- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; 1 edition (September 16, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780807050071
- ISBN-13: 978-0807050071
- ASIN: 0807050075
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic 1st Edition
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For most readers the tale told here will be completely new. For those already well acquainted with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the image of that age which they have been so carefully taught and cultivated will be profoundly challenged. --David Montgomery, author of Citizen Worker
"A landmark in the development of an Atlantic perspective on early American history. Ranging from Europe to Africa to the Caribbean and North America, it makes us think in new ways about the role of working people in the making of the modern world."--Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom
"What would the world look like had the levelers, the diggers, the ranters, the slaves, the castaways, the Maroons, the Gypsies, the Indians, the Amazons, the Anabaptists, the pirates . . . won? Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker show us what could have been by exhuming the revolutionary dreams and rebellious actions of the first modern proletariat, whose stories~until now~were lost at sea. They have recovered a sunken treasure chest of history and historical possibility and spun these lost gems into a swashbuckling narrative full of labor, love, imagination, and startling beauty." --Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!
"The Many-Headed Hydra is about connections others have denied, ignored, or underemployed. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europe, Africa, and the Americas came together to create a new economy and a new class of working people. Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker tell their story with deep sympathy and profound insight. . . . A work of restoration and celebration of a world too long hidden from view."--Ira Berlin, author of Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
"More than just a vivid illustration of the gains involved in thinking beyond the boundaries between nation-states. Here, in incendiary form, are essential elements for a people's history of our dynamic, transcultural present."--Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic
"This is a marvelous book. Linebaugh and Rediker have done an extraordinary job of research into buried episodes and forgotten writings to recapture, with eloquence and literary flair, the lost history of resistance to capitalist conquest on both sides of the Atlantic."--Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
About the Author
Peter Linebaugh, professor of history at the University of Toledo, is a contributing editor of Albion's Fatal Tree and author of The London Hanged.
Marcus Rediker, professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, winner of the American Studies Association's John Hope Franklin Prize and the Organization of American Historians' Merle Curti Social History Award.
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How Hercules, who slain the hydra was picked as an example of their hero, the one that cut off the heads of the hydra and burned the necks to stop regeneration. How they were metaphorical symbols of their work to remake the wild lands of the Americans and at the same time drain their lands of the people and ideas they found so disagreeable.
An excellent addition to any personal library on history and human rights and the foundations of imperial thinking still alive and well in places like the USA. Are you part of the Hydra or with Hercules?
Linebaugh and Rediker describe the brutal process of primitive accumulation where the poor were forced off the land to create the proletariat class. The newly-dispossessed were disciplined harshly and made to labor for the benefit of the investor class. However, the pervasive "culture of fear" that was "indispensible to the creation of labor-power as a commodity" eventually led to revolt, first with the English Civil War in the 1640s and later throughout the colonial system.
The authors spotlight individuals who made the case for the rights of all people, including Edward Despard, James Naylor, Tom Paine, Thomas Spence and Robert Wedderburn. These voices articulated the desires of the masses to achieve equality and social justice. As these rights were consistently denied, the seeds of discontent and rebellion were planted. When not organizing resistance against empire, many chose piracy, formed their own renegade communities, or chose to live among the Native Americans.
In this light, the authors present the American Revolution as a cooptation of the democratic movement. Capitalist property and wage relations were legislated in a manner that secured elitist privilege. Race, sex and class effectively served to split the proletariat into factions that could be politically controlled. The nation state thus was born as an instrument to empower the bourgeoisie and channel the energies of the masses towards capitalist accumulation.
The unique value of this book is its convincing argument that the world we know may have turned out very differently. This tantalizing possibility is just one reason why "The Many-Headed Hydra" is an intriguing read. I highly recommend it to all.
As the subtitle makes clear, this is mainly a history of sailors, slaves, and common people who are often ignored or downplayed in history books. The authors contend that these were the men and women mainly responsible for the rebellins and revolts and wars for independence fought in the Atlantic world from 1600 to 1800. In this book, the poeple who actually led the struggle, such as Crispus Attucks in the Boston Massacre, take center stage. The so-called leaders, from Cromwell to Jefferson, end up with supporting roles and sometimes even play the antagonists' part.
Although the authors write in a lively, engaging manner, some general readers may find the going tough at some points. Both of the authors are history professors, and they clearly feel strongly about what they've written. They don't use lots of specialized historical terms, but they do use many words specific to the periods they are considering. I think they could've helped a lot by including a glossary of some expressions hard to find without an unabridged dictionary. (There's only so much that one can guess from context.)
Also, general readers should approach this book as they would a good novel. For example, sometimes the authors mention people almost out of the blue, as if they'd already been introduced. In fact, they are participants from upcoming chapters. In short, some readers will need to give the authors a little leeway to tell their story, as we would in a novel.
Unlike a novel, this story is complete with many "endnotes" and excellent illustrations covering all the periods they looked at. The book also has a helpful index, but there's no one single list of books and articles. Readers who want to learn more about a particular person or topic will have to follow the trail of notes to the first time a work is cited.
Since this is a book about the Atlantic world, I was a little disappointed to find only one map, a map from 1699, and it's on the very last page before the notes (p. 354). I would've put it earlier, near the start, and I would've added a more modern map of the region for those readers not familiar with the old names.
All in all, the shortcomings are few and the strengths many in this well-written book about the origns of our modern world. (I haven't read as passionate and engaging a history since C.L.R. James's _The Black Jacobins_, Vantage Press, 1989.)
This kind of book may turn our world upside down, but it's about time we saw it from a different perspective.