The Slave Ship

The Slave Ship : A Human History

4.03 (1,033 ratings by Goodreads)
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The slave ship was the instrument of history's greatest forced migration and a key to the origins and growth of global capitalism, yet much of its history remains unknown. Marcus Rediker uncovers the extraordinary human drama that played out on this world-changing vessel. Drawing on thirty years of maritime research, he demonstrates the truth of W.E.B DuBois's observation: the slave trade was the most magnificent drama in the last thousand years of human history. The Slave Ship focuses on the so-called golden age of the slave trade, the period of 1700-1808, when more than six million people were transported out of Africa, most of them on British and American ships, across the Atlantic, to slave on New World plantations. Marcus Rediker tells poignant tales of life, death and terror as he captures the shipboard drama of brutal discipline and fierce resistance. He reconstructs the lives of individuals, such as John Newton, James Field Stanfield and Olaudah Equiano, and the collective experience of captains, sailors and slaves.Mindful of the haunting legacies of race, class and slavery, Marcus Rediker offers a vivid and unforgettable portrait of the ghost ship of our modern more

Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 126 x 198 x 34mm | 299.37g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • John Murray Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1 x 16pp inset, 8 maps plus integrated illustrations
  • 0719563038
  • 9780719563034
  • 227,666

Review Text

Making the slave ship real, "historian Rediker (History/Univ. of Pittsburgh) revivifies the horror of this world-changing machine.By 1807, more than nine-million Africans in shackles, manacles, neck rings, locks and chains had been carried to New World plantations, a crime impossible without ships, the most complex machines of the age, turned for this evil purpose into floating dungeons. Rediker's multilayered narrative - marred only by an occasional eruption of academic lingo and a clunky economic analysis - examines first the captains, whose absolute authority and mastery of many duties - warden, straw boss, international merchant, technician - made them indispensable. Their violent tyranny animated the "Savage Spirit of the Trade," cascading downward to the victimized crews, the dregs of the waterfront, who in turn became victimizers, liberally employing the cat-o'-nine tails on their captives. Boarding the ships, the slaves, themselves prisoners of African wars, criminals in their own societies or kidnap victims, transitioned to European control and found their world completely changed. Here Rediker (Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, 2004, etc.) excels, detailing their strategies of resistance - refusing to eat, jumping overboard, rising up against their captors - their shipboard punishments, deaths and deprivations and the new kinship that arose among the survivors of the harsh Middle Passage, a bonding that helped sustain the resistance movement for centuries. Finally, the author includes stories by and about abolitionists such as Thomas Clarkson, who gathered the horror stories of the seamen; William Wilberforce, Parliament's most persistent anti - slave trade voice; James Stanfield, an old jack tar who wrote from the common sailor's perspective; Captain John Newton, whose religious transformation turned him into an opponent; and Olaudah Equiano, a slave who wrote movingly about the Atlantic crossing. Rediker's dramatic presentation powerfully impresses. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

'A shockingly vivid work ... from a gifted chronicler of history's lower decks, at home in the unruly Atlantic world of pirates, slavers, sailors, runaways and rebels' Boyd Tonkin, Independent 'Enlightening and moving ... Rediker comes closer than anyone so far to recreating the horrifying social reality of the Atlantic slave ship ... If anyone doubts the reality of that human story, they only need to read Rediker's book' James Walvin, BBC History Magazine 'Meticulously researched ... a terrible tale told here with great skill, clarity and compassion' Siobhan Murphy, Metro Siobhan Murphy, Metro 'The slave ship is a powerful focus for a profound drama' Iain Finlayson, The Times 'A brilliantly organised and compelling study of the Atlantic slave trade ... A truly magnificent book' Sunday Telegraph 'The Slave Ship provides eloquent testimony to the high human drama of Atlantic 'trafficking'; the greed of the few and the manifold misery of the many that was endured in the trivial cause of sweetness' Ian Thomson, Spectator 'Rediker has made magnificent use of archival data; his probing, compassionate eye turns up numerous finds that other people who've written on the subject, myself included, have missed' Adam Hochschild, International Herald Tribune 'Rediker has produced a gripping study of one aspect of a great evil' Sunday Herald 'Gripping drama of human suffering' Lucy Sholes, Observer 'Brilliant study' Socialist Review 'The Slave Ship is dramatic, moving and kaleidoscopic' London Review of Books 'In this compelling books Marcus Rediker extends his widely known and highly respected mastery of the social history of the Anglo-American North Atlantic to the slave ship ... the book is intricately conceptualized and written beautifully' International Journal of Maritime Historyshow more

About Marcus Rediker

Marcus Rediker holds a Ph.D in history from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh. One of Americas foremost maritime and Atlantic historians, he has held several fellowships and lectured around the world. He is author of four books, including (with Peter Linebaugh) the prize-winning The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary more

Rating details

1,033 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 36% (373)
4 39% (400)
3 19% (196)
2 5% (51)
1 1% (13)
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