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Book Review

The Slave Ship: A Human History, by Marcus Rediker (Tantor Media, 2007)

Slave Ship Cover ArtWow! What a book! Everything you wanted to know about slave ships, the business of slavery, and 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.

It was remarkable to learn of the resistance put up by the slaves. 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. Death among slaves and crew were common and simply viewed as collateral damage. 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 (or read).

Michael Kainrath

The Virginian-Pilot

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