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The Slave Ship


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The human drama of the slave trade told from a new perspective, from the decks of the slave ship

About the Author

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 Atlantic."


In Slave Ship, University of Pittsburgh history professor Rediker employs the slave vessel as the central metaphor in the exploration of the African diaspora, the roots of capitalism, and the creation of race. As a scholar of "history from below," Rediker juxtaposes the horrific machinations of the slave trade with, as the book's subtitle indicates, the daily dramas of the industry's participants--captain, sailor, and slave. The strength of Rediker's narrative--beyond the gruesome explication of the ship's inherent terror--is the use of the ship as representative of a factory that commodifies humanity and a dungeon of racial subjugation that creates a sub-species. As a result of the Atlantic journey, the slave is dehumanized and therefore ready for use as an implement of industry and agriculture. This work is carefully and intelligently read by David Drummond, a former winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award. His succinct enunciation, warm tone, and precise yet subtly compassionate interpretation enhances Rediker's already exemplary book. Strongly recommended for libraries of all sizes and an integral addition to any collection focused on the history of the African slave trade. [An LJ Best Book of 2007; also available as downloadable audio from Audible.com.--Ed.]--Christopher Rager, Pasadena, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

'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

In this groundbreaking work, historian and scholar Rediker considers the relationships between the slave ship captain and his crew, between the sailors and the slaves, and among the captives themselves as they endured the violent, terror-filled and often deadly journey between the coasts of Africa and America. While he makes fresh use of those who left their mark in written records (Olaudah Equiano, James Field Stanfield, John Newton), Rediker is remarkably attentive to the experiences of the enslaved women, from whom we have no written accounts, and of the common seaman, who he says was "a victim of the slave trade... and a victimizer." Regarding these vessels as a "strange and potent combination of war machine, mobile prison, and factory," Rediker expands the scholarship on how the ships "not only delivered millions of people to slavery, [but] prepared them for it." He engages readers in maritime detail (how ships were made, how crews were fed) and renders the archival (letters, logs and legal hearings) accessible. Painful as this powerful book often is, Rediker does not lose sight of the humanity of even the most egregious participants, from African traders to English merchants. (Oct. 8) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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