The Slave Ship

  • by Marcus Rediker
  • Narrated by David Drummond
  • 13 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- Michael

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.
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- D. Bivens

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-15-2007
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio