The Pirates of Malabar
Introduction by FWP
"With few exceptions, the English pirates came from the American colonies. Every year, from New York, Boston, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, ships were fitted out, nominally for the slave trade, though it was no secret that they were intended for piracy in the Eastern seas." (--Chapter I)
If you've never thought of New York and New England as breeding grounds for early piracy in Malabar; if you've never thought of European and Indian pirates as  members of a single (though ramified) species; if you've never really reflected on the nitty-gritty of life in western India during the late Mughal empire-- well, here's some raw material to stimulate your imagination. This matter-of-fact account of bloody, chancy, reckless, and often gallant deeds of derring-do between pirates and pirate-hunters is not only informative, but a real treat to read. The wild sea battles are one side of the coin-- and the constant behind-the-scenes machinations by rulers, administrators, and merchants are the other side. Together they helped to shape colonial (and modern) South Asia.

We owe this etext, and so many more, to Project Gutenbert: their plain-vanilla version, *ebook 11399*, was the platform on which my version was built. As editor, I have broken many long paragraphs into shorter ones, and have sometimes adjusted the punctuation for clarity. But not a single word of the text has been changed; my editorial annotations appear only within square brackets.

It may seem strange that I've included the *Index*, even though it doesn't provide any page numbers (and I'm not about to go through and hyperlink it). But it's such an exceptionally fine and logical creation that it might be of use to people as a way of knowing whether something or someone they're interested in is mentioned in the book at all, even if they then have to look for the entry on their own.

All the way through I was asking myself, where is the Englishwoman in India? She finally appeared, rather thinly documented, mostly in a final appendix-like chapter of her own. I think her story is really just puffed up beyond its available materials in order to catch the reader's attention. Perhaps the author decided that anybody who wasn't interested in pirates might be interested in Englishwomen. But who knows? And who cares? The Englishwoman is a fine historical study, to the extent that we can know her. And of course the vigorous wheelings and dealings of the whole colorful cast-- the pirates, the captains, the local rulers, the adventurers, the merchants-- are more than enough in themselves.

Fran Pritchett
June 2006


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