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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the… (edition 1995)

by Barry R. Burg

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180465,840 (3.54)8
Member:williamsqueer
Title:Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean, Second Edition
Authors:Barry R. Burg
Info:NYU Press (1995), Paperback, 215 pages
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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean by Barry R. Burg

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Despite the racy title (which makes it great fun to place on a shoulder-high shelf to watch for friends double taking), this is a rather dry, very scholarly tome about a subject that had only slightly impinged upon my world and that mostly through off-color jokes -- how DID those savage men on board lonely ships for months at a time spend their long hours? And did they really wear dresses?

This book looks at the conditions in England that lead to the rise of the now famous Caribbean Pirate -- the poverty, the population problems, the short duration of a pre-Victorian, peasant or working-class childhood, and the lack of experience with females and family life many boys and young men experienced. It talks of the press gangs kidnapping men and boys for Naval service -- a harsh, often short life of brutal employment.

And, it does cast an interesting light (for those with the proper twisted turn of mind) onto Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow and Orlando Bloom's William.

It also serves as an interesting bit of historical background to the Aubrey and Maturin novels by [a:Patrick O'Brian|5600|Patrick O'Brian|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1212630063p2/5600.jpg]. ( )
  Murphy-Jacobs | Mar 30, 2013 |
Burg blends social history, anthropology, sociology and psychology to create a speculative account of piratical sexuality. He begins with a discussion of sexual attitudes in the Stuart era, moves along to the circumstances that led men to become pirates, (with particular emphasis on the sexuality demanded by these circumstances), and finishes off with an in-depth discussion of pirate sexuality. It's occasionally quite dry, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Burg has certainly done his research here, and I think he's drawn some likely conclusions. I'm inclined to agree with him in most areas. He's backed his ideas up with plenty of examples and some decent cross-cultural comparisons. My one major complaint is that he's under emphasized the speculative nature of his research, and it's impossible to say how much he's ignored in his quest for sources that support his thesis. He occasionally reminds us that there are few primary sources dealing with either homosexuality or piracy during this time period, but he often writes as though he's found enough evidence to fully substantiate his claims. He hasn't. He's done an excellent job of dealing with those few primary sources we do have, but his conclusions are entirely his own. And I can't provide any concrete proof here, but I believe there may be some areas where he's ignored particular facts that may have undermined his thesis.

Still, this is most definitely worth reading if you have any interest in either pirates or LGBT studies. The interdisciplinary nature of Burg's research makes it suitable for scholars from a number of different subject areas, and it's readable enough that even nonacademics should find it fairly accessible.

(A slightly different version of this review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina). ( )
1 vote xicanti | Jun 27, 2009 |
With a title like this, how can you NOT buy it? This is actually a serious scholarly work on the subject of homosexuality and pirates (duh). There's a lot of conjecture, but the author (a historian) backs it up with a lot of fascinating detail. Recommended for both fans of pirates AND sodomy! ( )
1 vote fugitive | Jun 4, 2009 |
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"No interviews!" the pirate cried. "Especially no interviews granted to little girls."
-Donald Barthelme
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To Bill Camwell and Alice Watterson
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Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children's tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride.

In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice.

In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814712363, Paperback)

Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children's tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride.

In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice.

In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:57 -0400)

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