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Achille Lauro
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press

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America
Bert Lamers
Amsterdam University Press

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The Ancient Shore
Paul J. Kosmin
Harvard University Press

An esteemed historian explores the natural and social dynamics of the ancient coastline, demonstrating for the first time its integral place in the world of Mediterranean antiquity.

As we learn from The Odyssey and the Argonauts, Greek dramas frequently played out on a watery stage. In particular, antiquity’s key events and exchanges often occurred on coastlines. Yet the shore was not just a site of conquest and trade, ire and yearning. The seacoast was a singular kind of space and was integral to the cosmology of the Greeks and their neighbors. In The Ancient Shore, award-winning historian Paul Kosmin reveals the influence of the coast on the inner lives of the ancients: their political thought, scientific notions, artistic endeavors, and myths; their sense of wonder and of self.

The Ancient Shore transports readers to a time when the coast was an unpredictable, formidable site of infinite and humbling possibility. Shorelines served as points of connection and competition that fostered distinctive political identities. It was at the coast—ever violent, ever permeable to predation—that state power ended, and so the coast was fundamental to theories of sovereignty. Then too, the boundary of land and sea symbolized human limitation, making it the subject of elaborate and continuous philosophical, scientific, and religious attention.

Kosmin’s ancient world is expansive, connecting the Atlantic to the Straits of Malacca, the Black Sea to the Indian Ocean. And his methods are similarly far-ranging, integrating accounts of statecraft and commerce with intellectual, literary, religious, and environmental history. The Ancient Shore is a radically new encounter with people, places, objects, and ideas we thought we knew.

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Art and Ocean Objects of Early Modern Eurasia
Shells, Bodies, and Materiality
Anna K Grasskamp
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
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.
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Black Jacks
African American Seamen in the Age of Sail
W. Jeffrey Bolster
Harvard University Press, 1997
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.
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Blood and Ink
The Barbary Archive in Early American Literary History
Jacob Crane
University of Massachusetts Press, 2023

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Algerian piracy in the Mediterranean loomed large in the American imagination. An estimated seven hundred American citizens, sailors, and naval officers were taken captive over the course of the Barbary Crises (1784–1815), and this overseas danger threatened to grow and irreparably harm the young republic.

Blood and Ink reconstructs the largely forgotten influence of these early American conflicts with North Africa on notions of publicity, print culture, and racial and national identity from independence to the Civil War. Exploring the extensive archive of texts inspired by the conflicts—from captivity narratives, novels, plays, and poems to broadsides, travel narratives, children’s literature, newspaper articles, and visual ephemera—Jacob Crane connects anxieties surrounding North African piracy and white slavery to both the development of American abolitionism and representations of transatlantic African and Jewish identities in the early national and antebellum periods.

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The Burning of His Majesty's Schooner Gaspee
An Attack on Crown Rule Before the American Revolution
Steven Park
Westholme Publishing, 2016
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.
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Captain Paul Cuffe, Yeoman
A Biography
Jeffrey A. Fortin
University of Massachusetts Press, 2024

Paul Cuffe is best understood as a member of the Black founding fathers—a group of pre-eminent African Americans who built institutions and movements during the first decades of the United States. While he is known amongst scholars, his astounding life story deserves a much wider audience. Jeffrey A. Fortin has crafted a beautiful, moving portrait of this important maritime figure that will appeal to anyone interested in early American history and who loves great story telling.

Born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts in 1759 to a formerly enslaved African father and a Wampanoag Indian mother, Cuffe emerged from anonymity to become the most celebrated African-American sea captain during the Age of Sail. An abolitionist, veteran, and community activist, celebrity followed Cuffe as he built a shipping empire that traded both in American coastal waters and across the wider Atlantic Ocean. Cuffe and his Black crews shook the foundations of systemic racism, challenging norms by sailing into Charleston and other ports where slavery was legal, and thus demonstrating that business and profits were more powerful than social limitations. He founded America’s first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts, and is considered the leader of the nation’s first back-to-Africa movement. Newspapers in England, the United States, and the Caribbean reported his whereabouts and adventures, and abolitionists hailed him for his Quaker beliefs, sobriety, and commitment to advancing opportunities for persons of African descent.

Drawing on pamphlets, letters, and other documents, and painstakingly reconstructing his genealogy, Fortin vividly describes Cuffe’s experiences and places them within the broader history of the Early Republic to help reveal the central role of African Americans in the founding of the United States. Unlike previous biographies, Fortin situates Cuffe within an Atlantic world where race and identity were fluid, and Africans and African Americans sought to build and govern a free Black nation in West Africa. 

