory historical and cultural background to make sense of the topic. Talty's prose has the cinematic quality of a good novel that does not hesitate to inform as it entertains. A book worthy of its subject - the lost era of the real pirates of the Caribbean and the formerly shadowy figure of Sir Henry Morgan (is this the rum's namesake?) I cannot recommend this enough as biography, history, and sheer escapism at its best. The final chapter on the Port Royal earthquake of 1692 reads as an almost Homeric coda and was worth reading as much as the entire book itself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    N.N. Light

    Such a fantastic historical account of the truth behind Captain Morgan and his bloody pirates. Not for the faint of heart. Highly recommend! My Rating: 5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Karraker

    There is a tv commercial in which an elaborately dressed Henry Morgan is drinking among friends at a fancy party-- a serving girl spills a glass of wine and cringes, thinking she will be whipped. But in an act of mercy and perhaps even democratic flair, Morgan pushes over his glass and encourages all his guests to do the same thing. Not knowing anything about Morgan except seeing his name on the Captain Morgan rum billboards, I wanted to discover more about him. I didn't realize he was a real There is a tv commercial in which an elaborately dressed Henry Morgan is drinking among friends at a fancy party-- a serving girl spills a glass of wine and cringes, thinking she will be whipped. But in an act of mercy and perhaps even democratic flair, Morgan pushes over his glass and encourages all his guests to do the same thing. Not knowing anything about Morgan except seeing his name on the Captain Morgan rum billboards, I wanted to discover more about him. I didn't realize he was a real person hired as a privateer by the English in Jamaica to steal from and harass the Spanish as they shipped silver, gold, and jewels from their South American colonies back to Spain. He never considered himself a pirate, but an employee of the English government. On his first voyage, he wasn't ruthless enough, and it came back to bite him. So he then indulged in the cruelties associated with pirating, and his reputation was enough to drive the Spanish out of their forts long before he arrived. It was interesting to note the historical events happening--the corruption of the priests sent to Christianize the Jamaicans, the health issues of the Spanish crown stemming from too much interbreeding in the monarchy, the overextension of the Spanish empire and their inability to maintain their territories, the authoritative and patriarchal society of the Spanish that led to lack of commitment among the soldiers, under-arming of their forts and navies--all things that contributed to the downfall of the Spanish and victories of the English. It was also interesting to note the democratic ways of the pirates--they all agreed about where to attack, the captain pulled his weight with chores on the ships, the breakdown of wages and loot to the participants on the raids, and even the medical coverage provided (set amounts of $ were awarded for various injuries including loss of limbs, eyes, etc.). Despite the glamor of the pirate life as portrayed in Hollywood films, it sounds like a difficult life--they often ate leather to calm starving stomachs when they ran out of food; they slept out in the open on trips and in alleyways celebrating in drunken stupors when they returned home with their ill-gotten loot. Fighting the insects and disease must have been horrible. It was interesting that when the English signed a peace treaty with Spain that Morgan turned to business and agriculture, leaving his pirating days behind. Interesting also that at his death, an amnesty was declared and anyone was allowed into Port Royal for his funeral, which was attended by many of his former adventurers. The book ends describing the tremendous earthquake that hit Port Royal on June 7, 1692 that destroyed 90% of the town and killed 70% of the people. Scientists believe that it was of a 10-11 magnitude, enough to turn the sand into a river that swallowed up people and buildings alike, shook Morgan's coffin out of the ground, caused tremendous tsunamis to sweep over the town, and caused shops to sink 18-30 feet under the water. The city was never rebuilt. Such ended the town and the history of the man who played such an important role in its development. I enjoyed the author's style, for though this was basically a history book, it read like a novel. The descriptions made things come alive, and you definitely felt like you were there.

