During the early modern period, objects of maritime material culture were removed from their places of origin and traded, collected and displayed worldwide. Focusing on shells and pearls exchanged within local and global networks, this monograph compares and connects Asian, in particular Chinese, and European practices of oceanic exploitation in the framework of a transcultural history of art with an understanding of maritime material culture as gendered. Perceiving the ocean as mother of all things, as womb and birthplace, Chinese and European artists and collectors exoticized and eroticized shells’ shapes and surfaces. Defining China and Europe as spaces entangled with South and Southeast Asian sites of knowledge production, source and supply between 1500 and 1700, the book understands oceanic goods and maritime networks as transcending and subverting territorial and topographical boundaries. It also links the study of globally connected port cities to local ecologies of oceanic exploitation and creative practices.
Few Americans, black or white, recognize the degree to which early African American history is a maritime history. W. Jeffrey Bolster shatters the myth that black seafaring in the age of sail was limited to the Middle Passage. Seafaring was one of the most significant occupations among both enslaved and free black men between 1740 and 1865. Tens of thousands of black seamen sailed on lofty clippers and modest coasters. They sailed in whalers, warships, and privateers. Some were slaves, forced to work at sea, but by 1800 most were free men, seeking liberty and economic opportunity aboard ship.
Bolster brings an intimate understanding of the sea to this extraordinary chapter in the formation of black America. Because of their unusual mobility, sailors were the eyes and ears to worlds beyond the limited horizon of black communities ashore. Sometimes helping to smuggle slaves to freedom, they were more often a unique conduit for news and information of concern to blacks.
But for all its opportunities, life at sea was difficult. Blacks actively contributed to the Atlantic maritime culture shared by all seamen, but were often outsiders within it. Capturing that tension, Black Jacks examines not only how common experiences drew black and white sailors together—even as deeply internalized prejudices drove them apart—but also how the meaning of race aboard ship changed with time. Bolster traces the story to the end of the Civil War, when emancipated blacks began to be systematically excluded from maritime work. Rescuing African American seamen from obscurity, this stirring account reveals the critical role sailors played in helping forge new identities for black people in America.
An epic tale of the rise and fall of black seafaring, Black Jacks is African Americans’ freedom story presented from a fresh perspective.
Considered One of the First Acts of Rebellion to British Authority Over the American Colonies, a Fresh Account Placing the Incident into Historical Context
Between the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773—a period historians refer to as “the lull”—a group of prominent Rhode Islanders rowed out to His Majesty’s schooner Gaspee,which had run aground six miles south of Providence while on an anti-smuggling patrol. After threatening and shooting its commanding officer, the raiders looted the vessel and burned it to the waterline. Despite colony-wide sympathy for the June 1772 raid, neither the government in Providence nor authorities in London could let this pass without a response. As a result, a Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Rhode Island governor Joseph Wanton zealously investigated the incident. In The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee: An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution, historian Steven Park reveals that what started out as a customs battle over the seizure of a prominent citizen’s rum was soon transformed into the spark that re-ignited Patriot fervor. The significance of the raid was underscored by a fiery Thanksgiving Day sermon given by a little-known Baptist minister in Boston. His inflammatory message was reprinted in several colonies and was one of the most successful pamphlets of the pre-Independence period. The commission turned out to be essentially a sham and made the administration in London look weak and ineffective. In the wake of the Gaspee affair, Committees of Correspondence soon formed in all but one of the original thirteen colonies, and later East India Company tea would be defiantly dumped into Boston Harbor.
After 1776, Americans struggled to gain recognition of their new republic and their rights as citizens. None had to fight harder than the nation’s seamen, whose labor took them deep into the Atlantic world. Nathan Perl-Rosenthal tells the story of how their efforts created the first national, racially inclusive model of U.S. citizenship.
