Liberty, Democracy, Piracy

Published on: February 23 / 2023

Pirate Enlightenment discussion with Marcus Rediker on Novara FM

What was the Enlightenment? A time of wigs, books and noble thoughts? Or was it a little more swashbuckling than that, and perhaps wearing an eye patch?

The final book by David Graeber is concerned with pirates and their lives: nasty, brutish and short, for sure – but also free and strikingly egalitarian. In Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia, the late anarchist and anthropologist argues that democracy was born less with a flick of the quill than with a lot of brutish captains being made to walk the plank.

To discuss Graeber’s pirates and the radical history of the high seas, Eleanor Penny is joined by Marcus Rediker, distinguished professor of Atlantic history at the University of Pittsburgh. His many books of maritime history-from-below include Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age and The Slave Ship: A Human History.

For more like this, listen to Novara FM with archaeologist David Wengrow, outlining the very different story of social evolution that he and Graeber put forward in their book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity.

Listen to the podcast on Novara Media

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