Aboard the Flagship Niagara in July 2015, with many thanks to her captain and crew!
Married to Mary Crouch!
As a panel participant at CombatCon 2011.
In Las Vegas, June 2011, for CombatCon. In the background is one of the fantasy pirate ships designed for the outdoor show at the Treasure Island casino. Note the oversize, offset figurehead. (Photo by Mary Crouch.)
Speaking on piracy at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida, September 2009, to an audience of more than 150.
In Denmark filming aboard the Sophie. (Photo by Nicole Vinnola)
The Sophie. (Author's photo)
Getting makeup applied as a "subject matter expert" in the History Channel documentary, True Caribbean Pirates, first aired July 2006.
* By Antoine Marin Lemierre, from his poem "Commerce." (Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.)
PERSONAL NOTE! To the author who recently sent me a letter via the University of Nebraska Press, please contact me via FB or the email link on my website--I've mislaid your letter on my wretchedly disorganized desk. I thought I had it safely filed!
April 19, 2016: Blood & Plunder Kickstarter is online!
It is my great pleasure to work with the extremely passionate and talented crew at Firelock Games! If you're at all interested in war gaming, miniatures, or pirates, you owe it to yourself to check Blood & Plunder out!
The history of pirate myth is rich in action, at sea and ashore. However, the truth is far more interesting. In The Golden Age of Piracy, expert pirate historian Benerson Little debunks more than a dozen pirate myths that derive from this era—from the flying of the Jolly Roger to the burying of treasure, from walking the plank to the staging of epic sea battles—and shows that the truth is far more fascinating and disturbing than the romanticized legends.
Among Little’s revelations are that pirates of the Golden Age never made their captives walk the plank and that they, instead, were subject to horrendous torture, such as being burned or hung by their arms. Likewise, epic sea battles involving pirates were fairly rare because most prey surrendered immediately.
The stories are real and are drawn heavily from primary sources. Complementing them are colorful images of flags, ships, and buccaneers based on eyewitness accounts.
Firelock Games: "Blood and Plunder" in development now! I'm working with the highly skilled and enthusiastic creators as the game's historical advisor. Quickstarter coming soon!
Set in the 17th century during the heyday of privateering and the decline of buccaneering, Fortune’s Whelp is a brash, swords-out sea-going adventure. Scotsman Edward MacNaughton, a former privateer captain, twice accused and acquitted of piracy and currently seeking a commission, is ensnared in the intrigue associated with the attempt to assassinate King William III in 1696. Who plots to kill the king, who will rise in rebellion—and which of three women in his life, the dangerous smuggler, the wealthy widow with a dark past, or the former lover seeking independence—might kill to further political ends? Variously wooing and defying Fortune, Captain MacNaughton approaches life in the same way he wields a sword or commands a fighting ship: with the heart of a lion and the craft of a fox.
From the publisher: "A sneak preview of bookcover in process for Benerson Little's 17th century swashbuckling, sword-fighting, sea-adventure "Fortune's Whelp" due out soon! Privateers, sirens, spies, and ships. And dangerous plots to kill the King."
I've finally started my blog, Swordplay and Swashbucklers (click on image). First two posts are on what buccaneers and boucaniers really looked like, based on rare eyewitness images. We'll get to swordplay, including that of Hollywood swashbucklers, eventually.
Lecturing and answering questions at the Decatur Public Library, Decatur, Alabama, on Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 6:30 PM.
July - August 2015
From Penmore Press, 28 July 2015: Benerson Little has turned in the final draft of "Fortune's Whelp" and the staff is damn excited. Michael James declared it "full of action, pirates, treason, wry humor, women, and gunpowder and swords." Watch for it soon!
Continuing as the historical consultant for Black Sails season four!
Flagship Niagara! Many thanks to Captain Sabatini and his crew for a wonderful day sail and visit with one of my daughters, not to mention the chance to go "up and over" the fore shrouds and fore top.
I've two articles in the August edition of Desperta Ferro (available now), a noted Spanish magazine devoted to military and political history. "Desperta Ferro!" was the most famous battle cry of the almogávares during the reconquista. Literally, it means "Awake iron!"
“Las tácticas de los piratas del Caribe” por Benerson Little.
“El mito pirata” por Benerson Little.
Married to Mary Crouch!
Black Sails season two begins airing Saturday, January 24; season three is in production.
Alabama Detours episode produced by WUVA of the University of Alabama and directed by Rhys Butler, airing this summer on WUVA.
