Linebaugh was a student of noted British labor historian E.P. Thompson, and he received his Ph.D. in British history from the University of Warwick in 1975. He has taught at University of Rochester, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Franconia College, Harvard University, and Tufts University. Linebaugh currently teaches at the University of Toledo, and joined the faculty of that institution in 1994.
Linebaugh's books have been generally well received within the discipline of history, and several of his books have demonstrated popularity among general readers. Historian Robin D.G. Kelley praised Linebaugh's most recent book, arguing in a review of The Magna Carta Manifesto (2008) that there is "not a more important historian living today. Period."
Linebaugh's articles have appeared in New Left Review, the New York University Law Review, Radical History Review, and Social History, and he is a frequent contributor to the online journal CounterPunch.