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Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: An Awesome And Untold History Story

Updated on September 25, 2012

Unfortunately, the title of this book doesn't live up to its potential. Very few of the people profiled in this history book are actual Jewish pirates of the Spanish Main, striking fear into the hearts of Christian sailors with their bloody Magen David flags-- no matter how cool that sounds. Instead, although some notable Jewish pirates are mentioned (one was even a rabbi!), this is really more about Jewish and converso merchants and smugglers who simultaneously assisted the Spanish to begin their empire in the Americas and worked to bring it down from the inside by allying with the more religiously tolerant nations of the Netherlands and England to take the Spanish empire from the Spanish. Despite there not being many Jewish pirates in this book, it is still an incredibly interesting and little-known subject that its author, historian Edward Kritzler, has brought to light.

The one major flaw of the book is that Kritzler jumps around a bit, generally focusing on the activities going on in one particular New World colony or in the life of one Jewish merchant/smuggler, meaning that historical events are sometimes out of chronological order. He does provide a chronology in the back to make it a bit easier to keep things straight, however.

Kritzler's writing has some real personality, as well. He's able to make the people he's talking about seem alive and real, even though they all died centuries ago. He also quotes extensively, both from other secondary sources and a plentiful amount of primary ones, as well as a few documents he found himself as a part of his own research in dusty old archives in Jamaica. This makes his rather more extraordinary claims, such as the extreme importance Jews had at several turning points in the struggle for the Americas (for instance, how the English wouldn't have been able to win Jamaica from the Spanish if it wasn't for the aid of secret Jews who had been living there since the time of Columbus), seem all the more possible. This extends even to something that he believe but admits most other scholars do not, that being the existence of a secret gold mine in Jamaica possibly discovered by Columbus himself, which was used by the hidden Jews of Jamaica to tempt an English invasion but was never found. Kritzler is able to present significant evidence that while the mine was never found, there's still a good possibility it's there somewhere.

All in all, this is an interesting book chronicling a fascinating part of history that more mainstream historical books skip over. If you're interested in the Age of Discovery, the Age of Piracy, Judaica or historical urban legends, this is the book for you. Definitely check it out if you find it.

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