A riveting account of the roguish acts of the first pirates to raid the Pacific—a crusade that ended in a sensational trial back in England.
The year is 1680, in the heart of the Golden Age of Piracy, and more than three hundred daring, hardened pirates—a potent mix of low-life scallywags and a rare breed of gentlemen buccaneers—gather on a remote Caribbean island. The plan: to wreak havoc on the Pacific coastline, raiding cities, mines, and merchant ships. The booty: the bright gleam of Spanish gold and the chance to become a legend. So begins one of the greatest piratical adventures of the era—a story not given its full due until now.
Inspired by the intrepid forays of pirate turned Jamaican governor, Captain Henry Morgan—yes, that Captain Morgan—the company, primarily Englishmen, set out to cross Panama on foot, slashing their way through the Darien isthmus, one of the thickest jungles on the planet, and liberating a native princess along the way. After reaching the South Sea, the buccaneers plunder the Spanish Main in a series of historic assaults, often prevailing against staggering odds and superior firepower. A collective shudder wracks the western coastline of South America, as the English pirates, waging a kind of proxy war against the Spaniards, gleefully undertake a brief reign over Pacific waters, marauding up and down the continent.

With novelistic prose and a rip-roaring sense of adventure, Keith Thomson guides us through the pirates’ legendary two-year expedition. We witness the buccaneers evading indigenous tribes, Spanish conquistadors, and sometimes even their own English countrymen, all with the ever-present threat of the gallows for anyone captured. By fusing contemporaneous accounts with intensive research and previously unknown primary sources, Born to Be Hanged offers a rollicking account of one of the most astonishing pirate stories ever told.

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“What a rollicking ride! Born to Be Hanged is serious narrative history delivered as gripping entertainment, with all the panache of an adventure novel. Keith Thomson unspools the excesses and escapades of the high seas in what we come to see is truly the Golden Age of Piracy. From the signing of the buccaneers’ initial charter to their life-or-death trial back in England two years later, I followed every battle, chase, and standoff with rapt attention. Thomson not only brings the seventeenth century to life in vivid detail; he weaves his humor and keen observations into the character studies of the pirates themselves. This book is a riveting historical delight not to be missed.”

Keith O’Brien, author of the New York Times bestseller Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
Born to Be Hanged is swashbuckling narrative nonfiction at its best. Thomson skillfully weaves in the history and geopolitics of the period even as he puts the reader in the middle of an action-packed thriller that does not let up. By the end of this myth-busting, stranger-than-fiction tale, I wanted to raise a tankard of rum and toast the death-defying adventures of the greatest buccaneers of the seventeenth-century.”—James L. Swanson, author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer
Born to Be Hanged is a thrilling tale of piracy in the South Seas, replete with pitched and bloody battles, treasure hoards, a daring rescue, violent storms, shifting allegiances, mutiny, and a dubious trial. It is full of so many fascinating details and surprising twists and turns that you will not want to put it down until the very end. A wonderful contribution to the history of piracy, and a welcome addition to every pirate lover's library.”—Eric Jay Dolin, bestselling author of Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates
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