A Manhunt on the 17th Centurys High Seas

The Book Review


Steven. Johnson joins US now. He is the author of many books many bestselling books including farsighted. And how we got to now but he joins us to talk about. His latest book is called enemy of all mankind. A true story of piracy power and Histories. First Global Manhunt Steven. Thanks for being here but much having me. There are lots of exciting terms just in your title and subtitle alone. I WANNA start with those even though and we'll talk about this. There's a larger story that you want to tell with this book but let's begin with piracy because that's a fun word. What happened on September Eleventh? Sixteen Ninety Five. There's a kind of interesting bleak poetry to the fact that this happened on September eleventh. Basically the events that are at the center of the book is a clash at sea in the Indian Ocean between pilot. Ship led by a very mysterious figure who would become the most notorious criminal in the world. A guy named Henry Avery and a much larger Indian treasure ship whose name was anglicized as the gun sway and the translation of that into English is excessive treasurer or exceeding treasure. So they were being pretty conspicuous with maiming. This vessel in terms of the of treasurer on board and effectively. These two ships confront each other on September eleven sixty ninety five by all rights. The pirate ship should have been easily overpowered but to incredibly unlikely things happen a cannon onboard board that Indian ship explodes because of some kind of malfunctioning design which basically turns cannon into a bomb when it explodes in so instantly. There's this you know. Many people on Indian ship killed the deck catches on fire. And at the same time. The first cannon fire from the pirate ship manages to have this incredibly lucky shot where they split the main mast of the Indian chip in two which effectively disables at in in the water and so the pirates are able to board the ship they pull off this heist that in today's currency we be would be worth as much as one hundred million dollars so it makes one of the most lucrative crime some in the history of crime and triggers a global crisis that reverberates around the world. Okay before we get to that crisis because you would wonder why one active piracy would do that. Just general picture of the piracy problem at that time. I'm always taken aback by the way that pirates are these cute Nara dwells in children's picture books or like Johnny Depp for many people. But that's not what piracy was back. Then what did it looked like? And was this unusual. Well actually one of the origin points to this project for me was years and years ago. I mean something like fifteen years ago. When my kids were very young we went to Disneyworld and we went on the pirates of the Caribbean ride and it was right after nine eleven and I had this on. I was floating down this little canals. That ride songs are being song and everything. That's very Kelly. The that the pirates were the terrorists of the seventeen hundreds and sixteen hundreds right. They were these terrifying figures would show up out of nowhere and burn your village down and attack. The women and people lived in fear of them. Here was three hundred years later. And it's just a kind of a children's story so they'll link between pirates and terrorism. Which is something that runs kind of subtly through enemy of all mankind actually began on that. Disneyworld ride in some ways. But what's historically really important about pirates at this point in history and one of the reasons why this particular story has so much significance. I think is up until this point. There was a very blurry line in terms of the legitimacy of piracy so there was this other class of occupation. That was called being a a private here. And if you were a privateer from all outside appearances you're a pirate attacking other ships and stealing their treasure and doing all these atrocious things that seat. But as long as you weren't attacking if you were a British privateer as long as you weren't attacking British ships. You're within the zone of and people like Francis. Drake a couple of generations before Henry Avery. When often basically we live the life of piracy but then came back to England and was knighted and bought a giant estate and lived a completely legitimate lifestyle. And so in a sense what happens to this period because of crime for reasons we can get into. It's a turning point where the British crown finally has to take a stand against piracy. They have to basically announced to the world that they're not a nation of pirates the way they've been accused to be. Let's talk about what made this pirate attack so noteworthy. Obviously there was the hall but were there other things that made this a big deal at the time. There are a couple of big ones. I is the other element of the crime. This ship that they attacked was a ship that had been doing business and ports of call like Mocha in the red seat but it was also filled with religious pilgrims coming back from Mecca on a whole other level was kind of a Muslim like religious transport vessel as well and among those pilgrims were a significant number of women women in the Royal Court of Aranda. Who was the great grand mogul of India? The last of the moguls and this was an unusual thing. At the time right you would not see a lot of big vessels in sixteen ninety five. That had a significant number of women on board but there are all these female pilgrims on board and so when the pirates attack the guns way they find these women there and number of the pirates rape the women on board. Some of the women commit suicide jumping overboard to avoid being attacked. And so there's this kind of outbreak of the atrocious sexual violence that happens as part of the crime and of course WORD GETS BACK TO WRONGS. Zab that not only has a hundred million dollars of his assets been stolen but members of his extended royal family have been sexually attacked and violated and this all is crucial in terms of geopolitics. Because it's right at a moment in a time where there's a major economic transition happening in the world. There's a chapter in the book called two kinds of treasure and is basically. There are two different ways of making a fortune that are in conflict with each other here. There's a very old way which is represented by Aurangzeb which is have an autocratic dynasty tax year citizens. Sit On that wealth and pass it onto your descendants. That's what every most of the rich people in the world at this point where people who were members of some kind of royal family that had some kind of dynastic wealth. But there's this new way of making money that has just appearing in it comes in the form of this interesting embryonic. New Organization called the multinational publicly traded corporation and that was the east India company. The east India Company was the first company that actually had publicly traded shares. So that people could. Outsiders could invest in the company in those shares could go up or down in value and for the first time people were making money not just through the prophets of the business but through the increase in value of these publicly traded shares and that turned out to be the future. Right dot is how if you look at the one hundred richest people in the world today. The vast majority of them were people who made money because they had traded shares in a company. They found that their parents found it. So in a sense clash between these two massive economic forces and Henry. Avery in his little pirate ship gets right in the middle of it because once. Iran's UB here's that his money has been stolen in women have been raped he threatened to eject the east India company from India which is the main source of their income. They've been trading CALICO and chinse fabrics and so on and if that had happened if they've been thrown out of India the whole course of the British Empire would have been transformed. It's entirely likely that the British Empire would not have formed in in India in the subsequent decades. If the east India company had been injected. So why wasn't it? Attracted rings up puts a number of the employees of the east India Company under house arrest and threatens to execute them and they began a furious letter writing campaign back to London. Saying we have to find the pirate we have to bring him to justice and we have to announce to the world that we are not going to tolerate piracy anymore or else this whole incredibly lucrative business that the country is increasingly dependent on is just going to disappear and so. That's what triggers this global manhunt really the first one in

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