Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia
‘A characteristically radical re-reading of history that places the social and political experiments of pirates at the heart of the European Enlightenment. A brilliant companion volume to the best-selling Dawn of Everything’ Amitav Ghosh
The Enlightenment did not begin in Europe. Its true origins lie thousands of miles away on the island of Madagascar, in the late seventeenth century, when it was home to several thousand pirates. This was the Golden Age of Piracy, a period of violent buccaneering and rollicking legends – but it was also, argues anthropologist David Graeber, a brief window of radical democracy, as the pirate settlers attempted to apply the egalitarian principles of their ships to a new society on land.
For Graeber, Madagascar’s lost pirate utopia represents some of the first stirrings of Enlightenment political thought. In this jewel of a book, he offers a way to ‘decolonize the Enlightenment’, demonstrating how this mixed community experimented with an alternative vision of human freedom, far from that being formulated in the salons and coffee houses of Europe. Its actors were Malagasy women, merchants and traders, philosopher kings and escaped slaves, exploring ideas that were ultimately to be put into practice by Western revolutionary regimes a century later.
Pirate Enlightenment playfully dismantles the central myths of the Enlightenment. In their place comes a story about the magic, sea battles, purloined princesses, manhunts, make-believe kingdoms, fraudulent ambassadors, spies, jewel thieves, poisoners and devil worship that lie at the origins of modern freedom.
A characteristically radical re-reading of history that places the social and political experiments of pirates at the heart of the European Enlightenment. A brilliant companion volume to the best-selling Dawn of Everything. -- Amitav Ghosh A genius... blazingly original, stunningly wide-ranging, impossibly well read. * The Atlantic * A thinker who revolutionises the way we see the world and helps us reimagine the things we once took for granted. * New Statesman * PRAISE FOR THE DAWN OF EVERYTHING: Iconoclastic and irreverent ... an exhilarating read. -- David Priestland * The Guardian * Pacey and potentially revolutionary ... This is more than an argument about the past, it is about the human condition in the present. -- Bryan Appleyard * Sunday Times * Blazing with iconoclastic rebuttals to conventional wisdom. Full of fresh thinking, it's a pleasure to read and offers a bracing challenge on every page. -- Simon Sebag Montefiore * BBC History * This is not a book. This is an intellectual feast. -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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