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Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  25 reviews
This maritime history "from below" exposes the history-making power of common sailors, slaves, pirates, and other outlaws at sea in the era of the tall ship.
In Outlaws of the Atlantic, award-winning historian Marcus Rediker turns maritime history upside down. He explores the dramatic world of maritime adventure, not from the perspective of admirals, merchants, and nation
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published August 12th 2014 by Beacon Press (first published October 8th 2013)
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  89 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
Great overview of "history from below" for the various not-officially-sanctioned workers in the Atlantic from the 1600s to the mid-1800s. This was just the book I wanted. I could see someone reading it and thinking, hm, these chapters are just quick, breezy overviews of really complicated and deep topics. And they are! But if you want more, pretty much any chapter is a concise, readable summary or extract from a full book by Rediker. You want more? Go get it!

Of especial interest if you're lookin
Oliver Bateman
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
if you've read villains of all nations, the slave ship, and the many headed hydra, much of this is review material, but rediker has re-written and condensed it in ways that make it an excellent introduction to his large body of work. his concluding chapter, about how the literature of piracy informed the public reception to the amistad rebels, is worth the price of admission.
Thank you to the publisher and marketing at Beacon Press for giving me the opportunity to win this in a Goodreads giveaway.

The book is extremely well written, researched and documented. The language will appeal to the non-history buff as well as those of us used to stuffier tomes. Rediker's writing is brisk and smooth, though sadly prone to some level of repetition. Perhaps this is due to finding less to write about in the source materials than he expected or due to a desire to hammer concepts h
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The common man, whether he be a sailor, a slave, or a pirate is the focus of Marcus Rediker’s “Outlaws of the Atlantic”. Rediker shows how the lowest individual influenced not only the culture of their day, but shaped the world into what it is today.

Through seven essays Rediker looks at how the daily lives of individuals who worked the Atlantic’s waters, both willingly and unwillingly, and how their experiences affected their own time and ours. The first was the common sailor who informed “men o
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
First of all this was a book I received through the Goodreads First Read Giveaway. I was hoping for a little maritime history with some good sailing stories of high seas adventure. I found that this book was actually much more than a bunch of stories about pirates (although that in itself would have been enough to keep me happy). The author actually uses the history of the sailing world to show that the sailing world was a catalyst for growth and incredible change in the political and economical ...more
Samuel Marquis
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Samuel by: Pirate and seafaring adventure book readers
Marcus Re1d1iker, one of academia's greatest authorities on pirates and historical seaman of all stripes, has triumphed once again. His stories tell us how the Golden Age of Piracy and Amistad incident really were, and he recounts in spectacular fashion the social underpinnings of the buccaneers, rebelling slaves, and the abused merchant seamen plying the Atlantic in the 18th and 19th centuries. A stunning historical and literary achievement, featuring both previously published and new material.
Errol Orhan
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I was not overly impressed. The first 100 pages were pretty interesting and I thought the marxist perspective on piracy was insightful. However, the last part, on the Amsted rebellion, was not. The description of how various media dealt with the rebellion provided a nice overview, but the evidence for the influence of said media on mentalities and later historical developments was circumstantial at best.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: casual students of naval history
Recommended to Skjam! by: Goodreads
Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was offered or requested.

During the Age of Sail, the deep ocean sailing ship was one of the most advanced technological wonders of its time. But such a complex device required many workers to keep it running smoothly and keep it from collapsing in times of danger. So there rose the class of people known as the common seaman; sailors who were essential to the ship as a group, but entire
Ted Lehmann
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail by Marcus Rediker (Beacon Press, August 2014, 248 pages, $26.95/14.55) is a carefully written and meticulously documented history of how the social revolution of the past four centuries was fomented from below decks by sailors of all kinds. Perhaps disturbingly for some, it turns history as most of us are used to seeing it on its head by crediting the democratic and independent move towards revolution and freedom as o ...more
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

Outlaws of the Atlantic has some fascinating insights about sailors, pirates, and nautical culture during the Age of Sail. Sailors maintained a culture and community all their own, which no "landlubber" could ever hope to understand. Oftentimes, men in the navy were "impressed," or compelled to serve, with little hope of reaching home and family again; because of this, the other men became a surrogate family durin
Christopher May
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
It's always interesting to read history from a new perspective. Outlaws of the Atlantic certainly provides that with a view of the Atlantic in the golden age of sail from the eyes of "Jack Tar."

