Piracy has existed since men first took to the seas to trade. Yet pirates' careers were rarely the swashbuckling epics seen in the movies. Usually they lasted no more than two or three years and often ended ignominiously at the end of a rope. Nigel Cawthorne brings this perilous world to life with a breathtaking history of piracy in all its forms, and examines in detail the exciting lives of its more notorious characters. Based on contemporaneous accounts from the point of view of both pirates and their victims, it is a gripping account of men and women who chose to live their lives outside the law.