  15. 5 out of 5

    YourLovelyMan

    Excellent read for the adventure aficionado and history buff alike, Empire of Blue Water is pop history in its finest form. Empire of Blue Water tells the story of Captain Henry Morgan, his privateers, and the battle for power in the Caribbean, at which they were placed front and center. In essence, Morgan was a hired gun for the English crown, sent in to secure England's hold in the region. His men were privateers, essentially paid mercenaries who wanted bounty and nothing else (not conquest, fo Excellent read for the adventure aficionado and history buff alike, Empire of Blue Water is pop history in its finest form. Empire of Blue Water tells the story of Captain Henry Morgan, his privateers, and the battle for power in the Caribbean, at which they were placed front and center. In essence, Morgan was a hired gun for the English crown, sent in to secure England's hold in the region. His men were privateers, essentially paid mercenaries who wanted bounty and nothing else (not conquest, for instance--and Morgan hated to be called a pirate). It's got a little something for everyone--political battles between the English and Spanish crowns; outlaws living fast, free, and dangerously; hard-fought, bloody battles on land and sea; and a natural disaster of apocalyptic proportions in a final chapter appropriately titled "Apocalypse." I should note that I picked this up for a week-long trip to a Caribbean coastal town, figuring it might make a nice beach read. For me it was, although for most readers the torture scenes and natural disasters might prove a bit much while you're out lounging. The battle descriptions are heavy on the number of men and the weaponry used, light on details like the looks on the men's faces. Still the narrative is impressive with regard to scene-setting and Morgan's battle tactics. I had to appreciate the author's use of language and metaphor too--noting that Spanish citizens would rather stand aside from the charging bull (the privateers) than be gored; polysynenton in the apocalypse chapter (brick and mortar and straw and animals were swallowed up) to invoke the biblical nature of the event. One of the criticisms of this book comes from a character invented by the author, as a sort of demonstrative for what the ordinary pirate in Morgan's band would be like. He is named Roderick, and the author describes him as "a detailed composite picture of an average member, drawing from the experience of various members of the Brethren of the Coast, as the pirates of the Caribbean were known." I didn't mind. Roderick helps fill in the picture, the author reminds the reader frequently that he is only a representative, and ultimately he does not take up too much space. The book is fairly short, at about 300 pages. And by then end, you might be wanting just a little bit more detail, either from the adventure or history side. Even so, with the record we have, it's hard to imagine a better telling of the story of Captain Henry Morgan.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Unabridged. Read by John H Mayer. ---- The term tsunami comes from the Japanese meaning harbor ("tsu", 津) and wave ("nami", 波). [a. Jap. tsunami, tunami, f. tsu harbour + nami waves.—Oxford English Dictionary:]. For the plural, one can either follow ordinary English practice and add an s, or use an invariable plural as in Japanese. Tsunami are common throughout Japanese history; approximately 195 events in Japan have been recorded. ---- The musket is thought to be the weapon that replaced the arqueb Unabridged. Read by John H Mayer. ---- The term tsunami comes from the Japanese meaning harbor ("tsu", 津) and wave ("nami", 波). [a. Jap. tsunami, tunami, f. tsu harbour + nami waves.—Oxford English Dictionary:]. For the plural, one can either follow ordinary English practice and add an s, or use an invariable plural as in Japanese. Tsunami are common throughout Japanese history; approximately 195 events in Japan have been recorded. ---- The musket is thought to be the weapon that replaced the arquebus, and was in turn replaced by the rifle. ---- Plaque commemorating three Levellers shot by Oliver Cromwell in Burford. ---- Sir Thomas Whetstone was a nephew of Oliver Cromwell, as his mother was Catherine Cromwell. Yet in 1659 he switched sides and swore loyalty to Charles II. He was involved in the approach to Edward Montagu, and upon the Restoration he was knighted, and will appear thereafter as Sir Thomas Whetstone. The name also appears as “Whitstone” sometimes. He was a privateer thereafter, in Jamaica and Cuba. ---- The Battle of St. Fagans was a pitched battle in the Second English Civil War in 1648. ---- Thomas Gage (c. 1597 – 1656) was an English clergyman. He was the son of the English Catholic gentleman John Gage, from 1622 a baronet, and his wife Margaret. The family were strong Catholics and were intermarried with other Catholic families, including that of Sir Thomas More, the former Lord Chancellor. ---- The Morgan's family home at Tredegar Park, South Wales.

  17. 4 out of 5

    M.K.

