Buccaneers of the Caribbean: How Piracy Forged an Empire is an interesting historical book by Jon Latimer. The author chronicles historical events that occurred during the seventeenth century as buccaneers controlled the Caribbean.
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The buccaneers were confused with pirates, but they were privateers from France, England, and Holland, authorized by their respective governments to attack the Spanish maritime traders and weaken Spain to prevent it from expanding its colonial territories. In the seventeenth century, France, England, and Holland did not have effective naval power, and thus they used privateering to protect their colonies. The author argues that England, France, and Holland used buccaneers to attack and weaken Spanish maritime traders in the Caribbean during the seventeenth century.
The book is divided into 14 chapters, each discussing a different aspect of the buccaneering activities waged against the Spanish maritime traders in the Caribbean. However, the different chapters of the book can be placed under three broad categories, viz. introduction, buccaneering activities, and the involved parties, and the fall of the buccaneers. The first section is chapter one, “A New World,” and it explores how Christopher Columbus found the Caribbean in the late 1490s before sailing back to Spain, where he reported about his new discovery. The chapter then highlights how Spain started to conquer the Caribbean and extended its territories.
The subsequent conflict between Spain, on one side, and France, England, and Holland, on the other side, is introduced. The second part, which covers chapters 2 to 12, offers a detailed discussion of the buccaneering activities that privateers, under the authority of France, England, and Holland, waged against Spanish maritime traders. The last section covers chapters 13 and 14, and it chronicles the fall and end of buccaneers in the Caribbean.
As aforementioned, the first section of the book is an introduction to the genesis of the conflict between Spain and the other three countries – England, France, and Holland, in the Caribbean. Under this section, the author discusses how Christopher Columbus discovered the Caribbean before Spain conquered it as a God’s gift to exploit for the greater glory of the Catholic church” (Latimer 2009, 7).
The entry into the Caribbean enabled Spain to expand its territories, thus threatening France, England, and Holland’s New World colonies. In conjunction, the three countries sanctioned their privateers to promote buccaneering activities against Spanish maritime traders, which would ultimately weaken Spain to prevent it from expanding its territories. The second part of the book discusses the key people, goods, strategies, and battlegrounds that were used to promote buccaneering in the Caribbean.
Tobacco, salt, sugar, and slaves are listed as some of the goods that were used during this period. The key individuals involved in the process included Piet Hein of the Netherlands, Queen Elizabeth of England, Jean-Baptiste Colbert working for King Louis XIV of France. In the last section – chapters 13 and 14, the author explores the ultimate suppression of the Spanish trade in the Caribbean and the end of buccaneers as Spain and England allied in the war against France.
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The chapters under each section do not connect with each other harmoniously. For example, immediately after the introduction, the second chapter talks of tobacco and salt, and instead of discussing slaves and sugar in the next chapter, the author introduces Piet Hien. As such, the chapters stand out as independent sections as opposed to being part of a whole. Based on this argument, the book is not well written due to the fragmentation of the sections. It lacks the flow of ideas from one section to the other.
Nevertheless, for a keen historian, the book is understandable as the main arguments are convincing, especially about the role of buccaneers in weakening Spain’s advancement in the Caribbean. Similarly, the author proved the thesis that England, France, and Holland used buccaneers to weaken Spain’s influence in the region and other parts of the world. The author used primary sources, such as diaries, letters, and memoirs of key individuals including, Alexander Oliver Exquemelin, Sieur Raveneau de Lussan, Basil Ringrose, and William Dampier. The author also uses secondary sources, such as bibliographies, essays, and books addressing the topic. However, the author mainly focuses on primary sources to prove the thesis.
The book, Buccaneers of the Caribbean: How Piracy Forged an Empire is historically rich writing by Jon Latimer detailing the buccaneering activities that England, France, and Holland sanctioned against Spanish maritime traders in the Caribbean in the seventeenth century. After Christophe Columbus discovered the Caribbean in the late 1490s, he informed Spain, which conquered the region to advance its territories.
However, this move threatened the existence of Holland, French, and English colonies, and thus they resorted to buccaneering to weaken Spain’s influence in the region. The book has 14 chapters, which can be divided into three broad categories. However, I think that the book is poorly written as it lacks narrative interest. Besides, the book does not offer a convincing argument about the historical importance of the relationship between buccaneers and governments in the seventeenth century.