Deep-sea fishing has always been a hazardous occupation, with crews facing gale-force winds, huge waves and swells, and unrelenting rain and snow. For those New England and British fishermen whose voyages took them hundreds of miles from the coastline, life was punctuated by strenuous work, grave danger, and frequent fear. Unsurprisingly, every fishing port across the world has memorials to those lost at sea.
During the 1960s and 1970s, these seafaring workers experienced new hardships. As modern fleets from many nations intensified their hunt for fish, they found themselves in increasing competition for disappearing prey. Colin J. Davis details the unfolding drama as New England and British fishermen and their wives, partners, and families reacted to this competition. Rather than acting as bystanders to these crises, the men and women chronicled in Contested and Dangerous Seas became fierce advocates for the health of the Atlantic Ocean fisheries and for their families' livelihoods.
Both the Christian Bible and Aristotle's works suggest that water should entirely flood the earth. Though many ancient, medieval, and early modern Europeans relied on these works to understand and explore the relationships between water and earth, particularly sixteenth-century Europeans were especially concerned with why dry land existed. This book investigates why sixteenth-century Europeans were so interested in water's failure to submerge the earth when their predecessors had not been. Analyzing biblical commentaries as well as natural philosophical, geographical, and cosmographical texts from these periods, Lindsay Starkey shows that European sea voyages to the Southern Hemisphere combined with the traditional methods of European scholarship and religious reformations led sixteenth-century Europeans to reinterpret water and earth's ontological and spatial relationships. The manner in which they did so also sheds light on how we can respond to our current water crisis before it is too late.
The Iberian conquest of the Atlantic at the beginning of the sixteenth century had a notable impact on the formation of the new world order in which Christian Europe claimed control over most a considerable part of the planet. This was possible thanks to the confluence of different and inseparable factors: the development of new technical capacities and favorable geographical conditions in which to navigate the great oceans; the Christian mandate to extend the faith; the need for new trade routes; and an imperial organization aspiring to global dominance. The author explores new methods for approaching old historiographical problems of the Renaissance — such as the discovery and conquest of America, the birth of modern science, and the problem of Eurocentrism — now in reference to actors and regions scarcely visible in the complex history of modern Europe: the ships, the wind, the navigators, their instruments, their gods, saints, and demons.
Lenora Warren tells a new story about the troubled history of abolition and slave violence by examining representations of shipboard mutiny and insurrection in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Anglo-American and American literature. Fire on the Water centers on five black sailors, whose experiences of slavery and insurrection either inspired or found resonance within fiction: Olaudah Equiano, Denmark Vesey, Joseph Cinqué, Madison Washington, and Washington Goode. These stories of sailors, both real and fictional, reveal how the history of mutiny and insurrection is both shaped by, and resistant to, the prevailing abolitionist rhetoric surrounding the efficacy of armed rebellion as a response to slavery. Pairing well-known texts with lesser-known figures (Billy Budd and Washington Goode) and well-known figures with lesser-known texts (Denmark Vesey and the work of John Howison), this book reveals the richness of literary engagement with the politics of slave violence.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
This fascinating account explores the significance of the Chicago Portage, one of the most important—and neglected—sites in early US history. A seven-mile-long strip of marsh connecting the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers, the portage was inhabited by the earliest indigenous people in the Midwest and served as a major trade route for Native American tribes. A link between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean, the Chicago Portage was a geopolitically significant resource that the French, British, and US governments jockeyed to control. Later, it became a template for some of the most significant waterways created in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The portage gave Chicago its name and spurred the city’s success—and is the reason why the metropolis is located in Illinois, not Wisconsin.
A History of the Chicago Portage: The Crossroads That Made Chicago and Helped Make America is the definitive story of a national landmark.
