• The Many-Headed Hydra

  • Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
  • By: Peter Linebaugh
  • Narrated by: Cornell Womack
  • Length: 16 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the International Labor History Award

Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, laborers, market women, and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would forever change history. The Many Headed-Hydra recounts their stories in a sweeping history of the role of the dispossessed in the making of the modern world.

When an unprecedented expansion of trade and colonization in the early 17th century launched the first global economy, a vast, diverse, and landless workforce was born. These workers crossed national, ethnic, and racial boundaries, as they circulated around the Atlantic world on trade ships and slave ships, from England to Virginia, from Africa to Barbados, and from the Americas back to Europe.

Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a "hydra" and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity.

©2013 Peter Linebaugh (P)2022 Beacon Press
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"For most readers the tale told here will be completely new. For those already well acquainted with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the image of that age which they have been so carefully taught and cultivated will be profoundly challenged." (David Montgomery, author of Citizen Worker)

"A landmark in the development of an Atlantic perspective on early American history. Ranging from Europe to Africa to the Caribbean and North America, it makes us think in new ways about the role of working people in the making of the modern world." (Eric Foner, author of The Story of American Freedom

"What would the world look like had the levelers, the diggers, the ranters, the slaves, the castaways, the Maroons, the Gypsies, the Indians, the Amazons, the Anabaptists, the pirates...won? Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker show us what could have been by exhuming the revolutionary dreams and rebellious actions of the first modern proletariat, whose stories - until now - were lost at sea. They have recovered a sunken treasure chest of history and historical possibility and spun these lost gems into a swashbuckling narrative full of labor, love, imagination, and startling beauty." (Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!)

What listeners say about The Many-Headed Hydra

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Great History, Great Narrator

Absolutely adored this history of the Atlantic proletariat. I'll definitely be looking into more of the authors' books.

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Great book, terrible performance

The content of this book is great, but the reading is the worst I’ve encountered on audible. It often sounds like listening to a bad text-to-speech and can hardly tell where one sentence ends and the next begins. Waste of a credit.

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  • Frank Amin
  • 08-04-22

The great resistance!

A brilliant overview of underdogs- people who gathered to challenge power. This book is about the activists who upheld the idea of egalitarianism and early conceptions of communism- or rather ‘commonism’ - in their actions and with their lives.

Very pertinent to today - where we have privileged ideologues bemoan ‘the mob’ and argue for hierarchies and inequalities to serve the cynical elites. ‘Progress’ never looked so backward.