Globalism is nothing new, argue leftist historians Peter Linebaugh
and Marcus Rediker
. Centuries ago, European trade concerns, such as the Dutch East Indies Company and the Virginia Company, sought to create an overseas empire owned by corporations, not governments. Backed by governments all the same, these companies found themselves opposed only by a congeries of revolutionary sailors, artisans, farmers, and smallholders, who formed a "many-headed hydra" of resistance.
Arguing that this history of resistance to globalism has been unjustly overlooked, Linebaugh and Rediker delineate key episodes. When, for instance, a group of English sailors and common laborers were shipwrecked on the island of Bermuda en route to America, they created their own communal government, which was so pleasant to them that they refused to be "rescued" and had to be removed to the colonies by force. Their ideological descendants later banded with runaway slaves and other discontents to form multi-ethnic, multilingual pirate navies that hindered the transatlantic traffic in metals, jewels, and captive humans. Some of the men and women involved in these pirate bands, this "Atlantic proletariat," put their skills at the service of the American Revolution, which, in the author's view, "ended in reaction as the Founding Fathers used race, nation, and citizenship to discipline, divide, and exclude the very sailors and slaves who had initiated and propelled the revolutionary movement." The fire of rebellion soon spread all the same, they note, to such places as Haiti, Ireland, France, even England, helped along by these peripatetic and unsung rebels.
Linebaugh and Rediker's book is provocative and often brilliant, opening windows onto little-known episodes in world history. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Deriding the "historic invisibility" of their subjectsA"the multiethnic class that was essential to the rise of capitalism and the modern, global economy"ALinebaugh (The London Hanged), professor of history at the University of Toledo, and Rediker (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, reveal that throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, mobile workers of all sortsAmaids, slaves, felons, pirates and indentured farm handsAformulated ideas about freedom and justice that would eventually find expression in the American Revolution. The moneymen thought of themselves as noble heirs to Hercules, "symbol of power and order," and referred to the people they mobilized across continents as "hydra," after Hercules's many-headed foe. During these early days of intercontinental commerce, there were many small rebellions, and Linebaugh and Rediker's book is especially valuable for its rich descriptions of the lesser-known revolts, including one by slaves in New Jersey who "conspired to kill their masters," burn their property and make off with their horses in 1734, and another by Native American whalers who tried to torch Nantucket in 1738. The authors also describe the March 1736 "Red String Conspiracy": 40 to 50 Irish felons, who planned to burn Savannah, kill all the white men and escape with a band of Indians (the conspirators wore red string around the right wrist to identify themselves). Their plot was foiled but caused great unrest in Savannah. This book provides a unique window onto early modern capitalist history. The authors are to be commended not only for recovering the voices of obscure folk, but also for connecting them to the overarching themes of the age of revolution. 50 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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