    I took in the audio version of this book, narrated by a gravelly-throated John H. Mayer. He turned the history into a tale that could've been told at the back of a dim sailor's dive, a place packed with rowdy pirates and privateers and buccaneers all whipped from salt and wind, all with scars, some with missing appendages. Havin read a few pirate romances, I knew reality wouldn't paint them in such a swashbuckling, to-die-for light, and sure enough, they were greedy cutthroats who pillaged and p I took in the audio version of this book, narrated by a gravelly-throated John H. Mayer. He turned the history into a tale that could've been told at the back of a dim sailor's dive, a place packed with rowdy pirates and privateers and buccaneers all whipped from salt and wind, all with scars, some with missing appendages. Havin read a few pirate romances, I knew reality wouldn't paint them in such a swashbuckling, to-die-for light, and sure enough, they were greedy cutthroats who pillaged and plundered and then went back to Port Royal (home base for the English pirates) and gave it all away to barkeeps and whores. Giving, in that way, I suppose. Still, every profession has its code of conduct. What impressed me was how egalitarian they all were. All got an equal vote, all got a fair share of the booty, right down to the cabin boy. They even had a version of worker's comp for those injured during the course of action. The captain ruled only during times of battle at sea. And if you were a pirate under the command of Captain Morgan you were in safe hands. Oh, but he was a cunning man. Again and again the wiry Welshman outsmarted the dastardly Spanish. The Spanish in this telling are cast as the villains because they won't allow trade on their lands which the English find appalling. The King and his bureaucrats encouraged the pirates and privateers (pirates with official commissions to wreck havoc) until eventually, the English signed a treaty with the Spanish and the highwaymen of the sea were suddenly deemed to be criminals. For you see, pirates, despite all their wild courage and larger-than-life exploits, were, in the end, political pawns. How that all came to be is a well-spun yarn thanks to Mr. Talty and Mr. Mayer. I'll remember you both fondly every time I toss back my shot of Captain Morgan.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Fantastic book about privateer Henry Morgan. This is a very readable tale of Morgan's battle with the Spanish. The author takes time to build the settings, describing places like Port Royal, Panama City, and other places in great detail. He also juxtaposes the lawless Caribbean with political climate in London and Madrid which is very useful for understanding how a pirate like Morgan could have accomplished so much so quickly. While the book is non-fiction, the author has created a fictional pir Fantastic book about privateer Henry Morgan. This is a very readable tale of Morgan's battle with the Spanish. The author takes time to build the settings, describing places like Port Royal, Panama City, and other places in great detail. He also juxtaposes the lawless Caribbean with political climate in London and Madrid which is very useful for understanding how a pirate like Morgan could have accomplished so much so quickly. While the book is non-fiction, the author has created a fictional pirate everyman named Roderick who travels with Morgan whose purpose is to allow the reader to understand just how atypical Morgan was from the common pirate. Some may be irritated by Roderick's fictional intrusions into the non-fiction story but I found then to be unobtrusive and helpful in understanding the general pirate's mindset. While I found the book riveting and I now have a several pirate oriented books lined up to read next, it was not without flaws. For me the biggest flaw was not knowing enough about Morgan's personal life. He was married to Mary Elizabeth, his 1st cousin, but little detail is given to their relationship (perhaps none is known) other then to say that Morgan was apparently faithful to her. Unless I missed it, her fate is not even mentioned. Many of the other pirates fates are not mentioned either. John Morris, for example, appears from nowhere to take part in one event, and then is mentioned no more. Who were Morgan's pirate friends? Did he have the same crew voyage after voyage? Who did he go drinking with? I would have liked more detail on these topics.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Enhanced and altered my perception of Morgan era pirates. Hadn't previously realized how much loot was obtained by raids taking place ashore. What I'll most remember are the passages about the superior weapons and outstanding marksmanship. "Pirates adored speed; an extra knot could mean the difference between riches and handing. Like grease monkeys cackling as they dropped a supercharged V-12 into their father's vintage Olds ... Brethren took a stock mercantile vessel and made it into a thing bu Enhanced and altered my perception of Morgan era pirates. Hadn't previously realized how much loot was obtained by raids taking place ashore. What I'll most remember are the passages about the superior weapons and outstanding marksmanship. "Pirates adored speed; an extra knot could mean the difference between riches and handing. Like grease monkeys cackling as they dropped a supercharged V-12 into their father's vintage Olds ... Brethren took a stock mercantile vessel and made it into a thing build to fly." " ... their most valuable possessions, prized above women and even Spanish gold: their muskets. The long, broad-butted muskets and the pirates' skill with them were so essential to their success that one must pause to linger over these unique seventeenth-century creations ... They bought them from French and Dutch traders ... getting a good musket and a pair of working pistols would have been one of the first priorities for a buccaneer ... They paid small fortunes to obtain them ... They cleaned the guns obsessively and would slit the throat of anyone who dared touch them." "The pirate musket was an object d'art, often originating in the shops (one might say studios) of the great French gunsmiths ... The finest of these heavy iron guns were considered near counterparts of Renaissance paintings and sculpture. On a typical French musket, you might find the hammer shaped into the form of a leaping dolphin, while on the blued barrel would be etched intricately worked portraits ... the buccaneers ... carried into battle an instrument that was at the forefront of Renaissance artistry."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Coralie

