Authors Archives: Michael Benton

The Many-Headed Hydra

Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).

Like many important things in our lives these days I have had to repeatedly revisit and reconsider Linebaugh’s and Rediker’s history of the beginnings of the British Transatlantic empire and the resistances that arose in response to the ordering processes of early global capitalism. The first time I read Many-Headed Hydra I was researching the origins of global capitalism and the various resistances to its rise. The second visit to this history was in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks upon the WTC towers in New York City. I used their history as a background to wrestle with the uses and abuses of the term “terror” in the media and politics. The third reading was completed in order to judge the suitability of the book for use in my undergraduate course “Terror in Contemporary Culture.” It is through these three different readings that Many-Headed Hydra’s importance to contemporary issues will be examined. (In this review I will be examining some of the broader issues surrounding the authors’ history and its usefulness to scholars and teachers. For those looking for a more general summary of the chapters and content please visit Graham Russell Hodges’ review of Many-Headed Hydra).

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