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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean [Anglais] [Broché]

B. R. Burg

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.2 étoiles sur 5  26 commentaires
230 internautes sur 280 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Arrgh mateys 9 septembre 2000
Par shoeboy - Publié sur
Ahoy me fine salty sailors. If ye be lookin for gripping adventure on the high seas, this be the book for ye. It hoisted me mizzen mast and shivered me timbers, Yar! If you've ever wondered exactly what to do with a drunken sailor, this is the book for you. The author, Barry Richard Burg is a great expert on seamen and it really shows through. I was dissapointed to find that the nautical phrase "a three days blow" didn't mean what I thought it did, but the author's loving descriptions of how these pirates would oil each other up with whale blubber and lash each other with the cat o' nine tails more than made up for it. I'm tempted to go summon my cockswain, rent "The Pirate Movie", then kick back and mourn the passing of the days when burly pirates would start their day by opening the seacock and pumping furiously. Customers who bought titles by Barry Richard Burg also bought titles by J. K. Rowling -- coincidence? I think not.
48 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Dry and speculative 2 août 2002
Par J. P. Anderson - Publié sur
While there are certainly some interesting tidbits here and there, WAY too much of the book is of the form "since no records survive to show X is false, and those records that do exist are compromised in the following ways ..., we may assume that X is true."
Chapter One is a 40-page example of this; it can safely be skipped, as it is summarized in the first few words of Chapter Two: "Seventeenth-century Englishmen on all status levels were remarkably indulgent with homosexuality."
Those with only a casual interest in the subject should skim Chapters Two and Three and read the last two chapters, Buccaneer Sexuality and The Buccaneer Community. These chapters hold most of what you're probably reading the book for. Here are the bits about pirates and sex. Unfortunately, they are usually only a sentence or two long. Burg uses the little stories to construct an argument, not a narrative.
This last comment is not a criticism; he's clearly not setting out to tell a tale of high-seas adventure. (If you want this, go back to Melville.) A criticism: Burg often seems to overreach in the conclusions he draws from his sources (or lack of sources).
What looks to be a more satisfying read is "Gay Warriors," edited by the same author. This is an anthology of original sources from Homer to the present day, on the topic of "gays in the military."
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 excellent scholarly study of the social conditions that led men and boys to become pirates 20 décembre 2011
Par Rachel Klingberg - Publié sur
This was an excellent scholarly study of the social conditions that led men and boys to become pirates. The previous title was "Sodomy and the Perception of Evil," which is probably more apt. It's rather a shame that such a well-researched, scholarly book may be mistaken for a larkish commentary on gay pirates. The author is aware of this, and in fact many of his fellow researchers refused to be acknowledged by name, unwilling to be associated with a topic that is still controversial. What a shame that respectable historians whose research happens to include the topic of sodomy should remain anonymous, as if they are authors of pornography. This book is anything but prurient. Only one chapter deals directly with buccaneer sexuality, as much as it is possible to do so with so little documentation. The author does manage to unearth some truly obscure references and I don't think any historian could possibly know more about pirate sexuality, a topic which is inherently difficult to research because of the low literacy rates in the 16-18th centuries, and the inherent unwillingness of people to document intimate sexual details, particularly those relating to homosexual acts.

However the rest of the book is more of a history of the economic and social conditions that drove men to piracy, often involuntarily. Military "press gangs" forced men into naval service, and many escaped to pirate ships where they had more freedom and more financial gain than in the navy. Pirates themselves often forced their captives to become pirates at the threat of death. The romantic image of freedom-loving pirates is far from the truth. Many were thieves and killers and yet, most were no worse than many naval men and must be considered within the context of the social mores of the time in which they lived, a time in which corporal punishment, slavery, looting, and harsh treatment of children was fairly typical.

The author is primarily concerned with "situational" or "opportunistic" homosexual acts such as found in male-only prisons, jails, naval ships, and boarding schools. As such he does not write about homosexuality in the modern sense - a concept which did not exist in the age of piracy. His topic is actually relationships between men, whether they are friendships, sexual interaction, business partnerships and occassionally, romance. Especially fascinating are his sections on the gangs of homeless children that roamed England until the social reforms of the Victorian era. Children of the poor were often driven out to fend for themselves as young as 8 years old, generally because of economic necessity. Parents simply couldn't feed or care for them, and typically had many more youngsters that needed their attention. To a modern perspective, this is absolutely heartless, but given a choice between starving their infants and starving their 8- or 9-year-olds, parents had no choice but to focus their resources on the youngest, and bands of these unwanted children roved England, stealing and finding whatever work they could. These gangs were largely male and the author theorizes that many later became pirates and retained the opportunistic homosexuality they learned in these bands of boys.

