marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Invisible Hook

The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson

A discussion of pirate practices and why they were sound rational decisions by economical rules.

Covers such things as the reasons for their strict pirate code, and why they elected their captains and quartermasters and divided power between them.  The logic of the Jolly Roger, which had the effect of saving the lives of both pirates and merchant sailors.  The dilemma of torture -- on one hand, the passive resistance of hiding booty could make seizing the ship unprofitable, on the other, a reputation for torturing captives inspired resistance even when it was almost certainly hopeless.  Brands -- like Blackbeard's.  The value of a reputation for insane violence.  Why most pirates were volunteers and neither forced men (if white) nor slaves (if black), and why there is such a tendency for them feign having been forced.

It has some flaws.  True, studying the Golden Age of Piracy has its points, but there have always been pirates, and it might be appropriate to mention that.  It doesn't discuss how the small size helped -- sometimes 300 or so, but still small when discussing an entire society.  And the treatment of slaves assumes that slaves can not be treated well, even as equals, which is not, historically, true.

But overall an interesting treatment.
Tags: history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, non-historical non-fiction reviews

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