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Peter Linebaugh


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Peter Linebaugh is a child of empire, schooled in London, Cattaraugus, N.Y., Washington D.C., Bonn, and Karachi. He went to Swarthmore College during the civil rights days. He has taught at Harvard University and Attica Penitentiary, at New York University and the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. He used to edit Zerowork and was a member of the Midnight Notes Collective. He coauthored Albion’s Fatal Tree, and is the author of The London Hanged, The Many-Headed Hydra (with Marcus Rediker), The Magna Carta Manifesto, and introductions to a Verso book of Thomas Paine’s writing and PM’s new edition of E.P. Thompson’s William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. He works at the University of Toledo, Ohio. He lives in the Great Lakes region with a great crew, Michaela Brennan, his beautiful partner, and Riley, Kate, Alex, and Enzo.

Check out Peter Linebaugh on Al Jazeera talking about the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the history and the future of May Day.

Watch Peter Linebaugh on Democracy Now 4/29/2016 talking about The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day

Check out Peter on The Laura Flanders Show 4/26/2016 talking about The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day

Purchasing Links

The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day
Author: Peter Linebaugh
Publisher: PM Press/Spectre
ISBN: 978-1-62963-107-3
Published: 03/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 192
Subjects: History-Revolutionary/Labor Studies
$15.95


“May Day is about affirmation, the love of life, and the start of spring, so it has to be about the beginning of the end of the capitalist system of exploitation, oppression, war, and overall misery, toil, and moil.” So writes celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh in an essential compendium of reflections on the reviled, glorious, and voltaic occasion of May 1st.

It is a day that has made the rich and powerful cower in fear and caused Parliament to ban the Maypole—a magnificent and riotous day of rebirth, renewal, and refusal. These reflections on the Red and the Green—out of which arguably the only hope for the future lies—are populated by the likes of Native American anarcho-communist Lucy Parsons, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, Karl Marx, José Martí, W.E.B. Du Bois, Rosa Luxemburg, SNCC, and countless others, both sentient and verdant. The book is a forceful reminder of the potentialities of the future, for the coming of a time when the powerful will fall, the commons restored, and a better world born anew.

Praise:

“There is not a more important historian living today. Period.”
—Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

“E.P. Thompson, you may rest now. Linebaugh restores the dignity of the despised luddites with a poetic grace worthy of the master.”
—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“Ideas can be beautiful too, and the ideas Peter Linebaugh provokes and maps in this history of liberty are dazzling reminders of what we have been and who we could be.”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of Storming the Gates of Paradise

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Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance
Author: Peter Linebaugh
Publisher: PM Press/Spectre
ISBN: 978-1-60486-747-3
Published: 02/2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 304 Pages
Subjects: History Politics/Economics
$21.95


In this majestic tour de force, celebrated historian Peter Linebaugh takes aim at the thieves of land, the polluters of the seas, the ravagers of the forests, the despoilers of rivers, and the removers of mountaintops. Scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth that has not had commoning at its heart. "Neither the state nor the market," say the planetary commoners. These essays kindle the embers of memory to ignite our future commons.

From Thomas Paine to the Luddites, from Karl Marx—who concluded his great study of capitalism with the enclosure of commons—to the practical dreamer William Morris—who made communism into a verb and advocated communizing industry and agriculture—to the 20th-century communist historian E.P. Thompson, Linebaugh brings to life the vital commonist tradition. He traces the red thread from the great revolt of commoners in 1381 to the enclosures of Ireland, and the American commons, where European immigrants who had been expelled from their commons met the immense commons of the native peoples and the underground African-American urban commons. Illuminating these struggles in this indispensable collection, Linebaugh reignites the ancient cry, "STOP, THIEF!"

Praise:

"There is not a more important historian living today. Period."
—Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"E.P. Thompson, you may rest now. Linebaugh restores the dignity of the despised luddites with a poetic grace worthy of the master… [A] commonist manifesto for the 21st century."
—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

"Peter Linebaugh's great act of historical imagination… takes the cliché of 'globalization' and makes it live. The local and the global are once again shown to be inseparable—as they are, at present, for the machine-breakers of the new world crisis."
—T.J. Clark, author of Farewell to an Idea

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Ned Ludd & Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811-12
Author: Peter Linebaugh
Publisher: PM Press/Retort
ISBN: 978-1-60486-704-6
Published: March 2012
Format: Pamphlet
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 48 Pages
Subjects: History, Social Movements
$6.95


Peter Linebaugh, in an extraordinary historical and literary tour de force, enlists the anonymous and scorned 19th century loom-breakers of the English midlands into the front ranks of an international, polyglot, many-colored crew of commoners resisting dispossession in the dawn of capitalist modernity.

