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Publisher's Summary

For more than three centuries, slave ships carried millions of people from the coasts of Africa across the Atlantic to the New World. Much is known of the slave trade and the American plantation complex, but little of the ships that made it all possible.

In The Slave Ship, award-winning historian Marcus Rediker draws on 30 years of research in maritime archives to create an unprecedented history of these vessels and the human drama acted out on their rolling decks. He reconstructs in chilling detail the lives, deaths, and terrors of captains, sailors, and the enslaved aboard a "floating dungeon" trailed by sharks.

From the young African kidnapped from his village and sold to the slavers by a neighboring tribe, to the would-be priest who takes a job as a sailor on a slave ship only to be horrified by the evil he sees, to the captain who relishes having "a hell of my own", Rediker illuminates the lives of people who were thought to have left no trace.

This is a tale of tragedy and terror, but also an epic of resilience, survival, and the creation of something entirely new, something that could only be called African American. Rediker restores the slave ship to its rightful place alongside the plantation as a formative institution of slavery, as a place where a profound and still haunting history of race, class, and modern capitalism was made.

©2007 Marcus Rediker; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

Critic Reviews

"I was hardly prepared for the profound emotional impact of The Slave Ship....Reading it established a transformative and never to be severed bond with my African ancestors who were cargo in slave ships." (Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Naperville, IL, United States
  • 11-07-07

So much misery

Wow! What a book! Everything you wanted to know about slave ships, the business of slavery, & more.

This book detailed the whole sordid story of slavery as a business machine and its mass production of human cargo as a commodity. The perspective of everyone connected to the slave ship is detailed. There are stories from the captains, the merchants, the crew members, and the slaves themselves—all with their unique viewpoints of their situations.

Many slaves continually fought their captivity by choosing to commit suicide through starvation or by throwing themselves overboard. As suicide resulted in a loss of profits, actions were taken to ensure the health of their “product”. Netting was set up around the ship to prevent slaves from jumping off the ship and those refusing to eat were gruesomely force fed.

Insurrection occurred on 1 in 10 ships and resulted in torture and murder of those responsible. Discipline as a deterrent was frequent aboard the slave ships. Man’s inhumanity toward man in these cases were stomach churning. The images of bodies (either dead, as suicide, or as a form of torture) being thrown overboard still haunts me. As the remoras attach themselves to the sharks, the sharks attach themselves to the slave ships and instantly devour anything that falls into the water. The thought of that form of death still gives me the chills.

There was a quote in the book from William Wilberforce (an English social reformer and abolitionist) that sums it all up for me, “So much misery condensed in so little room is more than the human imagination has ever before conceived.”

This was my first experience with this reader and I have to say I was very impressed. Many readers have the strangest inflections that always take some time to get used to. David Drummond’s reading of the book was clear, mellifluous and pleasant. Both the content and the narration make this a worthy listen.

31 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Slave Ship

The power of the stories in this book make it the perfect audiobook. The incredible greed, disconnection from and assault on humanity chronicled here were, for me, matched by the stories of resistance and of love and compassion that survived the unimaginable. This book brought me to tears and for me it was hearing the stories that had such an impact. I felt like I was taken on an amazing journey.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Phillip
  • GRANT, AL, United States
  • 05-19-09

Outstanding

I didn't realize when I purchased this that this book was basically a compilation of many, many stories about the slave trade and if I had known that going in I probably would have been skeptical about the quality of the book. However, I was pleasantly surprised and found that the format actually worked quite well and allowed for a broader look at the subject, from the types of ships used to the types of people who manned them and the stories of the people transported in them. This book is very comprehensive and well written.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent

I have read much about enslavement but I agree that this book, with its entirely tight focus on the ship, is of tremendous value to the study of the period.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

A painful, yet a Great Book ....

A very moving human history, that everyone should be aware of, to make sure that such a cruel drama shall never been palyed again on the stage of earth.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

The Painful Truth

What did you love best about The Slave Ship?

This novel brought to light the horror and brutality of the slave trade in very vivid details.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

This book was too painful to listen to all at once. There were times that I had to take a break and come back to it later.

Any additional comments?

To truly understand the brutality of slavery, this book is a must read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A history everyone should know.

What did you love best about The Slave Ship?

I learned a great deal about human history, as well as why slavery THEN, means something very important NOW. This was a crime of as great a magnitude as any in history, and yet it is little discussed today. Given the numbers of people hunted down incarcerated, shipped, murdered, and stripped of all humanity, it's amazing that a clear history such as this one was so late, historically, in coming along.<br/><br/>While this book does say a lot about the slave ship, it says so much more. The title is modest. It's a much more far reaching book.

What other book might you compare The Slave Ship to and why?

1493, which describes the globalization of humanity, animals, plants, and diseases, from a different perspective. Both books tell a great deal about how humanity got to where we are today.

What about David Drummond’s performance did you like?

The performance was clearly spoken, well done.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Really the whole book was very compelling.

Any additional comments?

I will listen to it again. It bears repeating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Horrific History

Loved this heart wrenching, historical perspective of the slave trade, specifically the slave ship. This is the history that must be taught in our schools. The world needs to understand the terror, the torture, the dehumanization, the murder of the African slave before they made it to the plantation.

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A Required Education

With every book I read on the subject of slavery, I set in it's specific place another compelling piece of the puzzle that brought man out of one darkness, and in to another. The book is masterful at educating the reader of the facts, which then rip at your heart and soul AND leave you feeling disgusted enough to ACT to end some current injustice! I didn't know how little I knew till I read The Slave Ship.

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Powerful

....a most gripping and thorough analysis of the history of the slave trade through the experience of the ship. This was straight industry and the subjugation of humans as property and chattel. Imagine digging out your own jugular vein with your fingers rather than being enslaved. Choosing to feed yourself to the Sharks or drowning rather than allowing your body to be ravaged. 10s of thousands of voyages carrying millions of Africans and losing millions more enroute. This work disturbingly detailed the horrors and the economics of this peculiar institution and no less leaves you wondering where was the divine and how on earth could a soul survive endure and come out on the other side. I am both enraged and astonished.