Copy to Clipboard. Add italics as necessaryCite as: Hannah Proctor, ‘Resistance II’, in Re-: An Errant Glossary, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey and Arnd Wedemeyer, Cultural Inquiry, 15 (Berlin: ICI Berlin Press, 2019), pp. 121–28 <https:/​/​​10.25620/​ci-15_15>

Resistance IIHannah Proctor ORCID


A litany of terms drawn from Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and placed together in an attempt to create a sense of collective possibility.

Keywords: history from below; social history; resistance

The air is alive with the possibilities of assembling, gathering, congregating. At any moment, the promise of insurrection, the miracle of upheaval; small groups… and strangers threaten to become an ensemble, to incite treason en masse.

Saidiya Hartman, ‘The Terrible Beauty of the Slum

The summer I moved to Berlin I read The Many Headed Hydra by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker. The book is a rousing work of ‘history from below’ that criss-crosses the Atlantic, charting rebellions, rebellious movements, and the movement of rebellious ideas that emerged with the expansion of trade and colonization in the early seventeenth century. The ‘hydra’ was a pejorative term used by the ruling classes to describe the new motley groups and collectivities that attended capitalist expansion.1 As I read the book I created a list of the groups, subjects, and figures that the authors mention. These are the hydra’s very many heads detached from their contexts of struggle to create a giant amorphous mass. In reading this list out loud I was intrigued by what effect the sheer proliferation might produce — if it might capture something of the possibilities of ‘assembling, gathering, congregating’ that Hartman describes or whether it rather slips into fatigue or meaninglessness. I’m also interested in what some of the somewhat anachronistic professions or descriptions of groups might mean when thought in relation to on-going struggles in the present. Could the list be constantly expanded?

dispossessed commoners, transported felons, indentured servants, religious radicals, pirates, urban labourers, soldiers, sailors, African slaves
rogues and beggars
entertainers, sex workers
the chapmen, the tinkers, the peddlers
the discharged or wounded
The entertainers of the day — the jugglers, fencers, minstrels, keepers of dancing bears, athletes, and players of interludes
all those outside of organized wage labour
swarms of idle persons
peoples who lived without property, work, masters, or kings
many different kinds of people, with many different kinds of work experience: sailors, labourers, craftsmen, and commoners of several sorts, including Native Americans
a motley crew
the amorphous labouring class
hewers of wood and drawers of water
spade men, brick men, carpenters
the dispossessed, the strangers, the women, the children
orphans, vagrants, petty offenders, disorderly women
The Gypsies
the radical protestant, the sturdy rogue, the redundant craftsman, the Catholic recusant , the wild Irishman, the commonist, and the cutpurse
heretics and thieves
servants and fugitives of many languages and colours
the lumpenproletariat
the proletariat
the land rovers
all those who rejected wage labour: the Abraham-men, palliards, clapperdudgeons, whipjacks, dummerers, files, dunakers, cursitors, Roberds-men, swadlers, prigs, anglers, fraters, rufflers, bawdy-baskets, autem-morts, walking morts, doxies, and dells
assassins, Amazons, Anabaptists
religious radicals, indigenous Americans, Africans, commoners
the vagabonds, the master-less
mechanics, watermen, apprentices
the lowly and the base
the Levellers and the Diggers
the urban rioters and the rural commoners
The Ranters
the witches
sailors, clowns, mechanics, and radical sectaries
roarers, ranters, swearers, and bell-ringers
mechanic preachers
independent women
West Indians
market gardeners, and river workers such as the watermen, ferrymen, and fishermen
market women, carters, porters, sailors, weavers, silk winders, and all the other poor discontented persons
Tribeless, landless, nameless,
Wealthless, hostless, fameless
the sailor of the European deep-sea ship and the boatman of the African canoe
a multilinguistic, multiethnic crew
European and African American slaves (with and without indentures), felons, landless paupers, beggars, pirates, and rebels of all kinds
London Levellers, Irish soldiers, Barbadian servants, and Virginia slaves
saltwater vagabonds
coopers, gunners, sailmakers
outcasts of all nations
the convicts, prostitutes, debtors
men of unfortunate and desperate condition
peasant rebels , demobilized soldiers, dispossessed smallholders, unemployed workers
Brethren of the Coast
banditti of all nations
a mix’t multitude
cross-dressing female warriors
the outcasts of the nations of the earth
the dispossessed of all colours [who] feasted, danced, sang, took oaths, and planned their resistance
obscure people with no visible way of subsistence
a mass of desperate but necessarily creative proletarians being forced to work for wages
the Papa, from the Slave Coast near Whydah; the Igbo, from the area around the Niger River; and the Malagasay, from Madagascar
Shamans of Gold Coast origins
haters of the Army
Afro-Hispanic sailors
radical itinerants
a mini-diaspora
agitators and organisers
the most degenerated, and abandoned
scum and dregs
gangs of the tobacco and sugar plantations
armed agglomerations
refugees, boat people, evacuees, and prisoners
hoisters of the red flag
sons of Jamaica
a motley rabble of saucy boys
wretches, with tethered garments
the vanguard
Turbulent people of all Nations engaged in illicit Trade
the disenfranchised
shoemakers, hatters, clockmakers
friends and comrades
mass cultivators of the soil
the oppressed
multiethnic gangs of labourers
housekeepers, lovers, and nurses
freedom fighters
sappers, miners, pick and shovel workers
the half-clothed and the half-drunk
the volatile and the frolicsome
millenarian dissidents
ignorant turtlers
Sheffield cutlers
an injured and exasperated people
artisans, Jacobins, Jews
heterodox thinkers
the vanquished
agrarian communists
poor disinherited earth worms
jack tars, coal-heavers, dustmen, women of colour, old and young
the factory worker
food rioters; army agitators; barbarians of the commons
aquatic labourers, free thinkers and striking textile workers
the forgotten, the utopian
multitudinous, numerous, and growing
numbered, weighed, and measured
cooperative and labouring
motley vulgar planetary
self-active, creative


  1. Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2013).


  1. Hartman, Saidiya, ‘The Terrible Beauty of the Slum’ (2017) <> [accessed 20 December 2018]
  2. Linebaugh, Peter, and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2013)