Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Primary Sources > Alexander Exquemelin

Alexander Exquemelin


Alexander Exquemelin Bust

Alexander Exquemelin (?? - 1707), also known as John, Esquemeling, Exquemeling, or Oexmeli was a famous writer during the buccaneering era who is responsible for much of our understanding of events of the time. He was a surgeon who served under the command of Henry Morgan and gives the the most authentic and reputable account of his events through his primary source work De Americaensche Zee-Roovers.

It is believed he was born in 1645 and his nationality or ethnicity is unknown. He may have been French, Dutch or Flemish and was possibly born in the city of Harfleur, France. While his primary source book was first published in Dutch in the city of Amsterdam in 1678, this may have been because he was a Huguenot fleeing persecution in France following the end of the buccaneering era.

The earliest records of Exquemelin report by 1666 he was employed by the French West India Company and sailed to help establish the republic at Tortuga where he remained for three years. Here he fell in with the other collection of British, French and Dutch buccaneers whose dream was to score big off the Spanish Main.

During the buccaneering era of the mid 17th century Exquemelin served under the famous Henry Morgan and served a dual role as a barber-surgeon. While the two did not always see eye to eye, Exquemlin rose high within the buccaneers and was greatly respected. He remained with Morgan and his crew until 1674 before going to Amsterdam and qualifying to be a professional surgeon. By 1678 his book was written and published and by 1679 he was inducted into the Dutch Surgeon's Guild and appeared to have settled down for a few years.

De Americaensche Zee Roovers

Following his famous buccaneering exploits Exquemelin returned back to Amsterdam following the decline of the era and wrote one of the best primary source history documents for the time period. He is unique in that he is not a mainland observer simply recording events, he walked the walk and talked the talk, he lived with the buccaneers, raided with them and saw their culture firsthand. He walked among the pirate havens of Tortuga and Port Royal and had access to the pulse of the community to determine the fact of men the authorities otherwise could never find to document.

The book De Americaensche Zee-Roovers was first published in Dutch in 1678 by Jan ten Hoorn and proved an instant success. It was translated into many different languages and distributed all throughout Europe. It even drew the ire of Henry Morgan who sued him for libel based on the introduction he wrote. Apparently Morgan did not agree with his origins and wanted to make himself seem more royal or noble for documents being passed down to history.

Exquemelin had documented him as an indentured worker that made his way to the island of Tortuga and eventually ran away from a cruel master. The courts found Exquemelin guilty and he was forced to pay a fine and change the introduction. Luckily some copies still survive and this introduction is featured along with the redacted one. Weather this is the actual truth is highly debatable.


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