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The Slave Ship: A Human History Paperback – September 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114253
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Marcus Rediker is professor of maritime history at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), and Villains of All Nations (2005), books that explore seafaring, piracy, and the origins of globalization. In The Slave Ship, Rediker combines exhaustive research with an astute and highly readable synthesis of the material, balancing documentary snapshots with an ear for gripping narrative. Critics compare the impact of Rediker’s history, unique for its ship-deck perspective, to similarly compelling fictional accounts of slavery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage. Even scholars who have written on the subject defer to Rediker’s vast knowledge of the subject. Bottom line: The Slave Ship is sure to become a classic of its subject.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

The above title quote is from a poem in the book written by James Field Stanfield.
D.J. Stroud
This is a highly interesting book that is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in the subject.
Lionel S. Taylor
He did his job very well, as the book was spellbinding, loaded with data, and very painful to read.
K. S. Beatty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Marcus Rediker subtitles "The Slave Ship" as "A Human History", and that is an accurate description of its focus and method -- and its strengths and most evident weakness. The book has as its primary focus British and American slave ships of the 18th century (when the transAtlantic slave trade was at its height and before it was outlawed), and how it shaped and warped those who sailed, voluntarily or involuntarily, aboard those vessels. Redicker constructs his history by drawing upon first-hand accounts, mostly written by seamen and ships' captains, but also some from merchants and even a few slaves. He presents the horrific details of the psychological, social, and cultural impact of such a horrific business. It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Then, slave ships certainly proved -- especially perhaps to their captains -- an enormously corrupting activity. Even those who considered themselves as humane and compassionate people were inevitably stained and warped by the experience. But for all of Rediker's obvious (and sometimes perhaps too obvious) horror at what happened, I think the book could have been even stronger and better if the author had provided more numbers and statistics to help quantify the enormity of the events; he makes passing references to studies of the numbers of Africans enslaved and the number who died in the process, but nowhere are these figures clearly presented for an overall portrait.

The book makes for unsettling reading, with murder, rape, and casual brutality leaping off nearly every page (and, as Redicker demonstrates, the brutality was not confined to use against the slaves alone, but also the crews).
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Tanis on October 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The slave ship gives a fascinating forte in the archives of slavery and the making of modern history. It was a vehicle, transporting captives whose labor was necessary for America's economic survival; it was a factory, where African men, women, and children were transformed into "cargo"; and it was an instrument of war, complete with fearsome weapons with the capability to destroy any who might challenge its gruesome mission. In Marcus Rediker's book it explores these historical uses of the slave ship by drawing on an astonishing array of archival material, revealing the voices of slaves, common sailors, pirates, captains, and traders in all their complex humanity. Rediker's talent as a writer and a historian is to bring this kind of disparate information into one solid, available and enthralling narrative.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A. Akande on February 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I saw the review of this book in the WSJ and decided this was worth reading. As an African who comes from one of the major regions where slaves were taken, it was indeed a difficult read; I sometimes had to put it aside and reflect on what my people went through before, during, and after the passage. The material in this book does not just cover the history of the slaves taken to the Americas, but also the sailors and, especially, Africans themselves. I would implore my fellow Africans to read this book because it shows an essential part of our history that rarely gets the deserved attention. And it is only by knowing that history that we can move forward. Rediker does an impressive job showing why the stories of the slave ship should never be forgotten.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Marcus Rediker, of Pittsburgh University's History Department, has written a brilliant account of the machine that enabled history's largest forced migration. Exploration, settlement, production and trade all required massive fleets of ships. The slave ships, with names like Liberty, Free Love and Delight, transported both the expropriated labourers and the new commodities that they produced. The ships were weapons, factories and prisons too.

These ships were the key to an entire phase of capitalist expansion. Between the late 15th century and the late 19th century, it is estimated that they transported 10.6 million people, of whom 1.5 million died in the first year of slavery. 1.8 million had died en route to Africa's coast, and 1.8 million died on the ships. So the trade killed more than five million people.

The 18th century was the worst century, in which seven million people were transported, three million of them in British and US ships, from Liverpool, Bristol and London. Seven million slaves were bought in Britain's sugar islands, for toil in the plantations.

For half the 18th century, Britain was at war with France or Spain, for markets and empire. The slaver merchant capitalists gained from it all. They hired the captains and the captains hired the sailors. The conflict between these two forces was the primary contradiction on board, until the ships reached the African coast, then all united against the slaves. The captains exercised the discipline of exemplary violence against slaves and sailors. Their cruelty and terror were not individual quirks but were built in to `the general cruelty of the system'.

Rediker studies the conflicts, cooperation and culture of the enslaved.
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