Readers will have a journey into the world of piracy, which exists contrary to logic, where myth merges with reality, speculation with facts.
Maybe it was not worth writing our review of a thirteen-year-old book, but since information from this “treasury of the history of sea robbery” is often reprinted by followers of B. Vorobyov, I would like to draw their attention to some annoying absurdities that crept into the text of the mentioned book. These absurdities, of course, became possible only for the simple reason that the author approached the topic of piracy as a beginner amateur. And, like any novice amateur, his work contains many enthusiastic "discoveries of the Americas" (which he discovers, first of all, for himself) and there is absolutely no novelty whatsoever. Moreover, he refers even to well-known facts not from the position of their critical revision, but blindly believing everything that other lovers of the topic of piracy wrote before him...
Review of the book by B. T. Vorobyov “Under the flag of death” (M.: Sovremennik, 1997. - 189 p.)
From the annotation: “... The names of such pirates as Drake, Morgan or Kidd are heard by many generations, but the author of this book only briefly mentions them, focusing the reader's attention on the names of almost unknown people…”
From the newspaper “Veche Tveri”: “Boris Vorobyov knows many amazing facts from the life of pirates… Boris Vorobyov’s book about pirates, published back in 1997, has since been enriched with new information. The writer is ready to offer a world history of piracy, if only there was a publisher. Perhaps we will still be able to read Boris Vorobyov's new legendary stories about famous pirates.
Maybe it was not worth writing our review of a book thirteen years ago, but since the information from this “storehouse of the history of sea robbery” is often reprinted by the followers of Boris Timofeevich Vorobyov, I would like to draw their attention to some annoying absurdities that have crept into the text of the said book.
These absurdities, of course, became possible only for the simple reason that the author approached the topic of piracy as a beginner amateur. And, like any novice amateur, his work contains many enthusiastic "discoveries of the Americas" (which he discovers, first of all, for himself) and there is absolutely no novelty whatsoever. Moreover, he treats even well-known facts not from the position of their critical revision, but blindly believing everything that other lovers of the topic of piracy wrote before him.
In the Preface, introducing readers to the matter, B. T. Vorobyov immediately misleads them when he assures that “the Dutch called their pirates filibusters (subsequently, all pirates in general began to be called this word), the Italians called them corsairs, and in the West Indies they were called buccaneers” (p. 4). Without going into a detailed analysis of the etymology of these terms, we only note that filibusters (flibustiers) - the French word (although it comes from the Dutch vrijbuiter), was used by the French to refer mainly to French sea robbers based on the islands of Tortuga and Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and acting (usually with letters of marque, that is, as corsairs) mainly against Spanish ships and settlements in the West Indies. Corsairs are not pirates! Corsairs in the countries of the Romance language group (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal) were private entrepreneurs who operated with the permission of the authorities against the shipping and coastal settlements of the enemy (by virtue of a privateer or corsair license issued to them). In the West Indies, buccaneers (boucaniers) were called not pirates, but free hunters who lived in the Greater Antilles (primarily in Haiti). Since some of the buccaneers joined the filibuster teams, the last British in the last third of the 17th century began to call them buccaneers in their own way; later, in English-language literature and tradition, all the pirates of America began to be called buccaneers. For some reason, many translators from English into Russian translate the word buccaneer as "buccaneer", thereby confusing domestic readers even more...
The appearance of privateers in the historical arena B. T. 1547); however, he considers them "state pirates" (p. 4). In fact, privateers (corsairs) appeared in medieval Europe at the turn of the 13th-14th centuries, but, being private individuals, they were never “state pirates”. In international law, it is customary to call state pirates raiders - warships that waged an all-out war at sea against merchant and passenger ships of enemy powers (without adhering to international treaties on the inadmissibility of destroying civilian ships by military forces).
In the next sentence, the author distinguished filibusters and corsairs from privateers, naively believing that the former "robbed everyone and everything at their own peril and risk", and privateers - only with the permission of their governments, which issued them "special certificates called patents"; for this, privateers "received a certain percentage of the booty, and the rest was given to the treasury."
