A pirate may be termed as an individual who occasions robberies at sea; they may attack and take valuable commodities from other ships. The book ‘Under the black flag’ written by David Cordingly tries to unravel some of the mysterious behavior of pirates. The book also tries to put a demarcation between the fallacies and the truth that are often peddled in regard to the subject of pirates since time in memorial. David seems to concentrate more on the Buccaneers, pirates who plied the Caribbean route, these were among the most aggressive group of pirates known then.

In his effort to tell the pirates’ story; the writer brings up information that the readers would find interesting, for example the pirates were not good at keeping records while on their ship. This behavior may have been propagated by the fact that most of them were illiterate. They may have been prolific sailors but the levels of literacy that they projected were their own undoing especially in crucial areas like record keeping and doing simple calculations of the inventory they had on board[1]. A big percentage of the pirate crew came from former naval forces, who after retiring or leaving naval forces’ duties saw it fit to continue with their adventures at sea through other avenues like piracy. There is the issue of pirates making their offenders to walk the plank as a punitive measure; according to David this was not factual, pirates did not have this as a mode of punishment within their ranks[2].

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Cordingly also makes the reader understand that the pirates may not have had long spanning careers at sea because they went to sea for about two or three years. The life at sea would be characterized by sudden bursts of attacking of ships, stealing from them and making sudden retreats. Human beings found in attacked vessels would at times be taken captive and forced to work in pirate ships as slaves. The pirates would also attack competing vessels and annihilate or take captive fellow pirates in battle for supremacy and territorial advantage. Individual brilliance in the world of these villains would also get documented; there were prominent captains who, because of their bravery and incidents of conquest would be greatly feared in the high seas.

How effective is the book?

The book by David Cordingly is an interesting and informative piece of literature because it tends to unravel misconceptions created about pirates and the way they operated or conducted themselves. When people are asked to state what they know about pirates around the world, the version they often provide in regard to the topic gets punctuated with the stereotyping versions made famous by movies, the media and some of the books. Under the black flag by David Cordingly tries to offer a credible facet of truth and along that path wipe away various misconceptions revolving around the matter. In the long run students would be able to offer correct standpoints on the topic[3].

The effectiveness of the book can be underscored when teaching history; history does not need to have distorted information being relayed from one person to another or generation to another, but the true accounts of events as they occurred.

Is the book enjoyable?

The book arouses great interest among readers as it seeks to annul what everybody had clung to as the Biblical truth for ages. Dispelling of some of the fallacies like pirates lived all their lives at sea and the famous punishment of walking the plank are some of the untruths that have gotten debunked. The writer discounts the issue of walking the plank as mere lies as none of the modes of punishment during those days align to such a practice. Pirates did not live all their lives on the sea; though some of them perished there. Having history of piracy and the partakers of the criminal acts at sea being told from the perspective offered by David, has caused many people to have a feeling of great surprise and bewilderment. A number of those reach a point of feeling betrayed to a certain extent. The writer touches across a number of incidents and events where pirates are involved across history, and expounded on what really happened vis a vis what people presume. It is a great read especially when it pits the truth versus incorrect data peddled for ages.

In providing the information about pirates does the writer offer convincing arguments?

In his narration, the author tends to debunk the facts offered around the topic; and on the same breadth he seems to argue out why the famous ‘truths’ are wrong. Reading through the book one tends to concur with Cordingly in most cases as he does not negate information without offering a backup explanation for the same. Stereotypes may not have informed people that even women would make part of pirate crew. During life at sea, pirates were thought to have established their set of operational rules; under these rules those people who were involved would have to abide by them, failure to which they would suffer the harsh consequences. Crew members would carry goods that had ‘insurance’ while at sea. The information concerning insurance was factual, as historically ships would charge a fee for every cargo transported so that in case of any loss they were better able to compensate the owners. Other aspects of the narration like rules of conduct was evident and backed up by the norm at sea where aggressors would be dealt with through prescribed methodologies created by ship crews and ‘ship`s constitution’[4].

David while writing the book tries to offer derived information about various occurrences or sequence of events that he backs up through various sources. This type of writing corroborates the information he provides and what others have captured. The reader therefore finds it easy to relate to the information making it more believable.

Is the work effective in teaching students about pirates and society in the early modern Caribbean?

The written book is a good resource for students studying history on maritime changes and development across the world. The writer has done a number of things which warrant immense value as far as the topic or subject at hand is concerned. One of those actions is offering a particular known action pertaining to pirates and making an analysis as to why the information may not offer any credence when scrutinized. While making this explanation, he does not seek to make distortions of his own, but pushes the truth as it is. The writer also states occurrences occasioned by pirates on the sea and allays particular conduct; stereotypes on the other hand may offer other incorrect ‘truths’. Historical norms related to work at sea are also invoked by the writer in an effort to dispel segments relayed in movies. For example when movies depict walking the plank as the most famous form of punishment by pirates, the writer informs the reader that this form of action may have been unknown in the ranks of pirates.

The book however may need to be used alongside others while teaching students so that they are able to see the stereotyped information alongside the factual approaches. The book itself has also tapped information from other sources as a way of affirming the logic and truth pushed by the writer. Any tutor therefore would have to have a number of resources in order to be able to draw the attention of the students as to why the topic is crucial in the historical context, and why the true position is supposed to be unraveled. Piracy is a topic that everybody seems to have his or her own version of events, yet it is a historical occurrence that should be clear and precise[5].

Another aspect that makes the book a good read is that it does not make sensational claims that border on creating excitement for the sake of it. Reality is outlined in the best way possible and whatever is written does not have much opposition.


The topic of piracy is an interesting one especially when one judges the kind of knowledge and information that people have on the topic. This is one of the subjects in the globe that has fallen victim to immense stereotyping. In the book ‘Under the black flag’ the truth is laid bare and people have the chance to understand the topic better.


Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

[1] Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life among the Pirates. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

[2] bid

[3] Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

[4] Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

[5] Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

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