Stories of disasters at sea, whether about Roman triremes, the treasure fleet of the Spanish Main, or great transatlantic ocean liners, fire the imagination as little else can. From the historical sinkings of the Titanic and the Lusitania to the recent capsizing of a Mediterranean cruise ship, the study of shipwrecks also makes for a new and very different understanding of world history. A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks explores the age-old, immensely hazardous, persistently romantic, and ongoing process of moving people and goods across the seven seas. In recounting the stories of ships and the people who made and sailed them, from the earliest craft plying the ancient Nile to the Exxon Valdez, Stewart Gordon argues that the gradual integration of mainly local and separate maritime domains into fewer, larger, and more interdependent regions offers a unique perspective on world history. Gordon draws a number of provocative conclusions from his study, among them that the European “Age of Exploration” as a singular event is simply a myth: over the millennia, many cultures, east and west, have explored far-flung maritime worlds, and technologies of shipbuilding and navigation have been among the main drivers of science and exploration throughout history. In a series of compelling narratives, A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks shows that the development of institutions and technologies that made the terrifying oceans familiar and turned unknown seas into well-traveled sea-lanes matters profoundly in our modern world.
In 2009, 319 years after its publication, and following over a century of copious scholarly speculation about the work, José F. Buscaglia is the first scholar to furnish direct and irrefutable proof that the story contained in the Infortunios/Misfortunes is based on the life and times of a man certifiably named Alonso Ramírez, who was shipwrecked on Herradura Point in the Coast of Yucatán on Sunday September 18, 1689. This first bilingual edition of the Infortunios/Misfortunes reports the findings of almost two decades of sustained research in pursuit, on land and by sea, of a most elusive historical character who was, as we now can attest with all degree of certainty, the first American known to have circumnavigated the globe. Captured by pirates, shipwrecked, and eventually rescued and sent on his way, this is one man’s story of his unanticipated voyage around the Early Modern world. With transcription, translation, notes, maps, images, and critical essay by Jose F. Buscaglia-Salgado, this Rutgers edition is the most complete and authoritative study on a work that grants us privileged access to the intricacies of early American subjectivity.
Robinson Crusoe, an adventure tale that fascinated such thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, and J. M. Coetzee, has been an international best-seller for three hundred years. An adventure tale involving cannibals, pirates, and shipwrecks, it embodies economic, social, political, and philosophical themes that continue to be relevant today. Moreover, the notion of isolation on a deserted island and a fascination with survival continue to be central to countless popular cinema and television programs. This edition of the novel with its introduction, line notes, and full bibliographical notes provides a uniquely scholarly presentation of the novel. There has been no other edition like it.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Britain's emergence as one of Europe's major maritime powers has all too frequently been subsumed by nationalistic narratives that focus on operations and technology. This volume, by contrast, offers a daring new take on Britain's maritime past. It brings together scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the manifold ways in which the sea shaped British history, demonstrating the number of approaches that now have a stake in defining the discipline of maritime history. The chapters analyse the economic, social, and cultural contexts in which English maritime endeavour existed, as well as discussing representations of the sea. The contributors show how people from across the British Isles increasingly engaged with the maritime world, whether through their own lived experiences or through material culture. The volume also includes essays that investigate encounters between English voyagers and indigenous peoples in Africa, and the intellectual foundations of imperial ambition.
Theodore J. Karamanski's sweeping maritime history demonstrates the far-ranging impact that the tools and infrastructure developed for navigating the Great Lakes had on the national economies, politics, and environment of continental North America. Synthesizing popular as well as original historical scholarship, Karamanski weaves a colorful narrative illustrating how disparate private and government interests transformed these vast and dangerous waters into the largest inland water transportation system in the world.
Karamanski explores both the navigational and sailing tools of First Nations peoples and the dismissive and foolhardy attitude of early European maritime sailors. He investigates the role played by commercial boats in the Underground Railroad, as well as how the federal development of crucial navigational resources exacerbated sectionalism in the antebellum United States. Ultimately Mastering the Inland Sea shows the undeniable environmental impact of technologies used by the modern commercial maritime industry. This expansive story illuminates the symbiotic relationship between infrastructure investment in the region's interconnected waterways and North America's lasting economic and political development.