Praise:

"Sneering at the Luddites is still the order of the day. Peter Linebaugh's great act of historical imagination stops the scoffers in their tracks. It takes the cliche of 'globalization' and makes it live: the Yorkshire machine-breakers are put right back in the violent world economy of 1811-12, in touch with the Atlantic slave trade, Mediterranean agri-business, the Tecumseh rebellion, the brutal racism of London dockland. The local and the global are once again shown to be inseparable—as they are, at present, for the machine-breakers of the new world crisis." —T.J. Clark, author of The Absolute Bourgeois and Image of the People

"My benediction" —E.J. Hobsbawn, author of Primitive Rebels and Captain Swing

"E.P. Thompson, you may rest now. Linebaugh restores the dignity of the despised luddites with a poetic grace worthy of the master. By a stunning piece of re-casting we see them here not as rebels against the future but among the avant-garde of a planetary resistance movement against capitalist enclosures in the long struggle for a different future. Byron, Shelley, listen up! Peter Linebaugh's Ned Ludd and Queen Mab does for 'technology' what his London Hanged did for 'crime'. Where was I that day in Bloomsbury when he delivered this commonist manifesto for the 21st century? The Retort Pamphet series is off to a brilliant start." —Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and Buda's Wagon

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Events

For a calendar of speaking events, please click here

Blog

  • The Commons and the Centennial of the Easter Rising
    Last year on Earth Day we sang the Digger’s Song and I promised not to come again unless it was with a jackhammer. Here I am with no jack hammer. So it was at best a hope deferred or at worst a false promise. In any case a defeat.
  • The Untold History of Independence Day
    A video interview and transcript of The Untold History of Independence Day with Jaisal Noor and Peter Linebaugh on The Real News. "July 4 is celebrated here in the U.S. as Independence Day to mark the adoption of the Declaration of Independen...
  • A Reply to Derek Hall’s Review of Stop, Thief! in Antipode
    I welcome Derek Hall’s review of Stop, Thief! not least because as a professor at a university in Waterloo, Ontario, its author is a neighbor of mine insofar as we share the region of the Great Lakes, the largest bodies of fresh water in ...
 

What others are saying...

Interviews & Mentions

Reviews

 

Peter Linebaugh: An interview on Gods & Radicals Podcast
incompelteby James Lindenschmidt
Gods & Radical Podcast
August 10th, 2016

This episode was a treat. I was lucky enough to interview A Peoples’ Remembrancer, Peter Linebaugh, on Bastille Day. These comments are taken from that conversation. We spoke about a lot of things, including Bastille Day; the Green and Red struggles of May Day; prisons, plantations, & the factory as locations of struggle; coal miners; the lungs as part of the nature; rewilding the cities; welfare as referring to wellness; how the magical Will is a social creation and becomes more powerful when shared collectively; and revolt as a Peoples’ Magic.

"The excitement, the joy, the emotions, and the will is collective when it becomes powerful, and then it produces events that are totally unthought of. Who could have possibly imagined that a wall 90 feet high, in parts 30 feet thick, surrounded by a moat deep enough to drown in, who would have thought that such an edifice which had remained for centuries could be brought down in the space of less than 24 hours. That’s what we’re celebrating on the 14th of July, 1789. This edifice of tyranny, this edifice of repression, this action of people who are rewilding it has provided inspiration for every urban revolution that has ever taken place, and it provides us inspiration now that the carceral archipelago, the huge military prison complex of the USA, can be brought down in a twinkling. These are the miracles of history, but it’s just as accurate to say these are peoples’ magic.”

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Peter Linebaugh: An interview on New Books in History Podcast
incompelteby Christine Lamberson
New Books in History Podcast
March 28th, 2016

"The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day (PM Press, 2007) is a new collection of essays from Peter Linebaugh about the history of May Day. The essays were written for a range of occasions celebrating or otherwise relating to May Day. Collectively, the essays recognize the power of May Day historically and internationally. They reflect on the holiday in relation to a number of historical figures from Native American anarcho-communist Lucy Parsons, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and Karl Marx to Jose Marti, W. E. B. Du Bois, and SNCC, along with many others. The book also makes an argument for the continued relevance and importance of this workers’ day.
In the interview Linebaugh discusses his own background as a child of empire from schooling in London to working as a professor in the United States and living in numerous places in between. He introduces listeners to some of the essays in detail and then generally talks about the importance of May Day historically. He also addresses questions about the continued relevance of the holiday today, including possible lessons for today’s political and economic climate."