It's amazing how simple truths can be confused to such an extent! Firstly, privateers are the same corsairs, only in the countries of the Germanic language group (and in English-speaking countries, privateers are called privateers, that is, “private traders”). Secondly, a certificate and a patent are the same thing. These special powers (certificates, patents, charters, licenses) were called letters of marque (papers with a seal), and in Russian they are usually called letters of marque (or patents of marque, or letters of marque...). Thirdly, privateers (the armator-ship owner, as well as the captain and crew of the privateer ship) received most of the booty, and a certain percentage (usually 10%) went to the treasury (more often to the supreme admiral).
Further, B. T. Vorobyov makes a reservation, arguing that “privateers were sent to the sea only during the war and robbed only enemy ships.” In fact, privateers could act in peacetime, but not by virtue of a letter of marque, but by virtue of the so-called reprisal certificate; this document gave the right to reprisal (retaliation) and its meaning was reduced to the right to compensate for the damage caused to a private person of one state by private persons of another state (for example, as a result of a piracy seizure).
The following pages of the "Preface" are devoted to the description of piracy in the Mediterranean Sea in the period of antiquity. Having told about the deeds of Gnaeus Pompey and his son Sextus, the author is transported to the early modern times. In this era, in his opinion, “whole states and republics” of pirates arose both in the Mediterranean and in the West Indies, and in the Mediterranean “such states were Tunisia, Algiers, Tripoli”, and in the West Indies - “pirate brotherhoods Tortuga, Jamaica and the Bahamas” (p. 13).
I would not want to arrange an educational program here, however, given that such misconceptions are common in many books on the history of sea robbery, we still have to recall the classic’s formulation: the state is an apparatus of violence designed to keep society under the control of this apparatus (it includes include the administrative system, the army, the police, the judiciary, the prosecutor's office, prisons, etc., etc.), as well as regulate social relations, protect the country from external enemies, etc. Pirate states (republics, empires, etc.). e.) has never existed on our planet - neither in the ancient world, nor in the Middle Ages, nor in modern and recent times. Because the state and the pirate community are antipodes. In Tunisia, Algiers, Tripoli and even in Morocco there were bases of corsairs, in Tortuga, Jamaica and the Bahamas there were bases and shelters of corsairs and pirates, but neither in the countries of the Maghreb nor on the islands of the West Indies did there ever exist pirate states! It's time to learn this simple truth a long time ago and no longer fool readers (especially young and inexperienced readers who are used to taking everything written by smart uncles on faith).
In the next paragraph - a new pearl. It turns out that in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, a coalition of European Christian powers "with a huge effort" defeated not the navy of the Ottoman Empire, but... pirates. We will leave comments to specialists in the history of wars at sea.
On pages 13-14, the author continues to amaze us with his wonderful discoveries (after all, the book was published in the Anthology of Mysteries, Miracles and Mysteries series). He has no doubt that "whole squadrons from the countries of the Old World - Spanish, English, French, Dutch" were needed to destroy piracy in the West Indies. For a long time they suffered with these robbers, and - lo and behold! - "In the end, victory leaned (sic!) On the side of the government fleets, but for this it was necessary to attract huge forces and means."
Do not try to find a description of these dramatic events in the annals of naval history, because you will not find it anyway. Not a single "government fleet" was engaged in such nonsense. For a long time, the Spanish Armada de Barlovento (guard flotilla) and, from time to time, patrol ships of the British and French tried to fight the pirates without much success.
On the 14th page, B. T. Vorobyov noted that the famous filibuster Henry Morgan "accepted the government's proposal to lead the prosecution of pirates in the Caribbean, which raised Morgan precisely as a pirate"; "he fulfilled his task brilliantly and became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica." In fact, Henry Morgan was first appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica, and then, having an order to put an end to unauthorized campaigns of Jamaican filibusters against subjects of the Spanish crown, he imitated the fight against pirates in the territory entrusted to him. Documents from that era show how the governor of Jamaica, Lord Vaughan, bombarded London with complaints that Morgan, contrary to his duty, encourages local filibusters and puts spokes in the wheels of all attempts by the governor to stop "this evil."