The author writes extensively on sodomy and the law, and from that perspective, this book is a very well-researched history of such laws and correspondingly, how the social response to homosexual acts has changed throughout the years. His basic argument is that sodomy was only deemed a serious crime and moral sin late in the 19th century, and that, in previous centuries, it was regarded more as a peccadillo akin to adultery, considerably less serious than rape. He does not address how sodomy transitioned from a minor transgression to the mortal sin and unspeakable crime it became in the late 19th century, perhaps because this era is is beyond the age of sail with which his book is concerned. My own view, not necessarily the author's, is that the Christian notion of sin changed a great deal over the centuries, and corporal sin such as lust began to be regarded as far more serious than a sin of attitude such as avarice. In the Middle Ages, lust was a fairly minor transgression, and except in cases of adultery or sexual assault, was not thought to cause much harm to any but the parties involved. It was the subject of much comic theatre and poetry, and probably regarded with less consternation than it is today. By the Victorian era, lust and sodomy were regarded as dreadfully serious moral transgressions, and the law changed accordingly to make sodomy punishable by death and later, by years of hard labor.

I wish the author had written more about why social and legal attitudes about sodomy changed, but he simply states that they did and leaves it at that. Nonetheless, his book is exceptionally well-researched and includes many citations from rare documents and letters, some of which I am sure have never before been published. As an overview of sodomy and the law in the 16th-19th centuries, and as social history of piracy and the daily life aboard a pirate ship, this is a superb book.
24 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Well, it did happen, so there!! 7 décembre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur
One needs to take their hat off to Mr. Burg for an excellent book of the life and times of English family life in the 17th and 18th Centuries. He certainly searched through qiute a lot of archival material to find many of the accounts contained within this unique book. Cats who are abandoned are known as feral cats and are not, as rule very sociable. So who would have believed that children (both boys and girls) would be asked to leave their homes at a very young age and fend for themselves? Who would have believed that society would have turned a blind eye to sodomy, or in many cases, pederasty? It is worth noting that since these "feral" boys had probably never seen or had known about heterosexual sex between two consenting adults, sex to these boys was probably considered a rite of initiation, or at other times, a recreational pastime at best. There were two entries within Burg's book which I found to be of special note. When a pirate ship seized a merchant ship in the Indian Ocean, the ship was borded, the crew was murdered and the only woman on the ship was tossed into the ocean. She was probably seen as a piece of worthless baggage in the pirate's eyes. In another instance, a sixteen year old from England (John Durrant) was engaged in sexual activity with a Hindu man (Abdul Rhyme). The incident happened in plain view of the other pirates and was considered normal behavior. But since John Durrant should have realized that a Christian should not have intimate relationships with heathens, both he and his "lover" were punished for his indiscretion upon the ship's arrival in England. They were sentenced to 40 lashes, with an administration of water and salt applied to their wounds. They were fed bread and water for an unknown period of time, and the punishment was repeated with 10 lashes. For someone looking for a first or second person account of sex between boys, or worse yet, between a boy and a man, this book is not for you. "Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition" is a carefully researched, historical sociology book-specifically about the lives of some married couples who saw their children as young adults, and not as the unique and cherished people which they truly are.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Six Problems with "Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition" 4 septembre 2013
Par Earl R. Anderson - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
No formal study is needed to realize that 17th-century life on a pirate ship would have included homosexuality; most often in the form of cabin boys raped by their captains and young sailors importuned by seasoned mariners. No evidence of this exists for 17th-century pirates, but a case can by made by analogy to 18th-century maritime cases and to modern prisons. Burg draws a larger picture, of a "pirate community" stocked with lifelong romantic companions, based on analogies and deductions. The lack of empirical evidence is a problem, of course; and there are six others, which Burg fails to address.

First, homophobia is the typical condition of homosocial groups, especially in close quarters. Burg never mentions this problem.

Second, the problem of toleration (pp. 1-41). Anyone who studies Old Bailey records will know that prosecutions for sodomy were scarce before the 1720s, and then gradually increased and erupted into intermittent but virulent anti-sodomy campaigns in London during the 1740s through the 80s. Burg assumes that earlier, in 17th-century England, an air of toleration allowed sodomy to flourish; but there may be other reasons for the dearth of court cases. Maybe the Magistrates discouraged sodomy-prosecutions because they were tawdry and often trumped up, in a culture where the threat of "calling sodomy" was a device in the extortionist's criminal tool-kit. Men who were accused of sodomy were also accused of rape, pederasty, masturbation, exhibitionism, bestiality with a mare or a mule, and political or religious thought-crimes. (Some men, indeed, were accused of all of the above.) Sodomy was included in these legal "pile-ons" not because it was considered a minor offense (as Burg says), but because in popular belief, sodomites must also be rapists, pederasts, and bestialists. A more interesting question, not addressed by Burg, is why sodomy-prosecutions were rare in the Colonies, even during the 1740s through the 80s, during times when a man accused of sodomy in Old Bailey was virtually always condemned to hang at Tyburn (I know of none who were acquitted). In some cases, details are recorded in trial transcripts, and often the details are patently fictional. It is quite possible that half the men hanged for sodomy were innocent of this act, but they were caught up in an anti-sodomite reign of terror. The real question (my point here) does not concern toleration (there was none). The real question is this: what happened in the 1740s (or thereabouts) that opened the Old Bailey floodgates to sodomy-prosecutions?

