Marcus Rediker

Marcus Rediker (born 1951 in Owensboro, Kentucky) is an American professor, historian, writer, and activist for a variety of peace and social justice causes. He graduated with a B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1976 and attended the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. in history. He taught at Georgetown University from 1982 to 1994, lived in Moscow for a year (1984-5), and is currently Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History of the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh.[1]


Rediker has written several books on Atlantic social, labor, and maritime history.[1] Informed by the Marxist critique of capitalism, they explore their respective subjects in systemic terms while emphasizing human class-consciousness and agency. In the introduction to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, for example, he explains:

My main intention has been to study the collective self-activity of maritime workers.... I have therefore given special attention to the efforts made by seafaring workers to free themselves from harsh conditions and exploitation. Seamen devised various tactics of resistance and forms of self-organization. Needless to say, such tactics and innovations have rarely been studied in the older maritime historiography.[2]

Rediker's approach can yield surprising discoveries and perspectives—like the egalitarianism of some pirate crews. "Pirates used the precapitalist share system to apportion their take," he argues in Villains of All Nations:

By expropriating a merchant ship (after a mutiny or a capture), pirates seized the means of maritime production and declared it to be the common property of those who did its work. They abolished the wage relation central to the process of capitalist accumulation. So rather than work for wages using the tools and machine (the ship) owned by a merchant capitalist, pirates commanded the ship as their own property and shared equally in the risks of their common adventure.[3]

His most recent scholarship has turned to the related topics of the transatlantic slave trade and slave uprisings.


Rediker has won a number of awards for his works such as the George Washington Book Prize (2008), OAH Merle Curti Award (2008), National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow (2005–2006), American Council of Learned Societies Fellow (2005–2006) Distinguished Lecturer, OAH (2002–08), International Labor History Book Prize (2001), OAH Merle Curti Social History Book Award (1988) and ASA John Hope Franklin Book Prize (1988)

Selected publicationsEdit

  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750 (1987)
  • Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture, and Society, Volume 1 (1989)
  • with Peter Linebaugh: The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (2000)
  • Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (2004)
  • editor with Emma Christopher and Cassandra Pybus: Many Middle Passages: Forced Migration and the Making of the Modern World (2007)
  • The Slave Ship: A Human History (2007)
  • The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom (2012)
  • The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (2017)
  • Prophet Against Slavery (2022)


  1. ^ a b University of Pittsburgh profile Archived 2008-09-05 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750 (Cambridge UP, 1987), pp. 6-7.
  3. ^ Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon, 2004), p. 70.

External linksEdit