Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s The Many Headed Hydra (2000) argued that during the colonial and commercial expansion in the Atlantic Ocean between c. 1640 and 1830 a revolutionary proletariat emerged. Waves of commodification in the Atlantic system – of land, goods and people – created a mobile, multi-ethnic workforce. Authorities attempted to control them, only to provoke new forms of resistance. Atlantic proletarians played their own distinct part in the Age of Revolutions and the abolition of slavery; they created their own forms of equality and freedom. A decade after the publication of that highly suggestive study, how does the thesis stand up?
At this conference to be held at Birkbeck, University of London in Thursday 12 April 2012, we will hope to explore the book’s central themes in the light of new research, as well as taking it into new areas. The book concentrated on the English-speaking Atlantic and we would particularly encourage papers dealing with the non-English Atlantic or similar developments in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. We would hope papers pay attention to the intersections between class, gender and race. All sub-disciplinary perspectives – economic, social, cultural, political – are welcome.
Themes for papers could include:
· The politics and ideology of the proletariat: abolitionism, revolutions and revolts, popular egalitarianism and democracy, radical religion.
· Types of work and workers; changing work processes; migration and labour markets; industrial relations; work cultures.
Sites of struggle: the commons, the plantation, ships, factories. How did they structure workers’ experiences? Are particular types of resistance associated with them? Were there others?
· Material and economic pathways: the role of oceanic trade routes, commodities, natural resources, technologies etc
· Role of institutions (e.g. trading companies, guilds), States and Empires in creating and regulating the workforce; criminal justice and law; army and naval recruitment; taxation.
· Comparative perspectives between different Atlantic Empires or with the Mediterranean, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
· Long-term perspectives; sources & methodology; theory.
Call for papers deadline: January 1st 2012
Organisers: William Farrell, School of History, Birkbeck, Univ. of London.
Stephen Duane Dean Jr, Department of History, Kings College London.