Third, the problem of "acquired homosexuality" (pp. 43-68): Burg's thesis is that pirates recruited younger generations of sodomites from the ranks of homeless children, who were "conditioned" by them to share this lifestyle, which they continued to practice later in life. In 1983 when "Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition" was first published, many scholars still thought that homosexuality could be taught and learned; but in 1994, when others knew better, Burg wrote an Introduction to the new edition that concentrated on the politics of toleration, while ignoring the well-known fact of genetic transmission, which, of course, is fatal to his portrait of a vast sodomitic buccaneer "community" based on pirate-apprenticeship. Burg never mentions Plato, but why do we get the feeling that we're trapped in the pages of "Symposium"?

Fourth, Burg's hypothesis--that pirates were recruited from the ranks of homeless children in England--is not supported by the extant biographies of historical pirates. Daniel Defoe, in his "General History of the Pyrates" (1724), tells as much as can be known about the childhood of fifty or more pirate-leaders and crew-members (mostly in the early 18th century). Their backgrounds were diverse, but not one of them is said to have belonged to a band of homeless beggar-children. Most of them had at least some sort of apprenticeship and a rudimentary education. (Daniel Defoe, in his "General History of the Pyrates" [1724] remarks, it is true, that Captain Walter Kennedy was illiterate and had been a pickpocket as a boy.) Some became pirates to escape the Navy. Others were privateers or merchant-sailors who turned to piracy because it was more profitable. Burg's recruitment-scenario for pirates is entirely fictional.

Fifth, one must question the very existence of a pirate "community." In fact the boundaries between piracy, privateering, slave-trading, and honest commercial sailing were quite fluid, and it was not unusual for a sailor to pass from one of these enterprises to another and back again in the course of his life. The notion of "community" might be applied to the Navy because of its formal command-structure, and to whaling because of its prerequisite of specialized training and skills--but not to piracy, privateering, slave-trading, or commercial sailing.

Sixth, the notion of a pirate ship as a "love boat" is brought into question by the fact that sailors slept in hammocks in barrack-like environments. The maritime sodomy-trials cited from court records (pp. 107-52) disclose only boys buggered by unpopular sea-captains: episodes of imposition or rape, differing little from modern prisons. Burg begs the question when he asserts that the boys were willing participants who knew what they had signed up for. He quotes from Melville's "Moby-Dick" in a gleeful QED, and it is true that Queequeg and Ishmael became lovers at the Spouter-Inn in New Bedford; but he fails to notice that aboard the Pequod, they were no longer active as lovers, and in fact grew somewhat distant, possibly because Queequeg, as a master-harpooner, had specialized duties and outranked Ishmael. In Melville's representation (and he is a sympathetic witness), life aboard ship was no inducement to romance. Sailors in love would be more likely to partner in a harbor than at sea.

One of the texts that Burg discusses (briefly, at p. 125) is Defoe's comment on a charter drawn up by the pirate crew of Bartholomew Roberts. Defoe quotes eleven articles of this charter, and notes that the original document was thrown overboard, leaving "a great deal of Room to suspect, the Remainder contained something too horrid to be disclosed to any, except such as were willing to be Sharers in the Iniquity of them; let them be what they will, they were together the Test of all new Comers, who were initiated by an Oath taken on a Bible, reserved for that Purpose only, and were subscribed to in Presence of the worshipful Mr. Roberts." Throughout Defoe's "General History" it is clear that pirate crews recruited new members from the ranks of ships that they captured. Sailors aboard those ships were variously killed, set to sea in a flimsy boat, set ashore on a deserted or hostile island, or allowed to join the pirate crew. Defoe is silent about the pirates' initiation ceremony. What was "too horrid to be disclosed"? My guess is that in their initiation, sailors who joined the crew were sodomized by one or more pirates. This, too, is no gay romance; it is an assault by heterosexual men on other men.

This leaves us where we started, on pirate ships where random acts of sodomitic imposition and rape would have been tolerated or ignored by other crew-members, and where a small number of genuinely gay liaisons had to be kept hidden from a crew that would have responded to their disclosure with contempt and violence; but still, the only reason for thinking so is that this would have been typical of a homosocial group living in close quarters. No direct evidence of pirates-as-lovers has been found, nor is likely to be.
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