Signed copies of Pirate Hunting are available from the author, $25 including shipping within the US. The book is a thorough history of piracy and pirate hunting from antiquity to the present.
Extensive pdf notes and errata for The Sea Rover's Practice and The Buccaneer's Realm have been updated. See the respective pages for links.
April 12, 2013, Black Sails Teaser
April 10, 2013: "Did Pirates Wear Eye Patches?" on the Under the Black Flag website. A brief article debunking popular myths about pirates and eye patches. Sorry, Mythbusters... The first paragraph is excerpted here: “Did pirates wear eye patches?” The short answer: Only if they had lost eyes to disease or injury, and this was no more prevalent among pirates than among fighting seamen and soldiers. The Mythbusters television show and other speculators have only added to the myth by working backward from the proposition, that is, “If pirates wore eye patches, why would they have worn them?” rather than looking first at primary sources to see if there is any evidence that pirates wore them at all. (Similarly is the French term joli rouge pointed to as the origin of the term Jolly Roger, but an examination of primary sources, including French piracy and privateering journals and records, shows the term was never used. Jolly Roger is entirely unrelated to the term.) The suggestions that pirates may have worn eye patches to improve night vision or daylight observations isn’t supported by primary source material. In fact, the loss of sight in an eye, even by wearing an eye patch, causes significant loss in both depth perception and visual breadth, making movement aboard a vessel, aloft especially, very dangerous. It would also make visual observation by a lookout much more difficult.
April 2, 2013: Fencing-related author interview on the Fencing page of the excellent new e-magazine CS Vintage Co., Lifestyles of the Eclectic. The image links to the website's homepage.
A description from the magazine's editor: "C.S. Vintage began not as a blog or a magazine, but as a man with a passion for a little bit of everything and a lot of love for all things vintage. This man is The Count--the driving force behind all that is C.S. Vintage. Although he likes to keep to himself, his enthusiasm for an eclectic and vintage lifestyle has compelled him to share his vision with those of a like-mind. As a result, his life long love of eclecticism has manifest itself in the C.S. Vintage magazine. Over three years in the making, it has been a gradual accumulation of people, ideas, aspirations, experiences, hobbies, trial and error, and odds and ends. True to its motto, Lifestyles of the Eclectic, it is the result of a hodgepodge of people whose lives have crossed paths by chance (or fate), related only by the common desire to live life as they see fit (and a mutual friendship with The Count)."
July 2012 to Present
On retainer as historical consultant for the Starz Black Sails cable series in production, to air in early 2014. (See first season teaser above.)
The series is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's immortal Treasure Island and is described by Starz thusly: “Flint, the most brilliant and most feared pirate captain of his day, takes on a fast-talking young addition to his crew who goes by the name John Silver. Threatened with extinction on all sides, they fight for the survival of New Providence Island, the most notorious criminal haven of its day — a debauched paradise teeming with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers, a place defined by both its enlightened ideals and its stunning brutality.”
The eight episode first season starts in January 2014.
Pirate Hunting is recommended reading in preparation for the Humanities West lecture series in San Francisco: "Is Piracy the Second Oldest Profession?" September 16, 2012.
Archives Nationale d'Outre-Mer
What Pirates Really Looked Like: Article, "Eyewitness images of Buccaneers and their vessels," in The Mariner's Mirror, August 2012. The Mariner's Mirror is the distinguished, leading English language journal of maritime history, and is the publication of the Society for Nautical Research, Greenwich, London, England. The Society was founded in 1910.
Abstract: "This article describes and discusses several eyewitness illustrations of buccaneers (flibustiers) created by cartographers who made maps and charts of French Caribbean ports during the 1680s. The illustrations are highly detailed and provide new information regarding the appearance and arms of these famous sea rovers, as well as of at least one of their vessels. The article also discusses the doubtful accuracy of other period illustrations of late seventeenth-century Caribbean sea rovers and their vessels, and compares a published period drawing of a sea roving ‘Piraugue Espagnole’ with that of one made by an eyewitness cartographer."
The images are almost certainly the only known eyewitness images of "golden age" pirates or their vessels.
I spoke at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul on June 28, on the subject of "Hollywood and Pirates: Truth Versus Legend." The lecture was part of a series associated with the Whydah / National Geographic "Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship" exhibit at the museum. Information about the lecture series and exhibit can be found here.