Like reading about the Civil War in the diary of Sam Watkins, learning about the history of sailing and piracy from the perspective of an average sailor is both fascinating and enlightening. It's easy to forget that while politicians, generals, admirals and the like may have their names featured more pro
J Tea
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, own
First of all my thanks to Goodreads and the publisher for my Firstreads copy.
Rediker has tried to convey a grand thesis in a very small book. He approaches the idea of the "Motley Crew" as the true foundation of historic events. This is obviously true as without the average sailor the boat doesn't sail. He does make some presumptions and the book is a bit esoteric at times but he does a good job in painting a portrait of how information and ideas were transmitted in the age of sail. The book i
Bill O'driscoll
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Historian Rediker's collection of essays delves into the history of piracy and such from his usual "history from below" angle, telling the story of common people (who sometimes do uncommon things). The thesis here is (1) that the sea, rather than just "between places" place, is somewhere history and culture could itself be made and (2) that the fluid (pun intended) societies at sea often inspired what we'd now call social-justice movements and attempts at self-government. Especially notable are ...more
Josh Muhlenkamp
There are two things that I really hate when I read history: first, I hate it when an author exaggerates the importance of his subject, particularly by taking a generally-unknown event that has some link to a famous event and claiming that the minor connection is of incredibly importance; second, I hate Marxist interpretations of history, since any historian who follows Marxism hasn't really learned the lessons of history.

Unfortunately, this book has both of those. Rediker unconvincingly tries t
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
I finished this book two days ago and have been conflicted about writing a review. I was tempted to adopt the Thumper philosophy from Bambi, "If you can't say sometihin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." I walked into my first history class in college and Dr. Alan Breck opened his mouth and I was hooked. The man made history come alive and he required us to understand the "why" of history, not just memorize names, places and dates. I ended up with history as part of a double major. If Dr. Breck h ...more
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
An intriguing series of essays pulled together to tell the story of the age of tall ships, mainly from the point of view of the lower echelons of the seafaring class. Tales of forced labor aboard ships, pirates, scoundrels and slave traders, with the occasional voice from the landed gentry . This is a highly entertaining and educational read for those who are interested in the era when the seas were a playground for the world’s most lawless seafarers. This is one of my favorite Nonfiction books ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
** I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. **

"Outlaws of the Atlantic" is a perspective-changing look at pirates, outlaws, and enslaved Africans upon the Atlantic Ocean from the late seventeenth century to nineteenth century.

Author Marcus Rediker's account is a bottom-up history -- showing how we commoners shaped history. The book is both scholarly and readable, and the primary sources Rediker draws upon fascinated me. Recommended.
Seymour Millen
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A vivid and romantic look at the ordinary sailors and pirates who make history but are rarely featured in the great man view. Passages on slave escapes and the deadly, exhausting work on (as Rediker points out) the most sophisticated piece of technology at the time were thrilling to read. For providing a tantalising glimpse into Rediker's specialist subject at a beginner-friendly level, I don't think the book could be bettered.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Enjoy Rediker and his approach to popular history and getting the debate going on historical subjects largely left out of the conversation. This book is a little too one-sided at times, painting a utopian picture of seamen that at times is a bit much. I know they deserve their time in the limelight alongside the great men, but eh.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. I rarely read non-fiction, but this was good to pass up. Writing from the voices of people who we would normally not her from gave this book a unique perspective. Makes me question some of my previous conceived ideas on history, and that is always a good thing. Sorry Captain Bligh :)
Jason S
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really concise and powerful account of the Atlantic world using the experience of pirates and seafarers as the lens to view history from below.
Bev Skeggs
rated it it was amazing
Jun 19, 2016
Melanie Snowden
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Nov 05, 2014
Jeff Finazzo
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Cecilia Dunbar Hernandez
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Marcus Rediker is Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh and Senior Research Fellow at the Collège d’études mondiales in Paris. He is the author of numerous prize-winning books, including The Many-Headed Hydra (with Peter Linebaugh), The Slave Ship, and The Amistad Rebellion. He produced the award-winning documentary film Ghosts of Amistad (Tony Buba, director) ...more