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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700 - 1750 Paperback – February 24, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0521379830 ISBN-10: 0521379830

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 24, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521379830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521379830
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...an excellent up-from-the-lower deck study of deepwater sailors in the eighteenth century...the best working-class history I've read in years." Robert Schaeffer, In These Times

"...No one interested in the history of the 18th century can afford to ignore this book." Christopher Hill

"...A fresh and powerful analysis of the 18th century maritime world." Gary Nash

"...the style is lucid, the tone is assured, the documentation professional and economical. And the book is brought to a triumphant conclusion with two superb chapters on the seaman as the 'Spirit of Rebellion' and as a pirate...What distinguishes Rediker's work is his unwavering and unsentimental focus on the seaman's labour and experience in his cramped wooden world." E.P. Thompson, The Guardian

"...a book that undoubtedly will have an enduring value. Every student of early eighteenth-century maritime affairs should read Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." John D. Byrn, Jr., The Eighteenth Century

"...luminous study of a neglected segment of colonial society." Robert M. Calhoon, Historical Journal of Massachusetts

Book Description

This unsparing account of the eighteenth-century maritime world reconstructs the often brutal social and cultural milieu of Anglo-American seafaring and piracy, following sailors and their ships from their trade routes into rowdy waterfront ports.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Rediker is, first of all, a wonderful writer - even if you've never read a about the early 1700s before, you'll be engrossed in what he has to say about the world of "Jack Tar". People who enjoy sea-faring fiction will also get a kick out of it; Rediker reveals a world of constant backbreaking work in a very dangerous environment, brutal punishments for the tiniest infraction, and of the strange brotherhood that forms among sailors. For me the biggest surprise was that the pirates are the good guys in the story - men who broke away from the tyrannical hierachy of ships, who formed a very specific set of moral rules based upon the traditions of the English poor, who shared the booty, who championed the weak and punished the strong. Kind of a Robin Hood thing, very interesting. Entertaining, compelling, informative.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Sebastián Ignacio Donoso B. on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" constitutes a very serious study on a topic often covered just superficially by historians: the life, ways , customs and culture at sea in the Anglo - American Maritime World in the Eighteenth Century. The title itself suggests the wooden world of the ship, sailing through the ocean with its sailors trapped in the middle of the Devil, or the harsh conditions on board, and the Deep Blue Sea. The first part of the book provides the reader with a wide view of the port cities and trade routes where this maritime culture evolved. And starting from this geographical tour, the topic is narrowed down to the specific aspects and details regarding "Jack Tar", or the personification of an average sailor of those times. It is amazing to think of such a harsh world, very well portrayed by the autor, that was the heart of the English Commerce, and the cornerstone of the future British Empire. The conditions on board were so insane that only the stongest could survive. This reality, very accurately described by the autor, led to multiple mutinies that often ended up in piracy. The fact that English sailors died in similar proportion as slaves in the African Coast, is a true revelation for the reader. A remarkable fact dealing with piracy, that makes this book different from others, is that this investigation prooves that the pirates are the good guys of the story. These men of free spirit that broke away from the strict discipline on board, constituted a democratic but ruthless society, aside of the law, in their pirate ships and communities. Such form of democracy, based on principles of solidarity between the English poor, was one of the first examples of the fight for equality among men, before the French and American Revolutions.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Rux on March 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Rediker is hardly the only man to notice - though he is one of only a very few to have written on the topic at length - that the Anglo-American Maritime world of the early to mid 18th Century was a socio-political hotbed of burgeoning revolution. To criticize the author for being a Marxist is absurd - the era about which he is writing, and the sailors and specific cultural events of that era, were socialist themselves, though they wouldn't have had the insight to realize it at the time.
Political scientists and economists should find this book of even more interest than historians, as many of the same events in the rise of Capitalism as Rediker writes about are now coming full circle and repeating themselves, with NAFTA and GATT creating the same social conditions that led to widespread - and often remarkably effective (in the case of piracy) - rebellion between 1700 and 1750. As Rediker points out, our very word "strike," in its labor union connotation, originated with merchant mariners striking sail on their ships and halting the movement of their cargoes.
Rediker is a remarkably thorough researcher, backing his thesis with the best possible sources and representing both the Capitalist and Labor points of view from contemporaneous documents. His masterful rendering of the world of "Jack Tar," an average mariner of the age, ably demonstrates that the social upheaval witnessed during the Golden Age of Piracy was an inevitability - as was its eventual downfall. Rediker is not a Marxist apologist, as his critics claim, but a keen and competent observer of statistical trends and social events, which he elucidates with extreme precision.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Barricklow VINE VOICE on October 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
On one side stood the devil (captain), who backed by the merchant and royal official, held near-dictorial powers that served captialism globally/On the other side stood the relentlessly dangerous narural world, the deep blue sea. In this fine and scholarly work by Buford Rediker the reader will find a bottom up history of the common seaman, focusing on roughly the early 18th century, some what like Howard Zinn's Peoples History, some 16 years later, on the American worker. The sailor'(tar) experiences of that time, pointed in many ways toward the industrial revolution to come. In the domain of culture as in others, seamen were enmeshed in the momentous transition in which the world came to be governed by capitalism and class.
It is organized topically beginning with a survey of the seaman's world circa 1740, which tours the major ports of the British North Atlantic, describes the commodities piled on the docks and quays, and details those aspects of political economy and history that shaped the seaman's life. Chapter 2 discusses the organiztion and experience of work at sea. Chapter 3 considers the wage in free wage labor and analyzes wage rates and negotiations. Chapter 4 examines culture and community at sea. Chapter 5 explores maritime authority and labor discipline. Chapter 6 investigates the social world of piracy and how it effected the larger culture of maritime labor. The conclusion analyzes the seaman's experience to the process of social change and working-class development in America and England. The jolly tar did indeed live in a world possessed of a sordid & vicious side. His creative survival is the suject of this book (at times in gruesome details).
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