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September 2, 2010

Rediker named distinguished professor

Rediker_MarcusPitt has honored Marcus Rediker, professor of history and an award-winning author, by naming him Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History.

The designation of Distinguished Professor, a rank that recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field, became effective July 1.

Rediker’s book, “The Slave Ship: A Human History,” won the 2008 George Washington Book Prize, which is administered by the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington’s Mount Vernon; the 2008 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians, and the James A. Rawley Prize from the American Historical Association. The book has been translated into Swedish and currently is being translated into Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Portuguese.

Another of Rediker’s books, “Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age,” is under option with Lionsgate Entertainment and is in development as a television miniseries. Rediker also is at work on “The Amistad Rebellion: A Sea Story of Slavery and Freedom,” scheduled for publication in 2012.

A scholar of early American history and Atlantic history, Rediker joined the Pitt faculty in 1994. He just completed a term as chair of the history department, a post he had held since September 2007.

Among the courses he teaches are The Global History of Piracy, Colonial America, Atlantic History: 1500-1800 and Africa and the Atlantic.

Rediker told the University Times, “I try to teach history ‘from the bottom up,’ what I call ‘the people’s history.’ We have a history full of kings and statesmen and philosophers, but we don’t have a history of people who literally built the world.”

Teaching at Pitt is very enjoyable, Rediker said. “I find that students just love to have a teacher who cares about something. They love the experience of engagement with a teacher who is passionate about something. I tell my students: ‘My goal is to help you be come a self-educating person, so that you’ll want to learn. My purpose is to show you what pleasure can be had in thinking for yourself, challenging yourself.’”

But there’s a underlying ethical message in his teaching as well. “I tell my classes: ‘If you don’t like the history you’ve got so far, go out and make some of your own.’ We can’t study politics and history as disembodied intellectual concepts,” he said. “All politics is a struggle for new ideas, more humane ideas, and these ideas have always, always come out of struggles for a better life.”

Rediker also is the author of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750,” which has been translated into Italian, Greek, Korean and French and earned the 1988 Merle Curti Award for the best work in American social history and the 1988 John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association for best interdisciplinary work in American Studies; “Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture and Society,” with Herbert G. Gutman and others, and “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic,” with Peter Linebaugh, which was translated into French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish and won the 2001 International Labor History Book Prize from the International Labor History Association.

In addition to his book awards, Rediker was named a 2005-06 fellow of both the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities; a 1990-91 Andrew Mellon Fellow at Pitt, and a 1989-90 fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Rediker attended Vanderbilt University and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received a BA degree in history. He earned MA and PhD degrees in history from Penn.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 1

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