    This was a great book. It was a fascinating nonfiction book about Port Royal in Jamaica during the 17th century. The true story of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Henry Morgan really had a huge part to play in defeating the Spanish in the New World. The book describes the difference between buccaneers, pirates, and privateers, and also describes how the divisions betweem were often blurred and nonexistent. These men were courageous and tenacious. They were also lawless and uncivilized, ex This was a great book. It was a fascinating nonfiction book about Port Royal in Jamaica during the 17th century. The true story of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Henry Morgan really had a huge part to play in defeating the Spanish in the New World. The book describes the difference between buccaneers, pirates, and privateers, and also describes how the divisions betweem were often blurred and nonexistent. These men were courageous and tenacious. They were also lawless and uncivilized, extremely so. The pirate life looks amazing, romantic and free the way it is depicted in the movies, but the strue story is sad an unappealling. Most of the pirates had lives that were nasty, brutish and short. They had no families, they lived from one mission to the next, and they usually died of alcoholism or venereal disease. Captain Morgan is a good name for a rum, because Captain Morgan himself became a successful plantation owner and was happily married for the last few years of his life. He was even Governor of Jamaica for a short while. But in the end, the alcoholism killed him. He died a slow painful death of liver disease (of course they didn't know that at the time, but his symptoms certainly do tell the tale), while he was in his fifties or early sixties. t

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    Talty's book tells the story of the flamboyant Henry Morgan and his semi-official privateer war against the Spanish. Morgan continued to raid Spanish targets even after the British and Spanish concluded a peace, which technically made him a pirate, but he escaped the noose by pleading ignorance of the treaty. Morgan was incredibly ruthless; many pirates worked hard to make their reputation for bloodthirstiness as real and immense as possible; this made it easier to coerce ships and even entire ci Talty's book tells the story of the flamboyant Henry Morgan and his semi-official privateer war against the Spanish. Morgan continued to raid Spanish targets even after the British and Spanish concluded a peace, which technically made him a pirate, but he escaped the noose by pleading ignorance of the treaty. Morgan was incredibly ruthless; many pirates worked hard to make their reputation for bloodthirstiness as real and immense as possible; this made it easier to coerce ships and even entire cities into surrendering without a fight. Although a gifted strategist and a brutal fighter, Morgan was a terrible sailor. His navigational skills were mediocre. Morgan was eventually named governor of Jamaica, but was soon enough removed and became a drunk. A rather pathetic end to the life of a man who basically destroyed Spain's power in the New World. In all, an interesting tale. Talty includes an entire chapter on the Port Royal earthquake that didn't seem to quite fit. And absurdly, Talty creates an entirely fictional character named Roderick and integrates it into his work of history. It's a novel technique, but NO HISTORIAN SHOULD EVER DO THIS. I've never heard of anything so absurd.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    If you ever wondered about pirates in the Caribbean during the late 17th century: who they were, what they did, where were their loyalties and why are they so fictionalized- then this is the book for you. It's not easy read, but it is less difficult to peruse than stolid history occurrence tracts. This follows Captain Henry Morgan's privateer occupation, his contemporaries and methods, and also the earthquake that ended Port Royal's existence as a pirate haven in Jamaica. Understanding the specif If you ever wondered about pirates in the Caribbean during the late 17th century: who they were, what they did, where were their loyalties and why are they so fictionalized- then this is the book for you. It's not easy read, but it is less difficult to peruse than stolid history occurrence tracts. This follows Captain Henry Morgan's privateer occupation, his contemporaries and methods, and also the earthquake that ended Port Royal's existence as a pirate haven in Jamaica. Understanding the specific reasons in administration and in economics entrenched within the differing Spanish and English competitors in this new area of the Americas was absolutely intriguing. Not at all to obscure Native populations differences either. But was most unknown to me, before this book, was how pirates held concept of a privateer hierarchy in booty and in large categories of decision making. It's amazing Morgan lived to 53 considering the mode of living and the climate.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    This is very engaging history of the The Brethren, Capt. Henry Morgan's real Pirates of the Caribbean. Along with the drama of a fireship ruse and a city-destroying earthquakes, it is interesting the actuality of buccaneer life. Rather than a criminal navy, they were more like a criminal marine corps: ships were a conveyance to get them to coastal settlements and departure points for laying siege, such as the pivotal struggle for Panama City having marched over 50 miles inland. While it is not d This is very engaging history of the The Brethren, Capt. Henry Morgan's real Pirates of the Caribbean. Along with the drama of a fireship ruse and a city-destroying earthquakes, it is interesting the actuality of buccaneer life. Rather than a criminal navy, they were more like a criminal marine corps: ships were a conveyance to get them to coastal settlements and departure points for laying siege, such as the pivotal struggle for Panama City having marched over 50 miles inland. While it is not develed into detail, buccaneer psychology is partly analyzed. Why did they continue after even having money, instead choosing to be profligate and tying themselves to their lives of kidnapping, slaving, ransoming, torture, and theft. It actually appears they were an anarchistic collective of murderous sociopaths.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Well written and very interesting.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Greiner

