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The Slave Ship


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About the Author

Marcus Rediker is the Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh and the award-winning author of The Slave Ship. He lives in Pittsburgh.


In a tour de force displaying his mastery of Atlantic maritime matters, historian Rediker (Univ. of Pittsburgh; Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age) details step by step the terrors, toil, technologies, commercial linkages, and business plans that made the slave ship the human triumph and tragedy it was. The magnificent and monstrous machine that formed the modern Atlantic world functioned as nursery, prison, war engine, and graveyard. For nearly 400 years from the late 1400s through the 1800s, tall ships-from the bantam ten-ton Hesketh with its 30 captives to the behemoth, ill-fated 566-ton Parr-operated as terrible instruments of capitalist profit and human wastage. They made cargo of ten to 15 million Africans in the hellish voyage called Middle Passage. Rediker brings to life sea captains, sailors, and slaves consumed in "the abominable traffick." Imaginatively conceived, expertly researched, humanely informed, and movingly written, this virtuoso work is essential for collections treating the history of Europe, the Americas, or Africa since 1500.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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.

"Masterly."-Adam Hochschild, The New York Times Book Review

"Searingly brilliant."-Los Angeles Times Book Review

" I was hardly prepared for the profound emotional impact of The Slave Ship: A Human History. Reading it established a transformative and never to be severed bond with my African ancestors who were cargo in slave ships over a period of four centuries."-Alice Walker

" The Slave Ship is the best of histories, deeply researched, brilliantly formulated, and morally informed."-Ira Berlin, author of Many Thousands Gone

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