The audience was wonderful, St. Paul delightful, and the museum staff, in particular Doug Raney and Lura Harvey, the best of people. I highly recommend to anyone a visit to both the museum and the pirate exhibit.
Forthcoming article in Issue 15 of Pirates Magazine, "Pirate Daughters: In Film and History." Or at least we hope it is. The magazine hasn't published an issue since May, an unfortunate but likely indicator that the magazine may be going under... If the article doesn't get published here, I'll find another magazine or journal for it, or simply publish it online. Latest information is that the issue will be out "soon," perhaps in late February or in March.
On another subject, a nice brief review here of How History's Greatest Pirates... by blogger Scott Allen, listed among the best books he read in 2011.
Buccaneer's Realm may be going out of print, at least in a real print edition, which, as far as I am concerned, means out of print. Pricing information is no longer available from the publisher, and the hardcopy edition is no longer available on Amazon and B&N, although Amazon does list it with a one to three week lead time. However, copies are still available elsewhere on the Internet.
A link to the Naval Historical Foundation review by Capt. Roger F. Jones, USN (Ret.) of How History's Greatest Pirates.... The review was originally published last year, and is now available to the public at large.
Brief mention in Black Belt Magazine in its review of CombatCon 2011 in Las Vegas. CombatCon 2012 is gearing up, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Western martial arts, stage combat, and swordplay in general. The link to the review is here.
September 28: Updated notes & errata for Sea Rover's Practice and Buccaneer's Realm. The updates are available in the left column of each book's page.
September 17: Lectured on "Pirate Boarding Tactics: Hollywood Versus Reality" during Tiger Lee's "Hot Pirate Babes Calendar Release / Talk Like a Pirate Day" weekend in St. Augustine. The full three day celebration included a pub crawl, a party with the Naked Cowboy dressed as a pirate as the featured guest, music by rappers Captain Dan and His Scurvy Crew, calendar models, and a cutlass boarding action seminar (learn to fight with a cutlass) taught by expert John Lennox--in other words, a combination of authentic pirate history and contemporary pirate entertainment. See the advertising video here.
Forthcoming, Fair Winds Press, October 2011, or at least it was until recently (see below): The Great Pirate Legends Debunked: Uncovering the Truth About History's Most Notorious Pirates (working title). The book will expose the truth behind the greatest pirate myths and misconceptions.
Quarto Group, corporate owners of the Fair Winds imprint, has frozen its history lines. Publication of this book--for all practical purposes ready to go to press--by Fair Winds is therefore unknown and frankly in serious doubt. That being said, I have enjoyed working with Fair Winds and my relationship with the people I've worked with there remains positive and very amicable, although I'm obviously not impressed with Quarto Group's business decision. (Quarto Group did not respond to a friend's delightful email noting among other things that "you must see that to remove history from your catalog is to remove a certain gravitas from your business...") Assuming Fair Winds does not publish the book--the anticipated publication date has disappeared from Amazon--I'll be pitching it for a sale to coincide with the reversion of rights to me. It is, if I may say so, a pretty good book! In the meantime, on to other works. Readers may direct their ire to the Quarto Group. Interested agents and publishers may contact me directly. In the meantime, here's hoping Fair Winds gets the go ahead to continue with publication.
Update, July 14, 2011: It appears that the Fair Winds history line is truly being dropped, and that I will be able to carry the manuscript to another publisher. I'll update this page and the Events page as the manuscript's status changes.
Update, August 8, 2011: I have the formal release of rights to me in-hand, and am actively seeking another publisher.
The Buccaneer's Realm and Pirate Hunting are now also available in Kindle and Nook editions. The Sea Rover's Practice has long had a Kindle edition and now also has a Nook edition, and How History's Greatest Pirates... has been available in a variety of electronic editions.
On the "Deadliest Warriors" panel with (on left) Anthony De Longis and David Baker. Not seen are Kendall Wells and Luke Lafountain.
CombatCon, June 25-26--Where Fantasy Meets Reality. Or, as the organizers put it, "The times that were, the times that are, and the times that may be...and how to kick butt in all of them!" Western martial arts, pirates, fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, and horror, with classes and presentations by experts in their fields, including by more than half a dozen Hollywood fight choreographers. I presented as a 'Featured Guest' on the subject of piracy. In Las Vegas, June 25-26, 2011. Check out the CombatCon website. I've posted a "post op" on the swordplay page. The convention brought together experts in Western martial arts together with Hollywood fight choreographers, many of whom are experts in these arts themselves.