On the 15th page, referring to the authority of Georges Blon, our author confidently states that 90% of the pirates of Tortuga and Jamaica were declassed elements - adventurers, criminals, "human trash". No one doubts that the ranks of pirates (in this case, filibusters of the West Indies) were replenished by people of various kinds, including declassed elements. Only the figure of 90% is doubtful. The fact is that historians do not have complete lists of filibuster teams and, even more so, biographies of all participants in filibuster campaigns, by which it would be possible to determine which of them had a criminal past behind them, and who was a ruined peasant or artisan. But a mass of circumstantial evidence indicates that a significant part of the filibuster teams in Tortuga and Haiti was formed at the expense of impoverished or ruined small farmers and former indentured servants; in Jamaica, in addition to these individuals, soldiers dismissed from service were enrolled in large numbers in the teams of filibuster courts - both the armies of Cromwell (until 1660) and the royal army. As a historian who has professionally studied this issue, I can assume that declassed (criminal) elements made up no more than 10-15% of the teams of filibuster courts.
On the 16th page, B. T. Vorobyov calls one of the leaders of the French filibusters Henri Gramont (“esthete and uncontrollable bully”). Alas, the full name of this captain was not preserved in the annals. In the documents, he is called either Sieur de Grammont, or Captain Grammont. In various popular books, the authors give him different names - Francois, Michel, Henri... All this is nothing more than a free flight of fancy. And, by the way, I have not found anywhere what Grammon’s “aestheticism” manifested itself in.
After such a long “Foreword”, the author moved on to describing the biographies of female pirates (pp. 18-58). It is pointless to analyze these biographies, since they are all invented from beginning to end. The very fact of the existence of these women, by the way, is not questioned by historians; however, no documentary evidence has been preserved that sheds light on the details of their life-existence. Consequently, all the adventures of the "lady of fortune" described by various authors, including B. T. Vorobyov, have nothing to do with real history.
The second chapter of the book is devoted to the legend of the German pirate Klaus Störtebeker (the author called him Störtebeker for some reason) (pp. 60-76). Since the reader will not find anything new in this chapter compared to what has already been written about Stertebeker by the Polish journalist Jacek Machowski and the German naval officer Heinz Neukirchen, you can safely skip it.
Chapter three is entitled "Pirate on the Papal Throne" and is dedicated to the biography of the Pope (more precisely, antipope) John XXIII (in the world - Balthazar Kossa) (p. 78-102). This chapter is a free retelling of the anti-Catholic novel by Alexander Paradisis "The Life and Work of Balthazar Kossa". Well, a novel is also a novel in Africa. What is the history of piracy?
In the fourth chapter, the author tells about the “barbarian pirates of the XV-XVI centuries” (p. 103) (in fact, about the period of the XVI-XIX centuries) (p. 104-130). At the same time, the reader is presented with a free retelling of events taken from the books of the already mentioned Makhovsky and Neukirchen, with the addition of a book by Johann Wilhelm von Archengolz, whom B. T. Vorobyov - following his poorly informed predecessors - stubbornly calls “F. Arkhengolts” (p. 109, 121). All the blunders and mistakes made by Makhovsky, Neukirchen and Arkhengolz (as well as by the translators of their works into Russian) were automatically included in the book under review. Among these errors is the misspelling of the name of the father of Aruj and Khair-ad-Din Barbarossa (Jacob Reis; in fact, Reis is not a surname, but an indication that he was a captain - reis or rais; therefore, his name was Jacob-reis, or Yakub-reis). The ruler of Tunisia did not transfer the island of Djerba to the possession of the pirates (p. 107), but only allowed them to settle there and use its harbor as their base. Accordingly, Djerba was never "the family nest of the Barbarossa brothers" (p. 119). The real name of Khair-ad-Din was Khizir, not Atzor (p. 108, 110). Malta is still the name of an island, not a city (p. 122). Algeria and Tunisia did not become independent states at the end of the 16th century (pp. 125, 127); in fact, they became semi-independent states at the beginning of the 18th century, but at the same time formally retained vassal dependence on Turkey until the 19th century. The barbarians (i.e., the Berbers) never considered piracy to be their "family trade" (p. 127) and never gave it "state status" (ibid.). The so-called "barbarian corsairs" (that is, corsairs from Barbary or Barbary) for the most part were not barbarians (Berbers) at all; sea robbery was carried out by the Ottoman Turks based in the ports of the Maghreb, the Moriscos expelled from Spain and renegade Europeans who switched to the service of local rulers.
