A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates
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First published in 1724 under the title A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates and often attributed to Daniel Defoe, A General History of the Pyrates (London, 1724) constituted an expanded second edition of the original text. Through many reprintings, A General History became the origin of the enduring myth of pirates that exists today. The story includes peg legs, buried treasure, and “the remarkable actions and adventures of the two female pyrates Mary Read and Anne Bonny.” It also inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
“Most of our enduring knowledge (and myths) about pirates come from this text.”
MHS Library Assistant Jen Keefe on A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates
I've been interested in pirates for as long as I can remember, thanks to my dad -- we used to watch movies about pirates together when I was a kid, and he still likes to dress up as a pirate every year for Halloween.
I love this book in particular because most of our enduring knowledge (and myths) about pirates come from this text. It's the first place you can find record of the Jolly Roger, and it mythologized what are now some of the most (in)famous names in piracy today. Robert Louis Stevenson borrowed heavily from this book when writing Treasure Island. Its authorship is disputed (it was written under the penname "Captain Charles Johnson," and some attribute the work to Daniel Defoe), and it's difficult to say how much of this text is accurate; many parts of it were definitely exaggerated. Still, it is considered by many to be a credible source. Whether the stories in it are true or not, there is no doubt that A General History of the Pyrates has profoundly shaped our historical and pop cultural conception of the Golden Age of Piracy.