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Citizen Sailors
Becoming American in the Age of Revolution
Nathan Perl-Rosenthal
Harvard University Press, 2015

In the decades after the United States formally declared its independence in 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 far from home and deep into the Atlantic world. Citizen Sailors tells the story of how their efforts to become American at sea in the midst of war and revolution created the first national, racially inclusive model of United States citizenship.

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal immerses us in sailors’ pursuit of safe passage through the ocean world during the turbulent age of revolution. Challenged by British press-gangs and French privateersmen, who considered them Britons and rejected their citizenship claims, American seamen demanded that the U.S. government take action to protect them. In response, federal leaders created a system of national identification documents for sailors and issued them to tens of thousands of mariners of all races—nearly a century before such credentials came into wider use.

Citizenship for American sailors was strikingly ahead of its time: it marked the federal government’s most extensive foray into defining the boundaries of national belonging until the Civil War era, and the government’s most explicit recognition of black Americans’ equal membership as well. This remarkable system succeeded in safeguarding seafarers, but it fell victim to rising racism and nativism after 1815. Not until the twentieth century would the United States again embrace such an inclusive vision of American nationhood.

[more]

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Clotilda
The History and Archaeology of the Last Slave Ship
James P. Delgado, Deborah E. Marx, Kyle Lent, Joseph Grinnan, and Alexander DeCaro
University of Alabama Press, 2023
Documents the maritime historical research and archaeological fieldwork used to identify the wreck of the notorious schooner Clotilda

Clotilda: The History and Archaeology of the Last Slave Ship is the first definitive work to examine the maritime historical and archaeological record of one of the most infamous ships in American history. Clotilda was owned by Alabama businessman Timothy Meaher, who, on a dare, equipped it to carry captured Africans from what is now Benin and bring them to Alabama in 1860—some fifty years after the import of captives to be enslaved was banned. To hide the evidence, Clotilda was set afire and sunk.

What remained was a substantially intact, submerged, and partially buried shipwreck located in a backwater of the Mobile River. The site of the wreck was an open secret to some people who knew Meaher, but its identity remained unknown for more than a century as various surveys through the years failed to locate the ship.

This volume, authored by the archaeological team who conducted a comprehensive, systematic survey of a forgotten “ship graveyard,” details the exhaustive forensic work that conclusively identified the wreck, as well as the stories and secrets that have emerged from the partly burned hulk. James P. Delgado and his coauthors discuss the various searches for Clotilda, sharing the forensic data and other analyses showing how those involved concluded that this wreck was indeed Clotilda. Additionally, they offer physical evidence not previously shared that situates the schooner and its voyage in a larger context of the slave trade.

Clotilda: The History and Archaeology of the Last Slave Ship serves as a nautical biography of the ship as well. After reviewing the maritime trade in and out of Mobile Bay, this account places Clotilda within the larger landscape of American and Gulf of Mexico schooners and chronicles its career before being used as a slave ship. All of its voyages had a link to slavery, and one may have been another smuggling voyage in violation of federal law. The authors have also painstakingly reconstructed Clotilda’s likely appearance and characteristics.
 
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Contested and Dangerous Seas
North Atlantic Fishermen, Their Wives, Unions, and the Politics of Exclusion
Colin J. Davis
University of Massachusetts Press, 2020
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.
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Demarcating Japan
Imperialism, Islanders, and Mobility, 1855–1884
Takahiro Yamamoto
Harvard University Press, 2023

Histories of remote islands around Japan are usually told through the prism of territorial disputes. In contrast, Takahiro Yamamoto contends that the transformation of the islands from ambiguous border zones to a territorialized space emerged out of multilateral power relations. Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, Tsushima, the Bonin Islands, and the Ryukyu Islands became the subject of inter-imperial negotiations during the formative years of modern Japan as empires nudged each other to secure their status with minimal costs rather than fighting a territorial scramble. Based on multiarchival, multilingual research, Demarcating Japan argues that the transformation of border islands should be understood as an interconnected process, where inter-local referencing played a key role in the outcome: Japan’s geographical expansion in the face of domineering Extra-Asian empires.

Underneath this multilateral process were the connections forged by individuals. Translators, doctors, traffickers, castaways, and indigenous hunters crisscrossed border regions and enacted violence, exchanged knowledge, and forged friendships. Although their motivations were eclectic and their interactions transcended national borders, the linkages they created were essential in driving territorialization forward. Demarcating Japan demonstrates the crucial role of nonstate actors in formulating a territory.