Chapter Five is entirely devoted to the "utopian pirates" Misson and Caraccioli (pp. 132-132). The author copied all the information about them from the books of Y. Makhovsky, A. B. Davidson and V. A. Makrushin. It makes no sense to analyze in detail the biographies of Misson and Caraccioli, since the whole story about the pirate communist republic of Libertalia allegedly founded by them was invented by the author of The General History of Pirates, Captain Charles Johnson (perhaps this is the pseudonym of the writer Daniel Defoe). However, in this chapter there is a curious remark by B. T. Vorobyov, indicating that he is not devoid of self-criticism. Let's quote it:
“- So what? - some of the readers will say, having read our story to the end. What new facts did the author reveal to us? After all, everything he told about can be learned from already written books, for example, from the “History of Maritime Piracy” by the Polish publicist Jacek Machowski, which was published in our country back in 1972.
In this sense, the reader will be absolutely right. Indeed, the factual material of our essay has not been enriched with new archival finds, but a surprise for readers still awaits.
Speaking of readers, we mean that large readership, which is called mass and, therefore, is not always aware of various scientific searches... ”(p. 140).
And what surprise did BT Vorobyov prepare for the readers? Yes, none! The author simply retold material already known to readers from the book by A. B. Davidson and V. A. Makrushin that Daniel Defoe could be hiding under the pseudonym “Captain Charles Johnson”.
In the sixth chapter, B. T. Vorobyov conscientiously rewrote the common information about Captain Edward Teach, mainly taken from the books of the same J. Makhovsky and H. Neukirchen. At the same time, the author, again, did not bother to double-check the facts. And the sloop "Lime" turned into "Lima" (p. 151), and the crews of the warships, before going out in search of Tich, "refused to take part in such a dangerous, in their opinion, enterprise" (ibid.). In fact, they did not refuse to participate in the action, but were transferred aboard two sloops of smaller tonnage, adapted for operations in shallow water. By some miracle, the Governor of Bermuda (pp. 151, 154) got into the "friends" of Blackbeard, although he did not appear in any document in the Tich case. The maneuvers of ships during the battle between punishers and pirates are completely incorrectly described by the author. “With a slight movement of the hand”, B. T. Vorobyov put into the hands of the Tich pirates not powder grenades, but... “several barrels filled with gunpowder and nails” (p. 153). Lieutenant Maynard's team was ordered to take cover from shelling in the hold, and not "lie prone on the deck" (only the helmsman was ordered to lie on the deck). The smoke screen arose from grenade explosions, and not because Teach allegedly “set fire to barrels filled with sulfur” (ibid.). At the end of this chapter, the author claims that the number of Tich pirates who ended up in the dock is unknown (p. 154). This is unknown to the author, but is known to everyone who is seriously engaged in the study of the history of sea robbery. For reference: two pirates managed to escape the gallows - Samuel Odel (acquitted) and Israel Hands (pardoned); 14 people were hanged: John Carnes, Joseph Brooks, James Blake, John Gills, Thomas Gates, James White, Richard Stiles, Caesar, Joseph Phillips, James Robbins, John Martin, Edward Salter, Stephen Daniel and Richard Greensale.
The last - the seventh - chapter is entitled "Ships, weapons and tactics of combat of pirates, their way of life, customs and manners, symbols and flags." And again, B. T. Vorobyov demonstrated a very superficial knowledge of the subject. Speaking about the pirates of the Baltic of the Störtebeker era, for some reason he described koggs and hulks - merchant ships that were practically not used by sea robbers (p. 156). Speaking about the ships of the Mediterranean, the author gave a description of a large military galley (p. 157), which the corsairs of this region used very rarely. The second, "favorite" ship of the barbarian pirates is the shebeka. One cannot but agree with this. Further, however, a galleass is described, which, according to B. T. Vorobyov himself, the pirates used “much less frequently than the shebeka and the galley” (p. 158). The author would not be mistaken if he wrote that the galleas was not at all a watercraft familiar to corsairs (too bulky, clumsy, requiring a large number of "attendants", and hence provisions). Finally, among the ships of the Mediterranean, the felucca is named. Not named: galeot (galiot), brigantine, frigate (fragate), tartan, fusta, fovette, pollacre, caravel, corvette, polar cod ("seagull" of the Cossacks) and many other variations of small, but maneuverable sailing and rowing vessels.