    This was a very good book about Captain Morgan and the real pirates of the Caribbean during the 1600s. It tells about the struggle for control of the Caribbean between the European powers. Spain held much of the area, imposing its Catholic Theocracy and stripping South and Central America and the Caribbean of its gold, silver and jewels. The British wanted a foothold to set up colonies based on a model of economic trade. Captain Morgan was hired by the British as a privateer to wrest control of This was a very good book about Captain Morgan and the real pirates of the Caribbean during the 1600s. It tells about the struggle for control of the Caribbean between the European powers. Spain held much of the area, imposing its Catholic Theocracy and stripping South and Central America and the Caribbean of its gold, silver and jewels. The British wanted a foothold to set up colonies based on a model of economic trade. Captain Morgan was hired by the British as a privateer to wrest control of the region from the Spanish. That meant he was a legal pirate, and pirate he did. This nonfiction historical account reads like fiction. The author gives blow by blow accounts of Morgan's pirates' exploits as they helped the British found Port Royal in Jamaica, attacked Portobello in Panama, and even as they launched their attack on Panama City. The book traces Henry Morgan's life but also the wider political situation of the time to give wonderful context to the era and the crazy situation in the Caribbean. A terrific read. Loved it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tom Oman

    Not an amazingly well written book, but it is at least comprehensive. Not surprisingly it turns out there are very few first hand accounts of the age of the pirates and the official record of the time is written by officials who often had a vague and mythical understanding of the pirates. The author relies heavily on what seems like a handful of sources, a few of which I have read recently. Namely Esquemeelings account, which was also written as a popular bestseller in 1678 so it is more than li Not an amazingly well written book, but it is at least comprehensive. Not surprisingly it turns out there are very few first hand accounts of the age of the pirates and the official record of the time is written by officials who often had a vague and mythical understanding of the pirates. The author relies heavily on what seems like a handful of sources, a few of which I have read recently. Namely Esquemeelings account, which was also written as a popular bestseller in 1678 so it is more than likely embellished a fair amount. Regardless of its limitations, this book works to bring all of these strands together and attempt to fill out the story for a modern audience. While at times this source seems a bit embellished or at least “filled in” it is worth reading if you are specifically interested in this period, and particularly Henry Morgan. This book also puts him in a slightly better light than other books I’ve read about him. I read this book as part of an effort I have to learn more about the pirates, and the tie in with the raids in Panama make it more close to home for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    Who doesn't love pirates? - How are they not stumbling drunk all of the time? I assume that some of them were, but they also had to get things done occasionally, and I'm not sure how they consumed that much rum and still kept the ship right side up. - What happened to the Spanish? I understand their king for much of the Morgan years was a grossly deformed madman, but its like they just gave up. The empire is terribly managed in a lot of ways. It is easy to criticize and hard to do, but there see Who doesn't love pirates? - How are they not stumbling drunk all of the time? I assume that some of them were, but they also had to get things done occasionally, and I'm not sure how they consumed that much rum and still kept the ship right side up. - What happened to the Spanish? I understand their king for much of the Morgan years was a grossly deformed madman, but its like they just gave up. The empire is terribly managed in a lot of ways. It is easy to criticize and hard to do, but there seem to be a lot of areas in which they could have improved. - Why are there not petty kingdoms forming in the Americas? It seems like a gang or well armed hooligans could set up shop and rule over a big swathe of territory and possibly pass unnoticed if they stayed away from highly visible spots. - The pirates seem to have had a high degree of racial and ethnic harmony. There were white pirates, Indian pirates, black pirates, and every mixture of the three. It probably wasn't always rosy, but it seems pretty progressive that a free black man could serve alongside whites and collect an equal share of the loot at the same time that slavery was legal throughout the Americas. Were pirates getting jumped in back alleys and sold as slaves?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chad Simons

    I enjoyed this book. It was a little longer than some, without adding too much detail to the story. Its interesting how similar these books on pirates are. All had very similar experiences, at least the ones that have books about them. Lifespans for this lifestyle could be very limited depending on skill, but mostly on luck it seems. Anyway, a good companion book to many other books about the pirates/buccaneers/privateers/hoodlums of the early times.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Randall

    This was surprisingly good. It buffed off a lot of the POTC nonsense and showed the pirate/privateers in a more historically accurate light, while still being very engaging and readable. A lot of history here I had never learned.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    Captain Morgan was a irate of great fame and ability and to this day you can his picture on Rum bottles

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