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The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day: A review
incompelteby Mark Krantz
Socialist Review
May 2016

"...Some of the historical details Linebaugh uncovers are fascinating and the links to contemporary events are inspiring. For example, he recalls how when the black activist W E B Du Bois heard that the Irish who led the Easter Rising in 1916 were being called “fools” by some on the left, he appealed to the heavens, “Would to God some of us had the sense enough to be fools!”

Linebaugh takes us right back to the early colonisation of America. Thomas Morton arrived in America in 1642. He wanted “to work, trade, and enjoy life with the natives”. Three years later he erected a giant Maypole at Merry Mount, under which recent immigrants like himself joined with Native Americans in a celebration of May Day..."

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The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day: A review
incompelteby Rowan Cahill
Labour History Melbourne
April 29th, 2016

So why begin a discussion of Peter Linebaugh’s latest book, The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day (Oakland: PM Press, 2016), here? Simply, and humour me, because I’ve recently revisited Morris’ writings, in particular travelled with Guest through News From Nowhere, and Jack Lindsay’s fine biography of Morris (1975). Linebaugh writes in the tradition of Morris’ May Day, against the same system Morris railed against. Reading his book is like taking a radical ramble with Morris through the Epping Forest he sought to defend, if with a huge imaginative leap the ‘Forest’ is recast metaphorically as the vast human history of protest by the disinherited. Asked in 1991 by his wife, Dorothy Thompson, if he still described himself as the Marxist he once was, historian E. P. Thompson unhesitatingly replied “that he preferred to call himself ‘a Morrisist’”. Linebaugh studied under Thompson, and this book is a wonderful blend of many things, resonating with echoes of Marx and Morris and Thompson.

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The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day: A review
incompelteby Rhyd Wildermuth
Gods and Radicals
April 18th, 2016
In The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day, a new collection of his essays published by PM Press, Peter Linebaugh explores both threads of May Day, the Pagan threads (what he calls “The Green”) and the anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist threads (“The Red”).

The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day is a collection of 11 essays, each written about and for May Day (and, as he cheerfully notes in the introductory essay, sometimes written ‘the night before’ the occasion) which dance and weave into each other like the ribbons of a maypole.

Linebaugh doesn’t tell history in lines, and that’s a good thing. Linear history is the story of the machine-age, the mechanistic world of the factory and the skyscraper, the narrative of progress and the line-up to the gas chambers. Such a history wheels along, unstoppable along iron tracks past the present. Through its windows we might catch a glimpse of the ‘great men’ of earlier times, the generals and warlords, men of religion, men of industry, men of science; if, that is, the black smudge of coal and petrol smoke does not obscure our view.

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incompelte 
The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day: A review
Publishers Weekly
May 2016

In these collected ruminations spanning three decades, historian Linebaugh (Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance) celebrates the labor movement and bemoans the corporatization and alienation of modern life that combine to weaken workers’ bonds with their fellow workers and with the rejuvenating spirit of nature. Written to mark May Day, the international workers’ holiday, Linebaugh’s 11 playful and elegiac treatises motivate, enrage, and inform. Many of the pieces circle back to the same themes and events, particularly watershed moments such as Chicago’s Haymarket massacre. In one essay, Linebaugh frames the genesis of America’s early identity in the ideological battle between Thomas Morton’s tolerant, ecumenical colony at Merry Mount and its more famous and famously ascetic Puritan neighbors: “Casting the struggle as mirth vs. gloom, grizzly saints vs. gay sinners, green vs. iron, it was the Puritans who won, and the fate of America was determined in favor of psalm-singing Indian-scalpers whose notion of the Maypole was a whipping post.” The penultimate contribution, “Ypsilanti Vampire May Day,” was something of an intellectual touchstone for the Occupy movement. Parallel strands of socialist activism animate Linebaugh’s lively entreaties: “Green is a relationship to the earth and what grows therefrom. Red is a relationship to other people and the blood spilt there among,” he writes. “May Day is both.”

