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Pirate reading

February 3, 2018

I love reading, whether it’s fact or fiction. In recent years, it’s been mostly fact for me, though, and not even due to a budding career in academia. Instead, it’s pirates (surprise surprise). While my whole pirate project started in 2015 with the purchase of a single book at a used book store in London, I’ve built up a nice little collection in the years since. As many people seem to be interested in knowing more about pirates, I figured I’d showcase some of my favourites on the subject.

Historians’ takes on pirates tend to fall into one of two groups, one being a more conservative approach and the other one a more radical one. To crudely summarize the difference: the conservative approach paints pirates as intriguing subjects, but ultimately views them as mostly criminals and fairly nasty ones at that. The radical interpretation often views pirates from the viewpoint of rebellion and class struggle, considering them as not just criminals, but as challengers to emerging global capitalism. As often is the case with history, we don’t know the truth of the matter, but exploring different viewpoints is definitely worthwhile.

So, in no particular order, five pirate books worth reading. As these are just my favourites, there are obviously many more excellent pieces out there that I just don’t happen to own. As there are fairly limited actual historical records on pirates, all the books mentioned have considerable overlap as they draw on the same resources. However, different readings make comparisons interesting and allow you to form your own view of pirates. The focus of most of these books is on the Golden Age of Pirace, i.e. the early 18th century.

Marcus Rediker: Villains of All Nations : Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age

Rediker is a prominent figure in the radical school, and this is not only a very good take but a smooth read as well. Villains of All Nations is a prime example of the pirates-as-rebels interpretation.

David Cordingly: Under the Black Flag : The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates

Cordingly’s approach to pirates is much more conservative than Rediker’s. This is, however, a wonderfully comprehensive look at most common pirate myths and pirates in general.

Colin Woodard: The Republic of Pirates

Leaning more towards the radical side, The Republic of Pirates deserves a special mention for its very entertaining writing. The book’s focus is on the Bahamas, so if Black Sails is your thing (and it should be), this is a good look at the history behind it.

Captain Charles Johnson: General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates

The mother of all pirate sources. This is actually a reprint of “Captain Charles Johnson’s” (most likely a pseudonym) entertaining and often sensationalist and embellished contemporary writings on pirates. Pirates were a source of fascination and entertainment to many of their contemporaries, as this book shows. Most pirate historians draw on this as a primary source, although there are almost certainly quite a few bits of 18th century tabloid journalism in there as well. The spelling has been modernized, but the writing is still more than a little archaic at times.

Angus Konstam: Pirates of the Seven Seas

This is the book that started my pirate craze so it deserves its spot. Now, style-wise it might not be the most academic take on the subject, but with its lavish full colour illustrations and information chopped up into clear themes and bite-sized chunks, it’s a very easy first venture into pirate literacy and very suitable for both younger and adult readers. It also details the origins from piracy from ancient times up to modernity.

So there you have it! Three of the five writers mentioned, Rediker, Cordingly and Konstam, have written loads more on the subject. Konstam has done extensive work for Osprey Publishing, so if you’re interested in a wargaming angle, those are definitely worth looking into.

Happy reading, and do share your own favourites in the comments!

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Piratical 2017 recap

January 6, 2018

This year has been a weird one hobby-wise. On one hand, I must have painted less than 20 miniatures all year, which is very few even by my modest output standards. On the other hand, I’ve been fairly prolific with terrain – building a whole new pirate board for example. To showcase what I’ve done this year, I set up most of my pirate stuff on my new board for a major photo shoot. To be honest, this is what I’m mostly in the hobby for: I game very little, so the pirate project is more of a dollhouse thing than something for frequent gaming use. I think this goes back to old Citadel Journals, where dioramas with tens of minis were used to display the variety of miniatures available. Another, more recent example and a great inspiration has been the pirate gallery on War in 15mm.

The table has many items that I haven’t featured in dedicated posts. If there’s something that catches your eye, just let me know in the comments and I’ll do a separate post. There will be one on the table itself, too!

My pirates have become by far my most enduring and consistent project of the past years. I’ve stuck almost exclusively to them since 2015, and there’s been no drop in enthusiasm. On the contrary, I’m more and more interested in the 18th century (and there has been a bit of an overspill into 17th and 19th century too) and I’ve for example amassed quite the collection of books on the subject. Might be a post or two in those, too.

You can click on any photo for a larger version, opening in a new tab.

The governor and his family survey the town

A wealthy merchant with his bodyguard in tow – a highwayman lurks behind the turn

One of the governor’s footmen keeps an eye on the pirates making landfall

A scoundrel with a heart or an assassin?

A boatload of pirates lands on the jetty

Trouble might be brewing

It’s Jean Blanc – the Unkillable Frenchman!

The obeah woman and her maroons keep watch

A pirate is about to get hanged – is this what drew the Frenchman?

“Nasty business, hanging.”

The captain makes sure the king’s law is carried out

A few pirates got off with an easier sentence

On Tyburn Island, trade carries on

…even in the shadow of the gallows

Speaking of trade, the governor’s men have discovered a stash in a beach cave

A footman keeps watch as the cave is investigated

At least the weather’s nice

…unless you’re working

…let alone using the outhouse

Barrett’s dead drunk in the pigsty again

“Need a hand wi’ ‘im Peg?”