Article in Issue 14 of Pirates Magazine, "In Defense of Alexandre Exquemelin: The Original and Eternal Buccaneer-Author." This issue will be featured at Barnes & Noble to coincide with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
"The Black Fencer in Western Swordplay," in American Fencing magazine, vol. 61, no. 1, Spring 2011. The article notes the significant contributions of black swordsmen of the past four centuries. Western fencing has often been considered a "white" art, science, and sport, especially through the 1960s and even to some degree today, but it has been anything but.
"How to Live Like a Pirate--Without the Murder and Mayhem," in Interesting Times #6, February 2011.
The Great Pirate Legends Debunked: Uncovering the Truth About History's Most Notorious Pirates is available for pre-order on Amazon as of February 16, 2011. Estimated publication date is October 1, 2011.
Available November 23 from Fair Winds Press: How History's Greatest Pirates Pillaged, Plundered, and Got Away With It. Available everywhere January 1, 2011.
My many thanks to Wayne Glenn and the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville for inviting me to speak on November 10 on the subject of piracy as a business model. The membership gave me a friendly reception, and I was impressed both by their warm manner and their humanitarian service projects.
Article in issue 13 of Pirates Magazine, on pirate language real and imagined: "The Language of Pirates."
A supplementary note in advance of the article: regarding Isla de Muerto in the Bay of Guayaquil, an island more commonly known in the 17th century as Santa Clara, the name derives from its shape. Some of the Hacke copies of the famous captured Spanish derrotero or chart book note that the island "at a distance apears like a corps in a shroud” and "like the corps of a man in a shroud." Buccaneer adventurer William Dampier also noted that "it appears like a dead Man stretched out in a Shroud." From this would derive not only the island’s nickname, but also the myth that buccaneers massacred some of a Spanish treasure ship's crew there. In fact, the buccaneers never saw the ship. See the August 12, 2010 "Pieces of Eight" entry on the Commentary & News page for more information about the treasure ship.
And another supplementary note: "Shiver my timbers" dates to at least 1795 where it is used in a play entitled Opposition. See The Tomahawk! or, Censor General, January 6, 1795.
Article on piracy in the major Swiss daily newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, mentioning Buccaneer's Realm.
Article, "The Origin of the Dread Pirate Banner, the Jolly Roger," in Pirates Magazine, available in bookstores and on newsstands. Ever wonder what the real origin of the Jolly Roger might be, beyond the usual, mostly incorrect, theories? Just a hint: "Roger" had more meanings than just the usual ones given...
The fact is, "joli rouge" had nothing to do with the origin of "jolly roger"--there are no historical references to the use of "joli rouge" for the French red banner correctly known as the "sans-quartier" or "pavillon rouge." Nor for that matter do any of several other popular theories have any support for their claims. A discussion of the origin of the "jolly roger" can also be found in Pirate Hunting. How History's Greatest Pirates... also has a brief discussion of pirate flags in the introduction, and also in the chapter on Ned Low.
Regarding a brief note in the article, in which I suggested that the skull and bones may have a Barbary corsair origin, I ran across an early seventeenth century account, posted on the Internet, that noted the death's head among Barbary rovers. It cites White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves by Giles Milton as the source.
Here's an online article from the British Telegraph about the restoration of a real pirate flag. Here's another link to the same flag, with a good photo of the actual flag, in the Daily Mail.
While working on chapters on Bartholomew Roberts and Edward Low for How History's Greatest Pirates..., I took a more detailed look at their flags. Low, Spriggs, and Harris flew identical flags, perhaps because they had sailed together (and I suspect Russel flew the same flag as well), and one of Roberts's flags seems to have been the foundation. We know that Spriggs and Roberts referred to their flags as the Jolly Roger, and Harris as "Old Roger." However, I am beginning to think that "Roger" was the common name for the "death"--the full figure of a skeleton--used on the flags, and thus for the flags themselves. It's easy to see a pirate telling a captured seamen or even his own captors that his flag is "Old Roger" or "Jolly Roger," for reasons I explain in the article. Hopefully soon I'll have depictions, based on actual descriptions, of many of these flags on the Pirate Hunting and How History's Greatest Pirates... pages.
Lectured on "Piracy as a Business Enterprise" (and for a few minutes on piracy in general) for the Huntsville Affiliate of the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) on February 11, 2010. My thanks to all for the warm reception.
Lectured on "Piracy from Antiquity to the Present Day" on February 3, 2010, at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. My thanks to Eleanor Carter and the OLLI for inviting me.