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stopStop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance: A review
by Martin Parker
Anarchist Studies 23-1

"...It’s a tremendous book, bursting with astonishing detail, bizarre entanglements, autobiographical excursions and firebrand rhetoric. It is a most ill-disciplined read too, one that refuses to stay within its constituent disciplines – history and politics – and that instead oscillates between Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not’ scholarship and a tub thumping condemnation of the present. Circumnavigating the shores of the Atlantic, Linebaugh forces his readers to think about communing, communism and the deep tides of history that connect ‘then’ with ‘now’. It’s a great read..."

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stopRevolution At the Witching Hour: The Legacy of Midnight Notes
by James Lindenschmidt
Gods & Radicals Journal
September 2015

Finally, Peter Linebaugh is the historian and storyteller of the three. He is an engaging writer, and the stories he tells need to be heard and retold. Stop, Thief! is divided into five sections. Section 1, The Commons, is the best primer I know of to exploring what Commons & Commoning is. Start with “Some Principles of the Commons,” which is a very short introduction, showing us that the commons “is best understood as a verb,” and then “Stop, Thief! A Primer on the Commons & Commoning” fills in one’s understanding that the commons “is not a thing but a relationship” as it applies to various modes of living & knowing.

Part 2, “Charles Marks,” are some of Linebaugh’s contributions to Marxism in history. Part 3, The “UK”, are looks at English History including “Ned Ludd & Queen Mab,” which shows us that the Luddites were not technophobes but rather were cross-dressing warriors, “anonymous, avenging avatars who meted out justice that was otherwise denied.” Part 4, The “USA,” contains “Introduction to Thomas Paine” and “Meandering at the Crossroads of Communism and the Commons,” which take a look at the vast commons that existed in pre-colonialist North America. This analysis is continued in Part 5, “First Nations,” with its three essays, “The Red-Crested Bird and Black Duck”, “The Commons, the Castle, the Witch, and the Lynx,” and “The Invisibility of the Commons.”

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suspendedStop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance: A review
By Derek Hall
Antipode
June 2014

Stop, Thief! is both a work of history and a manifesto. In this collection of essays, Peter Linebaugh ranges across several centuries of North Atlantic history to unearth tales of enclosure and resistance to it, and does so by engaging in what he nicely calls “the vast and exciting project of rewriting history from the standpoint of the commons” (p.8). Linebaugh assembles this remarkable collection of stories of struggle not just to educate his reader but to rally her behind the project of ‘communism’ (rightly understood). By the end of the book I felt educated but not rallied, and I would like in this review to explore why. In doing so, I will discuss the kinds of arguments that Linebaugh makes for communism and the kinds he does not, and argue that the absence of one type in particular–the type that envisages in some detail how a modern society based on commoning might actually work–undermines Linebaugh’s political project.

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suspendedThe Struggle For The Commons: A Review of Stop, Thief!
by Paul Buhle
Swans.com
June 2nd, 2014

...The struggle for the "commons," the common space once held widely and increasingly stolen away over the centuries, is the leitmotif. Linebaugh enjoys wandering around the subject in the way that Walt Whitman loved loafing: not really a form of laziness but rather a meditation not to be reached in a straight, i.e., scholarly, path. The long memory of the European forests and their uses by common people, the connections of casual theft (wood, for instance) with Luddism and resistance against the emerging power structures and their mechanical world, the literary specification of resistance in Shelley's Queen Mab, the connections of William Morris and E.P. Thompson, memories of the Magna Carta and of Wat Tyler -- all these connect with the English history that Linebaugh knows so well and has explicated in London Hanged. I appreciate in particular his exploration of the first canonical (if rarely accepted as such) English poem, Piers Plowman, because Linebaugh has perfectly captured the pitch of this seemingly theological but actually quite political classic. I am drawn to this analysis because I plundered it so thoroughly for my little book on Robin Hood (with the same publisher)...

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suspended“Stop, Thief!” – Peter Linebaugh's New Collection of Essays
by David Bollier
David Bollier: news and perspectives on the commons
April 2nd, 2014

It is always refreshing to read Peter Linebaugh’s writings on the commons because he brings such rich historical perspectives to bear, revealing the commons as both strangely alien and utterly familiar. With the added kick that the commoning he describes actually happened, Linebaugh’s journeys into the commons leave readers outraged at enclosures of long ago and inspired to protect today's endangered commons.

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For more from Peter...

Peter Linebaugh discussing The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day


What Do 800-Year-Old Magna Carta & Black Lives Matter Have in Common? A People’s Historian Explains: Peter Linebaugh on Democracy Now!


Watch: A Juneteenth Message for the American Interior
With Peter Linebaugh, Michaela Brennan, Anthony Morgan, D’Real Graham and Donald Roberts


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