Old Rogers’ cart is a landmark by now

Whatever happens on the island, the Queen knows about it

So, that’s where I’m at now! Feedback is most welcome. To all new readers and regulars, happy 2018 and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2017

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Slug Industries: Long John Silver

December 17, 2017

Something a bit different this time. I haven’t done a plug for an upcoming product in ages, but when Phil from Slug Industries (who is a nice bloke with a glorious moustache) showed me this upcoming pirate sculpt, I figured it was definitely worth sharing.

Long John Silver sculpt

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Long John Silver sculpt

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Based on Robert Newton’s iconic Long John Silver (fun fact: our “arrrr that be how them pirates be talking” tropes come from that performance), this is a wonderful Paul Hicks sculpt. It’s a great likeness, and one of the nicest pirate minis I’ve seen in recent years. It will be a part of Slug Industries’ 2018 Kickstarter, and I’m looking forward to adding it to my collection. He’ll be my third pirate with a crutch, speaking of the enduring legacy of R. L. Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island.

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Turtle Rock

December 7, 2017

With my dissertation turned in for now, I finally have more time and resources to devote to blogging. I have plenty of stuff that I’ve managed to finish during long evenings, so expect to see them here in the future – starting right now. I’ll be using some cell phone shots in these posts, as I’ve been shooting them along the way.

Caves and pirates go together like any two things that go together well, so I was immediately sold when I picked up a suitable looking piece of terrarium decoration for 10€ at the local pet store. A hefty (hollow) chunk of resin, and as you can see from the photo below, pretty much ready to use as is.

Pirate cave

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To match it with the rest of my terrain, I went to work. I repainted the cave, added a bunch of tufts and a bit of plastic Ikea plant, and here’s the end result:

Pirate cave

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Here’s the cave shown in its natural environment and much more yellow lighting, with my night watchman exploring. Smugglers, pirates, monsters? Certain doom, anyway.

Pirate cave exploring

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I have to say I love little stuff like this. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s good fun and it’s effective on the table. A cave is a simple enough feature that it will easily find use regardless of setting: add a troll, and it’s a trollcave, add in a few crates and it’s a smugglers’ hideout. Easy-peasy! The cave was dubbed Turtle Rock on a Facebook group I frequent, and the name stuck. It looks like a turtle and was originally intended for a terrarium setup, so I’m fine with it. I’ll be keeping an eye out in the future for terrarium bits, as they usually lack the seaweeds etc often crafted onto aquarium pieces. This piece was from a company called Exo Terra, but I’m sure there are tons of alternatives out there!

 

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From the painting desk #57 – Headless Horseman

November 6, 2017

While my little hollow on the internet has been a bit sleepy, I’ve nonetheless been working on things. We recently had our now-traditional Halloween game, and I finally finished the Headless Horseman miniature that I originally intended for the Halloween game of 2015. Better late than never, I’d say.

Picture of headless horseman miniature

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Picture of headless horseman miniature

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It isn’t much of a paintjob – I’m not a fan of painting black, and he was black, black, black. Being in a rush didn’t help things either! As usual for my Halloween games, I was painting him on the afternoon of the game day. To make up for the somewhat lacklustre painting, I put a bit of extra effort in the base, which I think improves him overall. I thought about doing some sort of ghostly effect on him, but decided against it in the end. A part of the Sleepy Hollow thing is that there’s always the chance it’s just someone pulling a prank, so I wanted to leave that in there.

The miniature is a decapitated British Legion Trooper from Front Rank’s American War of Independence range, coupled with one of Front Rank’s rearing horses. While I’m not completely happy with him, he does look the part of the Horseman, so I count that as a success.

Here are a few shots of the Horseman in action, the game was good fun! Photos by my friend Mia.

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Headless horseman miniature

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Jolly good!

October 14, 2017

This is another quick piece I finished some time ago. Whether pirates or redcoats, you can’t stay on your ship all the time, so you’ll need a boat to reach the shore.

It’s a Playmobil boat that came with a larger ship I bought. I’d been meaning to make something out of it, but it just kept slipping to the back of the queue until one day I just happened to pick it up and finished it fairly quickly. After chopping off all the Playmobiley bits and making a new deck from cardboard, I added planking from coffee stirrers. I then put in a small swivel gun I picked up as part of a pirate lot earlier this year, and…that’s it, actually. Nice and simple.

The finished jolly boat looks quite decent and comfortably fits six miniatures on 28mm bases. I kept the style very neutral, so it works equally well with pirates and more legitimate types.

Picture of a playmobil jolly boat

Click for a larger version

Picture of pirates in boat

The pirate queen makes her landing

Picture of boat with soldiers

Captain Pemberton-Smythe and his troopers accompany the governor

I’m currently working on my new gameboard that has plenty of shoreline, so this boat will definitely see use, and I’ll likely get a few more. Maybe I’ll be able to recreate this wonderful scene from Black Sails:

 

 

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