Born to Be Hanged Audio Book Review

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

Authored by Keith Thomson, Narrated by Feodor Chin

Audiobook, 9 hours and 41 minutes

Published by Little, Brown and Company, May 2022

Language: English


During the last half of the 17th century several European countries competed for dominance and riches in the New World, principal among these were the maritime countries of Spain, England, and France.  These countries established colonies and began to extract resources from the Americas, the most well known today being the shipments of Gold and Silver extracted by the Spanish.  The wealth contained in Spanish galleons and within Spanish settlements soon attracted the unwelcome attention of Privateers and Pirates seeking fortune and glory.  Thus began the Golden Age of Piracy.

This is the story of a group of 300 Englishmen who in 1680 embarked on an adventure to liberate Spanish Gold which spanned more than two years and both coasts of South America.  While the traditional stereotype of pirates involves seizing ships on the high seas, many of the objectives of this group involved trekking overland to attack Spanish settlements, often with the aid of native populations in the area.  One of the local Kings issued a Letter of Marque authorizing the group to act on his behalf and rescue his daughter, who was held in a Spanish fortress which conveniently was also used to mine and store Gold and Silver.

This a sprawling adventure.  The pirates captured settlements and ships.  They fought the Spanish, natives, and at times each other.  They survived adversity in the jungle and on the sea.  Their alliances were democratic, if things went against their fortunes they might hold a munity which would be considered more of a vote of no confidence today, the deposed leader either remaining with the company or parting ways along with his supporting faction.

Perhaps the most surprising element of this book is author Keith Thompson was able to draw on five surviving journals or books which were written by members of the group, along with official Spanish and English records.  A very literate group of buccaneers indeed!  Four members of the group were tried in England, where the legal distinction between a Pirate (operating independently) and a Privateer (operating on behalf of a government) could mean the difference between a hero’s welcome and a noose.  This is a very engaging book, enriched with details and observations from the pirates themselves.  Recommended.


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