- Tapa blanda: 262 páginas
- Editor: NYU Press; Edición: 2 Rev ed (1 de marzo de 1995)
- Colección: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0814712363
- ISBN-13: 978-0814712368
- Valoración media de los clientes: Sé el primero en opinar sobre este producto
- Clasificación en los más vendidos de Amazon: nº570.199 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros (Ver el Top 100 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros)
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Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean, Second Edition (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 1 mar 1995
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Descripción del producto
"Burg puts historians to shame by raising extremely interesting questions that no one before had asked." -Christopher Hill,New York Review of Books "A great . . . very interesting book." -Johnny Depp
Reseña del editor
Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children's tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride.
In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice.
In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed.Ver Descripción del producto
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In the extensive discussion on historical context, there seems a degree of selective use of example in articulating the attitudes of society toward homosexuality and homosexual behaviour. At times it feels a bit like the author is bending history to his message rather than concluding his message from an unbiased assessment of history. There are two examples worth noting. In the discussion of Mervin Touchet, Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven, his conviction and execution, the author does not extend the discussion to the others involved in the case or point out that they too were executed, perhaps as with Castlehaven not simply for sodomy but this point is left unclear since unaddressed. A second example is the discussion of a pamphlet entitled A Full and True Account of a Dreadful Fire that Lately Broke Out in the Popes Breeches. This the author identifies as anti-clerical rather than anti-homosexual, but nowhere in the discussion is the definition extended to clarify that it in fact relates to a rumoured affair between the well-known wife of the British consul to Venice and the Pope. Perhaps this doesn't detract from the point that the publication is not anti-homosexual, but it does provide better context to see the homosexual element of the pamphlet being used as a satirical and shaming tool in pillorying an actual pope and an actual lady about a known rumour rather than a generic anti-clerical rant.
This leads to the next point of concern, the absence of discussion of the significance of homosexuality as a source of humour and the similarity of this between 17th/18th century England and late 20th century Britain and America. It is a widely known and discussed fact that the humorous use of homosexual references in late 20th century Britain and America was often intended to humiliate and ridicule homosexual acts and homosexuality and those involved in it. It seems from the examples cited in this book to be similar in this respect to the manifestation of homosexual reference in literature, satire, theatre and account in 17th and 18th century England. This does challenge the assertion that homosexuality was more normal and tolerated as a part of 17th/18th Century English life than the late 20th century condemnation within the military, scouts and other institutions. But, this perspective is not addressed in this book. Further to this, there is an interpretation that could be made of the proven preference for 17th and 18th century English courts to be satisfied prosecuting attempted sodomy rather than the more serious sodomy and the equally proven mild penalty upon most convictions that this reflects a powerful component of shame or social damage that makes more severe conviction or punishment redundant. This too is not discussed.
In the discussion of the factors leading a man or boy to choose long distance sea voyage with its well understood characteristic of entirely male companionship over countless months or years, the motivation of escape and freedom of lifestyle is not adequately discussed. For the most part, the implication of a tolerant English society implies this decision is about a man or boy choosing to immerse himself in a homosexual lifestyle - almost gratuitously since the author argues that homosexual lifestyle was not severely curtailed in England at this time. There is another explanation, much more consistent with late 20th and early 21st century society, that this was about achieving freedoms to be oneself and not hide one's homosexuality. As such, it could be viewed as a means of escaping social persecution in England by entering a society embracing homosexuality. This may be particularly the case within a non-Catholic country with fewer segregated male communities and institutions than catholic countries would have offered without long sea voyage.
A great deal of energy is spent discussing the association of cabin boys and similar with individual, older sailors and this evidence of homosexual or paedophilic preferences of more experienced or leading seamen. It is discussed mostly in terms of an execution of a power balance and compared to late 20th century prison populations in this respect. Whilst this argument is well presented and there is no reason to question it, a further explanation necessary for consideration has been ignored. It is clear from the data provided by the author that a percentage of pirates were heterosexual and may have had homosexual encounters as a matter of necessity or desperation. It is reasonable to consider - if for no other reason than to disprove - that the androgynous physic of male youth, being closer to the feminine ideal than the average seaman may be expected to have been, was a more palatable compromise for this heterosexual minority.
These observations lead me to conclude that in writing this book, the author may have feared that without building up a very solid foundation of context, his argument and conclusion would not be accepted. Again, in the contexts of 1983 and 1995 this may be fair and an acceptable explanation for the concerns I raise above.
Other than this, the only minor criticism of the work itself is a degree of repetition of facts that makes it seem that part of the book was originally written as articles and consolidated with insufficient editing.
I emphasize that these observations do not detract from the important message of this book that contrary to the pulp-fiction myth of the highly sexed, heterosexual pirate fighting ferocious sea battles in search of gold, jewels and fair maiden women to be devoured, the reality of these characters is evidently far more inclined to ravish the house boy than the mistress even if through misogyny, distrust, disgust or simple convenience the mistress will have been done away with quickly if not so cruelly as well. This book is a must read for anyone seriously interested in understanding the dynamic of the pirate lifestyle and the history which has become so oddly warped in its integration to mainstream 20th and 21st century western culture. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject generally and would expect it to be familiar to anyone wishing to speak seriously about Caribbean piracy.
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"  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.