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  • Little, Brown US

Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune

Keith Thomson

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Maritime history

Follow the riveting account of the roguish acts of the first pirates to raid the Pacific in a crusade that ended in a sensational trial back in England-perfect for readers of Nathaniel Philbrick and David McCullough.

The year is 1680, in the heart of the Golden Age of Piracy, and more than three hundred daring, hardened pirates-a potent mix of low-life scallywags and a rare breed of gentlemen buccaneers-gather on a remote Caribbean island. The plan: to wreak havoc on the Pacific coastline, raiding cities, mines, and merchant ships. The booty: the bright gleam of Spanish gold and the chance to become legends. So begins one of the greatest piratical adventures of the era-a story not given its full due until now.

Inspired by the intrepid forays of pirate turned Jamaican governor Captain Henry Morgan-yes, that Captain Morgan-the company crosses Panama on foot, slashing its way through the Darien Isthmus, one of the thickest jungles on the planet, and liberating a native princess along the way. After reaching the South Sea, the buccaneers, primarily Englishmen, plunder the Spanish Main in a series of historic assaults, often prevailing against staggering odds and superior firepower. A collective shudder racks the western coastline of South America as the English pirates, waging a kind of proxy war against the Spaniards, gleefully undertake a brief reign over Pacific waters, marauding up and down the continent.

With novelistic prose and a rip-roaring sense of adventure, Keith Thomson guides us through the pirates' legendary two-year odyssey. We witness the buccaneers evading Indigenous tribes, Spanish conquistadors, and sometimes even their own English countrymen, all with the ever-present threat of the gallows for anyone captured. By fusing contemporaneous accounts with intensive research and previously unknown primary sources, Born to Be Hanged offers a rollicking account of one of the most astonishing pirate expeditions of all time.

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