The Devil's Anarchy

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the very remarkable travels of Jan Erasmus, reyning buccaneer

By rebelling against hierarchical society and living under the Jolly Roger, pirates created an upside-down world of anarchist organization and festival, with violence and death ever-present.

In The Devil's Anarchy, Stephen Snelders examines rare 17th-century Dutch pirate histories to show the continuity of a shared pirate culture, embodied in its modes of organization, methods of distributing booty and resolving disputes, and tendencies for high living.

Snelders paints a salty picture of the excesses, contradictions, and liberatory joys of pirate life.

Focusing on the careers of Claes Compaen, a cunning, charismatic renegado who claimed to have stolen more than 350 vessels, and Jan Erasmus Reyning, who hit the seas at age 12 and became a buccaneer in the pirate jungles of Santo Domingo, Snelders paints a salty picture of the excesses, contradictions, and liberatory joys of pirate life.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Second Edition

Preface, by Peter Lamborn Wilson

The Sea Robberies of the Most Famous Pirate Claes G. Compaen

The Other Loose Roving Way of Life: The Very Remarkable Travels of Jan Erasmus Reyning, Buccaneer


Memoirs of the buccaneers.

The Zeer Aanmerkelijke Reysen.

Young Jan Erasmus.

The making of a buccaneer.

Origins of the buccaneers.

Indian influences on the buccaneers.

Mulattos and negroes.

Buccaneer pirates.

Liberty, equality, and fraternity in the Brotherhood of the Coast.

The struggle for Tortuga and Jamaica.

Consequences of the conquest of Jamaica.

Customs of the coast.

Reyning's first voyage with the Brethren.

Partnership with Rock the Brazilian.

An evil Grail?

Atrocities of the buccaneers.

Leadership conflicts.

A hallucinatory way of life.

Reyning and Exquemelin.

The expedition to Panama.

The Brotherhood sets out.

San Lorenzo.

The conquest of Panama.


Trouble on Jamaica.

The end of a pirate.

The Devil's Anarchy: The Politics of Piracy

Hierarchy vs. Anarchy I.

The Golden Age of piracy.

The old, or Jolly, Roger.

A note on Captain Johnson.

Hierarchy vs. Anarchy II.

Anarchy vs. Democracy.

An eternal festival. A brotherhood of pirates. Violence, cruelty, and women. The politics of piracy.

Select Bibliography