Among the ships of the times of Calico Jack, Anna Bonny and Mary Read (ie, the first quarter of the 18th century), B. T. Vorobyov singled out a brig, a schooner, a brigantine and a sloop. Good selection. That's just the description of the sloop does not stand up to criticism. The fact is that the author confused the "pirate" sloop of the indicated era with a warship - a three-masted warship of the second half of the 18th - early 19th centuries (p. 159). Therefore, the reader never found out what Calico Jack's sloop could actually look like.
On page 160, the author described the pinasse as a vessel that was "used very often and very willingly by Caribbean pirates." At the same time, B. T. Vorobyov did not specify what era he was talking about. However, judging by its description, we are talking about a French pinnace of the 17th - early 18th centuries, which was used in Europe mainly for trading purposes. But the sailing and rowing pinasse (or pinasse) of the 16th century, actively used by French and English corsairs in the Caribbean, remained out of the author's field of vision.
On page 161, many suggestions are made by the author about what type of ship the Bijou ship of Captain Misson could be. There is no point in these reflections, since Bijou, like Misson, was a figment of the imagination of the author of the General History of Pirates, as reported above.
Talking about the weapons of pirates, B. T. Vorobyov informs readers that the fusee “appeared at the beginning of the 18th century, replacing muskets” (p. 164). At the same time, he describes a flintlock gun that appeared in service with the Russian army under Peter I. In fact, fusiles were first made in France around the middle of the 17th century, and they were used by corsairs and filibusters from the second half of that century.
It is difficult to agree with the author's statement that the cleaver (in fact, a cutlass) was a "small dagger" (p. 167). Rather, it was a medium-sized naval saber. Its description is easy to find in marine dictionaries, and many museums around the world exhibit original samples of this weapon.
Narrating about the tactical tricks of sea robbers, B. T. Vorobyov told us almost an anecdote. It turns out that when the pirates “raised on the masts the flag of the state to which the ship they met belonged”, the latter “according to the laws of the sea” had to respond to this “gesture” with an artillery salute, “which the ship’s commander did, uselessly firing cannonballs from his guns. And the pirates, depending on the circumstances, either boarded or continued to follow the same course” (p. 174). I wonder what kind of "marine law" it was, which obliged a merchant ship to respond with an artillery salute to the raising of the flag on an unfamiliar oncoming ship? And why is it necessary to shoot cannonballs at the same time, and even from all the guns? The questions, of course, are rhetorical…
It is also hard to believe that in Tortuga and Jamaica the pirates “every day” squandered money, drank and walked without getting out of the taverns (p. 177). Such feasts were arranged by them only after returning from a successful campaign, and when the money ran out after a week or two, these shirt-guys rolled down to the position of beggarly tramps.
The author’s statement that in most cases there was no equal division of booty among pirates, “and only two communities - likedelers, or equals, and Russian Cossacks - divided the booty equally, regardless of the rank of those participating in the division” (p. 179). Did B. T. Vorobyov find documents confirming that the captain of the likedelers received the same share of the booty as the cabin boy, and the Cossack ataman - the same share of the booty as the novice who went on a campaign for the first time? Of course not. The author should have known that in all pirate communities known to us, the loot was divided into equal shares between all participants in the campaign, but the leader (as well as senior "officers") was entitled to an additional share (or several shares), while beginners and cabin boys were always content with half shares.
Talking about the punishments that took place on warships in the era of the sailing fleet, B. T. Vorobyov mechanically transfers all types of these punishments to pirate ships (p. 183). In fact, the pirates in their midst did not punish the guilty brethren by raising the mast or "keeling". They were punished by deprivation of a share in booty, removal from a commanding position (if it was a delinquent captain or officer), landing on a desert island, scourging and, when committing a particularly serious crime (for example, in the case of betrayal or killing a brother not in a duel, but on the sly), shot.
The book under review ends with a brief description of pirate symbols and flags. This description correctly says that the first flag with a skull and bones was seen in 1700 on a French pirate ship, but the captain who raised the first Jolly Roger on the mast was incorrectly named (p. 187). His name was not Emmanuel Vine, but Emmanuel Wynne.
We would like to end our review with a quote from the announcement of the series in which B. T. Vorobyov’s book was once published:
with reality, speculation with facts. So - forward, towards the incredible!
There is nothing to add to this.
Author: Viktor Gubarev privateers