St. Lucie County TV: lecture on piracy given at the National Navy UDT-SEAL museum in September will be aired in January 2010, and will also be available for viewing online. My thanks to Mike Claus and the staff of St. Lucie County TV.
Spoke on November 19 in Huntsville, Alabama at J H Partners, an architecture firm with the excellent, even Renaissance, habit of inviting speakers not in any way associated with the firm's business or purpose. My thanks to Kathleen Maker and the entire staff of J H Partners.
Lectured on piracy and pirate hunting at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, Ft. Pierce, Florida on September 17. Both the audience and museum staff and volunteers were extraordinarily receptive, and have my utmost gratitude. The museum now houses the Maersk Alabama lifeboat, complete with bullet holes, in which Capt. Richard Philips was held hostage. Formal unveiling was September 14. A link to the museum is located in the right column.
Short article previewing the lecture, in the Vero Beach Press-Journal and TCPALM (Florida's Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches). Online video of the lecture available via St. Lucie County television.
The Sea Rover's Practice was reviewed on strategypage.com. Noteworthy is the point that SEAL Team experience brings a certain insight into pirate tactics, and that this experience coupled with the study of piracy may suggest solutions to the modern scourge of the sea, the Somali pirates. The review is available here and at NavySEALs.com. Excerpts of this and other reviews are available on The Sea Rover's Practice page.
"Scimitars, Swivel Guns, & Firepots: Digging for Pirates in Denmark," part two, published in No Quarter Given.
Piracy News and commentary separated from the Commentary page. Links to each are posted in the index at the top of the page.
The Sea Rover's Practice is now available in an Amazon.com Kindle edition.
The Sea Rover's Practice is discussed in a Washington ProFile article on modern piracy. The link is to the Russian version (an English version will be linked if and when available). A version translated by Google into English is available here under the title "Algorithms filibuster," and may also be accessed directly via Washington ProFile's website. Washington ProFile is a much reprinted Russian language Internet newspaper with a readership in the tens of millions.
December 16. Guest post on the subject of piracy versus terrorism on MountainRunner, a blog on public diplomacy and strategic communication. See also my commentary posts of October 7 and 19.
Nov-Dec. Provided technical advice on pirate weapons and tactics for an episode of the forthcoming Deadliest Warrior series on Spike TV.
Commentary section added to website.
"Scimitars, Swivel Guns, & Firepots: Digging for Pirates in Denmark," part one, published in No Quarter Given.
Author signed books at the Southern Kentucky (SOKY) Book Festival, April 19, 2008, and appeared on the "Murderous Queens, A Lost Continent, & Swashbuckling Pirates: Truth & Fiction in History" panel with authors David King, Robert A. Prather, and Robert McCammon. Mr. King is the author of Finding Atlantis and Vienna 1814, Mr. Prather of The Strange Case of Jonathan Swift and the Real Long John Silver, and Mr. McCammon of horror novels including Boy's Life, as well as the recent historical mysteries Speaks the Nightbird and The Queen of Bedlam.
Monthly (or mostly so) newsletter "News of Ships, Sailors, and the Sea" begun. Click on Sea News above to sign up or read past issues.
The Buccaneer's Realm: Pirate Life on the Spanish Main, 1674-1688 is available in hardcover by Potomac Books. Check bookstores, the publisher's website, or click on the FetchBook or BookFinder links for a list of online stores stocking The Buccaneer's Realm and The Sea Rover's Practice.
Author featured in a Huntsville Times article (September 20) by Ann Marie Martin.
Author discusses pirate tactics in The History Channel's "Pirates: Terror on the Mediterranean" episode of Digging for the Truth. The episode, originally intended as a two hour season opener, was moved to a slot later in the season, apparently due to the dropping of one of the hosts, which in turn required some footage to be re-shot. Unfortunately, this resulted in the episode being cut in half, leaving most of the Denmark footage, which included detailed demonstrations of swordplay, a swivel cannon, and incendiary firepots, on the floor.
The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730 is available in trade paperback.
Appeared in The History Channel's True Caribbean Pirates, first aired in July 2006.
"Tidewater Places and Pirates: A Visit to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown" published in No Quarter Given.
"Close Fights at Sea: Boarding Ship-to-Ship 1630-1730" and "A Brief Note on Powder Chests" published in No Quarter Given.
The Sea Rover's Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630-1730 is published in hardcover by Potomac Books.