Pirates & Outlaws of Canada 1610-1932


260 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-18373-9





Reviewed by Louis A. Knafla

Louis A. Knafla is a history professor at the University of Calgary.


The authors are popular writers who have come together for the first time to write the first history of outlawry and brigandage in Canada. Fourteen chapters comprise fourteen vignettes of raucous men from the seventeenth century to the twentieth; from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec to northern Ontario, the prairies and the Pacific. Several themes emerge from these pen portraits. First, piracy was for young men, whether chosen as a trade on adopted out of desperation. Second, piracy was more complex than brigandage, and the rewards usually overshadowed the risks. Third, pirates were immensely popular, preying on rich and poor alike as well as on the booty of the state. Fourth, the outlaws of the West are seen as the successors of the pirates of the East; following in a similar yet less successful trade. Fifth, pirates and outlaws were violent men, and their history refutes the view that Canadians were law-abiding people; indeed, they represent what the authors call “the rule of lawlessness” in Canadian society.

There are a number of shortcomings in this collection, which stem from the authors’ concentration on the “story line” without any cognizance of the context or significance of the events. There are two sections of plates (following pages 84 and 116) which are not listed in the contents, some of which are of questionable value, and an index of names, places, ships, and subjects that is incomplete. The bibliography, however, is a useful guide to the general literature and contains several surprises.


Horwood, Harold, and Edward Butts, “Pirates & Outlaws of Canada 1610-1932,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36829.