History made simple

Eric Jay Dolin, a full-time author since 2007, was born in Queens, New York, but has resided in Marblehead since 2002. It was love at first sight when Dolin went on his first date with his future wife Jennifer Rooks, whose family lived in Marblehead.
“I fell in love with the town from the beginning,” said Dolin. “I fell in love with the town and its history.”
With a double major in biology and environmental studies, a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale, and a Ph.D. in environmental policy and planning from MIT, Dolin said his love for writing, history, and telling stories has never faded.
Dolin said that many of his books have maritime themes because as a child, he wanted to live on a beach and be a marine biologist.
“That’s another reason why living in Marblehead is good, because I’m right on the edge of the ocean,” he said.
His most recent book, “Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution,” was recently awarded the 2023 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award on April 24.
The annual book award focuses on educating the public regarding the Revolution and acknowledging the historical community.
“Rebels at Sea” was also chosen by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as a Must-Read Book for 2023, and is, therefore, in the running for the Massachusetts Book Award later this year.
Dolin’s books are used in high schools and colleges, even though they are not educational books, and he said they are easy to read and understand.
“I think the greatest strength of my books is that they tell fascinating stories about American history in an easy-to-read narrative style,” said Dolin. “I write my books for people like me, the average reader who is interested in history and wants to read and wants to read a gripping story.”
“The biggest thing I try to avoid is writing boring books,” he added. “I want to write books that are written in a way that once people start reading them, they want to continue reading them because they are interesting and unfortunately, a lot of history books, especially older history books and the ones you have in high school and college, are pretty dry and difficult to read, and that turns people off to history. I want to turn people on to history.”
“Rebels at Sea” focuses on privateers during the Revolutionary War.
“I think there are a lot of great characters in the book, but I think what makes it more interesting is that a lot of the great characters in the book are people who we don’t know a lot about,” he said.
Elbridge Gerry, born in Marblehead, was very instrumental in writing the first privateering law in the colonies. After the War of 1812, Gerry became vice president.
“People around here heard about Elbridge Gerry but they may not know that he was important in privateering during the war,” Dolin said.
Benjamin Franklin, King George III, and Thomas Jefferson also play large roles in the book.
“Most of the privateering that I talk about is not that famous,” Dolin said. “There are a couple of privateering vessel owners who people in this area have heard about. For example, Elias Hasket Derby owned or invested in 39 privateering ships that left from Salem, and Elias Hasket Derby was reportedly the first millionaire in the United States, and a lot of his money came from privateering.”
Dolin wrote 15 nonfiction books, including “A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-year History of America’s Hurricane,” which was an editor’s choice for the New York Times Book Review and made it on The Washington Post’s list of 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2020.