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Dictionary of privateers and pirates


Hackers are arousing renewed interest among the general public. Scientists are not isolated from this craze: new surveys have helped to renew knowledge on the subject in recent years. Gilbert Buti and Philippe Hrodej offer us a Dictionary of privateers and pirates allowing to explore these adventurers of the seas of the modern era while leaving aside the myths surrounding this universe.

Presentation of a considerable work

With nearly 600 articles, this monumental work is destined to be an essential scientific reference in this field. The dictionary is mainly interested in actors in their diversity (buccaneers, the San Stefano order) and places of piracy even if there is an article on buccaneers, buccaneers and pirate and privateer flags. If the dictionary is mainly concerned with piracy from the end of the Middle Ages to the modern era (there are only a few articles on the contemporary period). Atlantic piracy is at the heart of this dictionary, but many articles deal with other places of piracy such as that in the Mediterranean (the barbaresques for example), some of which are largely unknown to the general public such as in the Black Sea (such as the article "Sitch Zaporogue Cossacks ”) or in Asia (like the Zheng family which in the 17th century constituted a commercial, pirate and even territorial empire). We can note the density of articles which can be several pages long and contain data tables resulting from work on the subject (in particular for cities). However, it is regrettable that there is no bibliography for each article. The authors deny this "In order to avoid the repetition of bibliographic references at the bottom of each entry, we have opted for a reference to the sources and to the bibliographic orientation placed at the end of the volume". The bibliography is considerable (pages) and it is difficult to know which book to consult to deepen your knowledge of such and such a point.

Actors and places

As we said previously, the actors (individual, family or collective) hold an important place in this dictionary. However, it is true as the magazine Sciences Humaines notes that we can be lost in front of the considerable mass of data which is offered to us. However, these entries allow us to glimpse the links (family, economic or personal) which link these people, whom the references at the end of the article help to strengthen. The great pirates like Jean Bart or Edward Teach benefit, of course, from a substantial notice of several pages but most biographical articles are one page. Certain notices which do not directly concern a pirate are welcome and allow to see the interactions between the economic and political spheres and piracy such as those of Mazarin, Richelieu or Vauban. There are also articles on groups such as the Dutch trading companies or the order of Santo Stefano and even an article on the American race and its importance until the Civil War as a means of getting around the weakness of its fleet. war (we also learn that racing is still not illegal in the United States today). Finally, the comprehensive on-site articles provide valuable information on the history of the port, the links between ports and privateers, and the economic importance of piracy and racing. Reading the various articles, we are convinced that piracy is not the story of adventurers in love with freedom but a real economic opportunity allowing rapid gains to acquire capital and to quickly abandon these risky activities.

This dictionary is ultimately a real tool to better understand the world of racing and piracy. Although a little difficult to access at first glance, this book sheds light on a world that we often only know through cinema. Scientists, enthusiasts, curious people will find their account there. In addition, the authors promise us a book of synthesis on the course from Antiquity to today which, if it is of the quality of this work, will certainly be a reference too.

Dictionary of privateers and pirates, by Gilbert Butiet Philippe Hrodej. CNRS editions, October 2013.


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