We have long been fascinated with the oceans and sought “to pierce the profundity” of their depths. But the history of marine science also tells us a lot about ourselves. Antony Adler explores the ways in which scientists, politicians, and the public have invoked ocean environments in imagining the fate of humanity and of the planet.
A detailed study of the origins and demise of schooner-based pearling in Australia
For most of its history, Australian pearling was a shore-based activity. But from the mid-1880s until the World War I era, the industry was dominated by highly mobile, heavily capitalized, schooner-based fleets of pearling luggers, known as floating stations, that exploited Australia’s northern continental shelf and the nearby waters of the Netherlands Indies. Octopus Crowd: Maritime History and the Business of Australian Pearling in Its Schooner Age is the first book-length study of schooner-based pearling and explores the floating station system and the men who developed and employed it.
Steve Mullins focuses on the Clark Combination, a syndicate led by James Clark, Australia’s most influential pearler. The combination honed the floating station system to the point where it was accused of exhausting pearling grounds, elbowing out small-time operators, strangling the economies of pearling ports, and bringing the industry to the brink of disaster. Combination partners were vilified as monopolists—they were referred to as an “octopus crowd”—and their schooners were stigmatized as hell ships and floating sweatshops.
Schooner-based floating stations crossed maritime frontiers with impunity, testing colonial and national territorial jurisdictions. The Clark Combination passed through four fisheries management regimes, triggering significant change and causing governments to alter laws and extend maritime boundaries. It drew labor from ports across the Asia-Pacific, and its product competed in a volatile world market. Octopus Crowd takes all of these factors into account to explain Australian pearling during its schooner age. It argues that the demise of the floating station system was not caused by resource depletion, as was often predicted, but by ideology and Australia’s shifting sociopolitical landscape
A meticulously researched account of how the US Navy evolved between the War of 1812 and the Civil War
The 1830s is an overlooked period in American naval history and is usually overshadowed by the more dramatic War of 1812 and the Civil War. Nevertheless, the personnel, operations, technologies, policies, and vision of the Navy of that era, which was emerging from the “Age of Sail,” are important components of its evolution, setting it on the long path to its status as a global maritime power. On Wide Seas: The US Navy in the Jacksonian Era details the ways in which the US Navy transformed from an antiquated arm of the nation’s military infrastructure into a more dynamic and effective force that was soon to play a pivotal role in a number of national and international conflicts.
By Andrew Jackson’s inauguration in 1829, the Navy had engaged with two major powers, defended American shipping, conducted antipiracy operations, and provided a substantive, long-term overseas presence. The Navy began to transform during Jackson’s administration due in part to the policies of the administration and to the emerging officer corps, which sought to professionalize its own ranks, modernize the platforms on which it sailed, and define its own role within national affairs and in the broader global maritime commons. Jackson had built his reputation as a soldier, but he quickly recognized as president the necessity for a navy that could foster his policies. To expand American commerce, he needed a navy that could defend shipping as well as conduct punitive raids or deterrence missions.
Jackson developed a clear, concise naval strategy that policymakers and officers alike could seize and execute. He also provided a vision for the Navy, interceded to resolve naval disciplinary challenges, and directed naval operations. Also, given Jackson’s own politics, junior officers were emboldened by the populist era to challenge traditional, conservative thinking. They carried out a collective vision that coincided with the national literary movement that recognized America’s future would rely upon the Navy.
In October 1785, American statesman John Jay acknowledged that the more his countrymen "are treated ill abroad, the more we shall unite and consolidate at home." Behind this simple statement lies a complicated history. From the British impressment of patriots during the Revolution to the capture of American sailors by Algerian corsairs and Barbary pirates at the dawn of the nineteenth century, stories of Americans imprisoned abroad helped jumpstart democratic debate as citizens acted on their newly unified identity to demand that their government strengthen efforts to free their fellow Americans. Deliberations about the country's vulnerabilities in the Atlantic world reveal America's commitment to protecting the legacy of the Revolution as well as growing political divisions.
