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The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
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Staff Picks > Staff Pick - The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

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message 1: by Kayleigh (last edited Sep 15, 2012 02:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kayleigh Last | 9 comments The Many-Headed Hydra, written by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, is a labor history book about the common people in the revolutionary Atlantic and their struggle to gain the right to live freely. The Atlantic world that Linebaugh and Rediker reveal is multi-racial and volatile, filled with pirates, pious women, and rebellious slaves. Laboring classes move about from place to place, liable at any time to become a hydra which the upper class Hercules must defeat. Eventually tensions between the upper classes and the laboring classes grow so tense that they explode into the American Revolution.

One major theme in this book is the idea of how and why revolution spread among the various laboring classes. Particularly interesting is the movement of slaves from the Carribeans who, after being involved in a rebellion there, are moved to the United States where they cause another rebellion. Mingling with these slaves, other laborers came up with their own ideas of rebellion. These people often identified with the slaves, seeing themselves in a form of slavery because they were denied sustenable living on the common lands, alternative lifestyles in the Americas, and the freedom to live as they wanted. This desire for freedom is what leads to the American Revolution, which the author's argue is inspired by this motley crew of sailors, slaves, and commoners.

This book is a really interesting read for anybody with an interest in history, however it may be useful to have your dictionary handy. Linebaugh and Rediker are sometimes a bit wordy and hard to get through but their theory is worth reading about and several parts of the book will teach you some interesting things about regular people in the Atlantic world.


message 2: by Jessie J (new) - added it

Jessie J (subseti) | 42 comments Sounds really interesting--thanks for bringing it to our attention!


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