In The Slave Ship, what are some aspects of Rediker's approach that are criticized?

Some aspects of The Slave Ship that are criticized are related to the limitations imposed by the narrow focus of Rediker's approach. Others may take issue with Rediker's attention to the white crewmen on the slave ship.

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The Slave Ship was very well received, and it remains an important work in the literature on the slave trade and the Atlantic World more generally. Rediker's approach was to focus on the slave ship itself. This approach highlights the experiences of both the enslaved people who endured the horrors of the trade and the white sailors who were also subjected to brutal discipline on slave voyages. Rediker intends this approach to be an addition to a rich scholarship that has nevertheless tended to view the slave trade from a distance, in terms of numbers, causes, and effects. He also examines the ways that the enslaved people on the voyages formed communities, helping each other under the worst of circumstances. The enslaved, writes Rediker, were the "first and primary abolitionists," as they resisted slavery in their own ways on board the slave ship.

As for criticisms, one that might be leveled at Rediker, who is among the most prominent Atlantic World historiographers, is that his approach does not situate the slave ship in the broader world. Some others may be struck, even overwhelmed, by the gut wrenching passages that describe, in vivid detail, the horrors of the slave ship. It could also be argued—though this was far from his intent—that by looking at the brutality used against white sailors by slave ship captains, that the author created a sense of equivalence in terms of cruelty. Still, The Slave Ship was overwhelmingly well received by scholars and the general public.

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