The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down

This is the book that inspired NBC’s prime time drama “Crossbones,” informed Ubisoft’s AC4: Black Flag, and put Colin before the cameras of Netflix’s hit docudrama “The Lost Pirate Kingdom.”

In the early eighteenth century a number of the great pirate captains joined forces, including Blackbeard, Black Sam Bellamy, and Charles Vane. This infamous “Flying Gang” was more than simply a band of thieves: Many of its members were sailors, indentured servants, and runaway slaves who turned to piracy as a revolt against the conditions they suffered on ships and plantations. Together they established a crude but distinctive democracy in the Bahamas, carving out their own zone of freedom in which servants were free, blacks could be equal citizens, and leaders were chosen or deposed by a vote.

For a brief, glorious period the pirate republic was enormously successful. At its height it cut off trade routes, sacked slave ships, and severed Britain, France, and Spain from their New World empires. The Royal Navy went from being unable to catch the pirates to being afraid to encounter them at all. Imperial authorities and wealthy shipowners denounced the pirates as the enemies of mankind, but huge numbers of common people saw them as heroes. Finally one man volunteered to pacify the pirate’s Bahaman lair and destroy any who resisted — Woodes Rogers, a famous privateer himself and scion of a powerful merchant family.

Drawing on extensive research in the archives of Britain and the Americas, Colin Woodard tells the dramatic untold story of the Pirate Republic that shook the very foundations of the British and Spanish Empires and fanned the democratic sentiments that would one day drive the American revolution.

“Narrative history at its best.”

Winston-Salem Journal


“Fascinating . . . beyond rip-roaring adventure stories from the distant past, [the book offers] an opportunity to understand pirates as they truly were.”

The New York Times Book Review

“It’s a rollicking tale, filled with rich details of the lives of men who, for their own personal gain, challenged the spread of empires.”

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

“Disregard Robert Louis Stevenson’s rowdy buccaneers, the Disney factor’s lively rascals and those musical lads from Penzance: Here are the real pirates of the Caribbean, and the facts are as colorful and exciting as fiction.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

“Contain[s] passages that are absolutely riveting, sometimes for their high-seas action, sometimes for their wicked illumination of life aboard an antiquated vessel at sea for months on end.”

Toronto Star

“The Republic of Pirates is the ultimate in beach reading — breezy, colorful, and rich in history and action.”

Christian Science Monitor

“Brilliant…Meticuously researched and thrillingly told…Woodard brings this slice of outlaw history gloriously to life, realizing a worthy tome for anyone who’s so much as muttered a tiny ‘arrrr.’”

Baltimore City Paper