Drawing on newspaper accounts, prisoner narratives, and government records, David J. Dzurec III explores how stories of American captivity in North America, Europe, and Africa played a critical role in the development of American political culture, adding a new layer to our understanding of foreign relations and domestic politics in the early American republic.
Two days after Christmas in 1738, a British merchant ship traveling from Rotterdam to Philadelphia grounded in a blizzard on the northern tip of Block Island, twelve miles off the Rhode Island coast. The ship carried emigrants from the Palatinate and its neighboring territories in what is now southwest Germany. The 105 passengers and crew on board—sick, frozen, and starving—were all that remained of the 340 men, women, and children who had left their homeland the previous spring. They now found themselves castaways, on the verge of death, and at the mercy of a community of strangers whose language they did not speak. Shortly after the wreck, rumors began to circulate that the passengers had been mistreated by the ship’s crew and by some of the islanders. The stories persisted, transforming over time as stories do and, in less than a hundred years, two terrifying versions of the event had emerged. In one account, the crew murdered the captain, extorted money from the passengers by prolonging the voyage and withholding food, then abandoned ship. In the other, the islanders lured the ship ashore with a false signal light, then murdered and robbed all on board. Some claimed the ship was set ablaze to hide evidence of these crimes, their stories fueled by reports of a fiery ghost ship first seen drifting in Block Island Sound on the one-year anniversary of the wreck. These tales became known as the legend of the Palatine, the name given to the ship in later years, when its original name had been long forgotten. The flaming apparition was nicknamed the Palatine Light. The eerie phenomenon has been witnessed by hundreds of people over the centuries, and numerous scientific theories have been offered as to its origin. Its continued reappearances, along with the attention of some of nineteenth-century America’s most notable writers—among them Richard Henry Dana Sr., John Greenleaf Whittier, Edward Everett Hale, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson—has helped keep the legend alive. This despite evidence that the vessel, whose actual name was the Princess Augusta, was never abandoned, lured ashore, or destroyed by fire. So how did the rumors begin? What really happened to the Princess Augusta and the passengers she carried on her final, fatal voyage? Through years of painstaking research, Jill Farinelli reconstructs the origins of one of New England’s most chilling maritime mysteries.
The United States has long been dependent on the seas, but Americans know little about their maritime history. While Britain and other countries have established national museums to nurture their seagoing traditions, America has left that responsibility to private institutions. In this first-of-its-kind history, James M. Lindgren focuses on a half-dozen of these great museums, ranging from Salem's East India Marine Society, founded in 1799, to San Francisco's Maritime Museum and New York's South Street Seaport Museum, which were established in recent decades.
Begun by activists with unique agendas—whether overseas empire, economic redevelopment, or cultural preservation—these museums have displayed the nation's complex interrelationship with the sea. Yet they all faced chronic shortfalls, as policymakers, corporations, and everyday citizens failed to appreciate the oceans' formative environment. Preserving Maritime America shows how these institutions shifted course to remain solvent and relevant and demonstrates how their stories tell of the nation's rise and decline as a commercial maritime power.
First published in 1958, The Salvager is both a narrative history of Great Lakes shipping disasters of 1880–1950 and the life story of Captain Thomas Reid, who operated one of the region’s largest salvaging companies during that era.
The treacherous shoals, unpredictable storms, and sub-zero temperatures of the Great Lakes have always posed special hazards to mariners—particularly before the advent of modern navigational technologies—and offered ample opportunity for an enterprising sailor to build a salvage business up from nothing. Designing much of his equipment himself and honing a keen eye for the risks and rewards of various catastrophes, Captain Reid rose from humble beginnings and developed salvaging into a science. Using the actual records of the Reid Wrecking and Towing Company as well as Reid’s personal logs and letters, Mary Frances Doner deftly tells the stories not only of the maritime disasters and the wrecking adventures that followed, but also of those waiting back on shore for their loved ones to return.
