William Dampier is one of England’s forgotten heroes. In 1676, he started his career as a poor buccaneer, preying on ships on the Spanish Main. He could easily have ended up on the gallows for piracy. Instead, his sense of adventure and curiosity about the world around him led him to become the first person to circumnavigate the world three times, and to map the winds and the currents of the world’s oceans. He landed in Australia eighty years before Cook and visited the Galapagos Islands one hundred and fifty years before Darwin. He wrote the first bestselling travel books, which inspired Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and enriched the English language with many new words, from ‘barbeque’ and ‘avocado’ to ‘sub-species’.
A curious man in a curious age, now all but forgotten in his native country, William Dampier combined a swashbuckling life of adventure with remarkable scientific achievements. In A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, Diana and Michael Preston reveal, in a compelling narrative, the story of a uniquely English hero.