Skip to main content

Cannonball Read #47: Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny by Mike Dash

Batavia's Graveyard is another entry into my "maritime disasters" series. It is exactly the kind of book I love--one that is full of heroics, nefarious deeds, and an overabundance of historical context.

The story is that of a wreck and mutiny aboard a Dutch transport ship in 1629. The Batavia, hauling a load of treasure to the Dutch interests in southeast Asia, ran aground on a series of atolls just off of Australia. While the head Dutch merchant and the ship's skipper left in a longboat to try and reach help in Java, the other 200+ survivors were left to fend for themselves on a desolate atoll without food or water--and as they were soon to discover, governed by a mad man.

The book mostly focuses on the escapades of Jeronimus Corneliesz, a lower-level merchant who takes the opportunity to use his charming (and psychopathic) nature to dominate and ultimately destroy the majority of the survivors left under his care. With a group of soldiers and sailors who had originally plotted to mutiny and steal the ship's treasure, Corneliesz begins to systematically murder the remaining survivors not allied with him, ostensibly to remove threats to his leadership and strain on the few available supplies. Soon, however, he and his men lose control, murdering and torturing in cold blood as a way to pass the time. Aside from a small group of men who end up stranded on a neighboring atoll, Corneliesz and his men are in complete dominance over everyone. In all, they manage to kill more than one hundred people, including women, children, and even infants. Eventually, however, the head merchant returns with help, and the mutineers are left to face the consequences of their actions.

Mike Dash's book is impeccably researched (and includes more than 100 pages of notes at the back with references and added information) and weaves into the narrative information about the political climate at the time, the ways of Dutch merchants, life aboard a merchant ship, the religious movements that had an effect on Corneliesz, medical science on board ships in the 17th century, and a general overview of life in the time period.

It is a gripping story filled with useful and fascinating information. I would definitely recommend it to any history buff.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #2 - Southern Gods

I've had Southern Gods on my TBR list for so long I no longer remember why I put it there. Was it a recommendation from Amazon? From Goodreads? Did someone I know recommend it? Did it cross my path as a "If you liked __________ then you'll like this too!"

Maybe I heard it through the grapevine?

I only know that recently, I happened to come across it on my wishlist and decided to go ahead and splurge on it.

I'm glad I did.

In 1951 Memphis, war veteran and leg-breaker-for-hire Bull Ingraham gets a new assignment: a record company has lost one of their employees somewhere. Early Freeman set off to deliver new records to radio stations, and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. His boss at Helios Records is anxious to find him...and also anxious to find a mysterious blues musician whose music can do terrible things to the living -- and to the dead.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sarah Rheinhart leaves her abusive husband and returns to her family home, where …

CBR9 #3: Missing Wives, Missing Lives by JJ Slate

There's a lot of discussion these days about things that are dangerous to women--is it heart disease? Is it stress? Car accidents? Drugs? Serial killers? Trans women in bathrooms?--but it seems like one of the biggest hazards to women are the men in their lives.

This book details the cases of thirty women who vanished. Stretching back to 1976, and with cases as recent as 2007, the women featured in this book seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, never to be seen again. For some, the legal system was able to prove a case against the men in their lives, but for others, the search for justice may never be resolved.

The amazing thing to me was the stories that the husbands gave upon their wives' disappearances. "So, you had a fight, and she just left the house--at 3am. In her pajamas. Barefoot. Without her purse, or her glasses, or her car, or her TEETH? Leaving her small dependent children behind. And you decided to say nothing for three weeks? And while she was gon…