From the day that French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle launched the Griffin in 1679 to the 1975 sinking of the celebrated Edmund Fitzgerald, thousands of commercial ships have sailed on the vast and perilous waters of the Great Lakes. In a harbinger of things to come, on the return leg of its first trip in late summer 1679, the Griffin disappeared and has never been seen again. In the centuries since then, the records show that an alarming number of shipwrecks have occurred on the Great Lakes. If vessels that wrecked but were later repaired and returned to service are included, the number certainly swells into the thousands. Most did not mysteriously vanish like the Griffin. Instead, they suffered the occupational hazards of every lake boat: collisions, groundings, strands, fires, boiler explosions, and capsizes. Many of these disasters took the lives of crews and passengers. The fearsome wrath of the storms that brew over the Great Lakes has challenged and defeated some of the staunchest vessels constructed in the shipyards of port cities along the U.S. and Canadian lakeshores. Here Richard Gebhart tells the tales of some of these ships and their captains and crews, from their launches to their sad demises—or sometimes, their celebrated retirements. This volume is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the maritime history of the Great Lakes.
Seafaring activity for trade and travel was dominant throughout the Spanish Empire, and in the worldview and imagination of its inhabitants, the specter of shipwreck loomed large. Shipwreck in the Early Modern Hispanic World probes this preoccupation by examining portrayals of nautical disasters in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish literature and culture. The essays collected here showcase shipwreck’s symbolic deployment to question colonial expansion and transoceanic trade; to critique the Christian enterprise overseas; to signal the collapse of dominant social order; and to relay moral messages and represent socio-political debates. The contributors find examples in poetry, theater, narrative fiction, and other print artifacts, and approach the topic variously through the lens of historical, literary, and cultural studies. Ultimately demonstrating how shipwrecks both shaped and destabilized perceptions of the Spanish Empire worldwide, this analytically rich volume is the first in Hispanic studies to investigate the darker side of mercantile and imperial expansion through maritime disaster.
Every shipwreck has a story that extends far beyond its tragic end. The dramatic tales of disaster, heroism, and folly become even more compelling when viewed as junction points in history—connecting to stories about the frontier, the environment, immigration, politics, technology, and industry. In Stories from the Wreckage, John Odin Jensen examines a selection of Great Lakes shipwrecks of the wooden age for a deeper dive into this transformative chapter of maritime history. He mines the archeological evidence and historic record to show how their tragic ends fit in with the larger narrative of Midwestern history. Featuring the underwater photography of maritime archeologist Tamara Thomsen, this vibrant volume is a must-have for shipping enthusiasts as well as anyone interested in the power of water to shape history.
This richly illustrated volume, the first devoted to maritime art and galley slavery in early modern France, shows how royal propagandists used the image and labor of enslaved Muslims to glorify Louis XIV.
Mediterranean maritime art and the forced labor on which it depended were fundamental to the politics and propaganda of France’s King Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715). Yet most studies of French art in this period focus on Paris and Versailles, overlooking the presence or portrayal of galley slaves on the kingdom’s coasts. By examining a wide range of artistic productions—ship design, artillery sculpture, medals, paintings, and prints—Meredith Martin and Gillian Weiss uncover a vital aspect of royal representation and unsettle a standard picture of art and power in early modern France.
With an abundant selection of startling images, many never before published, The Sun King at Sea emphasizes the role of esclaves turcs (enslaved Turks)—rowers who were captured or purchased from Islamic lands—in building and decorating ships and other art objects that circulated on land and by sea to glorify the Crown. Challenging the notion that human bondage vanished from continental France, this cross-disciplinary volume invites a reassessment of servitude as a visible condition, mode of representation, and symbol of sovereignty during Louis XIV’s reign.
Surviving the “Essex” tells the captivating story of a ship’s crew battered by whale attack, broken by four months at sea, and forced—out of necessity—to make meals of their fellow survivors. Exploring the Rashomon-like Essex accounts that complicate and even contradict first mate Owen Chase’s narrative, David O. Dowling examines the vital role of viewpoint in shaping how an event is remembered and delves into the ordeal’s submerged history—the survivors’ lives, ambitions, and motives, their pivotal actions during the desperate moments of the wreck itself, and their will to reconcile those actions in the short- and long-term aftermath of this storied event. Mother of all whale tales, Surviving the “Essex” acts as a sequel to Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea, while probing deeper into the nature of trauma and survival accounts, an extreme form of notoriety, and the impact that the story had on Herman Melville and the writing of Moby-Dick.
A personal account of Commodore Perry’s landmark expedition to Japan and life in the antebellum navy
George B. Gideon Jr. served as second assistant engineer aboard the USS Powhatan from 1852 to 1856. From his position on the steam frigate, Gideon traveled to Singapore, Labuan, Borneo, Hong Kong, and many other Asian lands. During his time at sea, Gideon penned dozens of letters to his wife, Lide, back home in Philadelphia. Recently discovered in the attic of his great-great-grandniece, were fifty-one letters penned by Gideon providing thorough and insightful commentary throughout the voyage.
Through these correspondences, Gideon laboriously documents the details of his daily life on board, from the food they ate to the technical aspects of his work, as well as observations concerning the historical events unfolding around him, such as Chinese piracy, the Taiping Rebellion, the Crimean War, and the devastation of Shimoda. To My Dearest Wife, Lide: Letters from George B. Gideon Jr. during Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan, 1853–1855 is a rare first-person account of the landmark American naval expedition to Japan to establish commercial relations between the two countries. Gideon’s letters have been meticulously transcribed and annotated by the editors and are an invaluable primary historical source.
Gideon’s letters are candid and revealing, delving into the rampant dysfunction in the navy of the 1850s—sickness and disease, alcohol abuse, and poor leadership, among other challenges. Gideon also unabashedly shares his own cynical views of the navy’s role in supporting American economic interests in Japan. This firsthand account of the political mission of the Perry expedition is a unique contribution to naval and military history and gives readers a better view of life aboard a navy ship.
Much of human experience can be distilled to saltwater: tears, sweat, and an enduring connection to the sea. In Vast Expanses, Helen M. Rozwadowski weaves a cultural, environmental, and geopolitical history of that relationship, a journey of tides and titanic forces reaching around the globe and across geological and evolutionary time.
Our ancient connections with the sea have developed and multiplied through industrialization and globalization, a trajectory that runs counter to Western depictions of the ocean as a place remote from and immune to human influence. Rozwadowski argues that knowledge about the oceans—created through work and play, scientific investigation, and also through human ambitions for profiting from the sea—has played a central role in defining our relationship with this vast, trackless, and opaque place. It has helped us to exploit marine resources, control ocean space, extend imperial or national power, and attempt to refashion the sea into a more tractable arena for human activity.
But while deepening knowledge of the ocean has animated and strengthened connections between people and the world’s seas, to understand this history we must address questions of how, by whom, and why knowledge of the ocean was created and used—and how we create and use this knowledge today. Only then can we can forge a healthier relationship with our future sea.
The Whale and His Captors is an important firsthand account of the golden age of American whaling, chronicling both its lore and science as practiced from the inception of the fishery to the mid-1800s. Late in the composition of Moby-Dick, Herman Melville found inspiration in Cheever and his writings that would provide the final flourishes for one of America’s classic novels. After exhausting other whaling sources—Beale, Scoresby, Bennett, and Browne—Melville turned to Cheever for chapter titles and organization as well as passages that helped shape, define, and elucidate his great work. This is the first scholarly edition of The Whale and His Captors, accompanied by an introduction and apparatus that clearly elucidates Cheever’s treatise on whaling and demonstrates how his writings contributed both to the course of American literature and to our burgeoning understanding of literature’s engagement with the natural world.