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Encountering Water in Early Modern Europe and Beyond
Redefining the Universe through Natural Philosophy, Religious Reformations, and Sea Voyaging
Lindsay Starkey
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
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.
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Exploration, Religion and Empire in the Sixteenth-century Ibero-Atlantic World
A New Perspective on the History of Modern Science
Mauricio Nieto Olarte
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
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.
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Fast Combat Support Ship HNLMS Zuiderkruis
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2016
HNLMS Zuiderkruis (1975-2012) was the second Fast Combat Support Ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was primarily intended for Replenishment At Sea, fueling task groups and NATO units. As a modern design Zuiderkruis enabled a “one stop replenishment” and also carried AVCAT, fresh water and spare parts. A helicopter deck facilitated vertical replenishment.
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Fire on the Water
Sailors, Slaves, and Insurrection in Early American Literature, 1789-1886
Warren, Lenora
Bucknell University Press, 2019
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.
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Frigate HMS Leander
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2012
HMS Leander was completed in 1963 as the first ship of the Leander Class Improved Type 12 General Purpose Frigates. In 1974, she joined the 3rd Frigate Squadron, which included other Leander-class frigates. The design was the most successful Western frigate of its time and led to several new international designs.
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Guided Missile Frigate Tromp
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
Both Tromp-class frigates entered service in 1975/-76. Their primary task was area air defense. They acted as flagships for the COMNLTG (Commander Netherlands Task Group). Their large radome (which housed a 3D radar antenna) is why the ships had the nickname ‘Kojak’, after the bald-headed actor in the famous crime tv-series.
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Hard Aground
The Wreck of the USS Tennessee and the Rise of the US Navy
Andrew C. A. Jampoler
University of Alabama Press, 2023

Three intertwined stories that reveal the challenges faced by the US Navy in its evolution between the Civil War and the First World War

Hard Aground brings together three intertwined stories documenting the US Navy’s strategic and matériel evolution from the end of Civil War through the First World War. These incidents had lasting consequences for how the navy would modernize itself throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The first story focuses on the reconstruction of the US Navy following the swift and near-total dismantling of the Union Navy infrastructure after the Civil War. This reconstruction began with barely enough time for the navy’s campaigns in the Spanish-American War, and for its role in the First World War. Jampoler argues that the federal government discovered that the fleet requested by the navy, and paid for by Congress, was the wrong fleet. Focus was on battleships and cruisers rather than destroyers and other small combat vessels needed to hunt submarines and serve as convoy escorts.

The second story relates the short, tragic life of the USS Tennessee (later renamed Memphis), one of the steel-hulled ships of the new Armored Cruiser Squadron that was a centerpiece of the navy’s modernization effort. The USS Tennessee was ordered on two unusual missions in the early months of the First World War, long before the United States formally entered the war. These little-known missions and the ship's shocking destruction in a storm surge in the Caribbean serve as the centerpiece of the story. Threaded through the narrative are biographical sketches of the principal players in the drama that unfolded following the ship’s demise, including two of Tennessee’s commanding officers: Vice Admiral Sims, who commanded the US Navy squadrons deployed to Europe in support of the Royal Navy; Rear Admiral William Caperton, who commanded the Caribbean squadron before the Memphis (formerly the Tennessee) was lost; Charles Pond, squadron commander during the wreck; and the American ambassador to the Ottoman court, President Wilson’s enthusiastic supporter, Henry Morgenthau.

Jampoler rounds out this fascinating account with the story of how the USS Tennessee’s destruction prompted fierce deliberations about the US Navy’s operations and chains of command for the remainder of the First World War and the high-level political wrangling inside the Department of the Navy immediately after the war, as civilian appointees and senior officers wrestled to reshape the department in their image.

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A History of the Chicago Portage
The Crossroads That Made Chicago and Helped Make America
Benjamin Sells
Northwestern University Press, 2021
Seven muddy miles transformed a region and a nation

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.
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A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks
Stewart Gordon
University Press of New England, 2017
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.
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Infortunios de Alonso Ramirez / The Misfortunes of Alonso Ramirez (1690)
Annotated Bilingual Edition
Buscaglia-Salgado, José F
Rutgers University Press, 2018
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.
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Knowledge Exchanges Between Portugal and Europe
Maritime Diplomacy, Espionage, and Nautical Science in the Early Modern World (15th-17th Centuries)
Nuno Luís Vila-Santa Braga Campos
Amsterdam University Press, 2024
Following recent historiographical appeals on the need to study knowledge exchanges between European maritime rivals and their impact on overseas expansionist processes, this book makes this study for the Portuguese overseas empire between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. As the first European maritime power to systematically launch long-distance voyages, Portugal became a model worth emulation when Spain, France, England and the Dutch Republic started their own overseas enterprises. In different chapters that each adopt a case study relation (Portugal-Spain, Portugal-England, Portugal-France and Portugal-Dutch Republic), this book documents how Portuguese maritime knowledge was outsourced by its maritime rivals. The impact that Portuguese nautical knowledge had is evaluated, resorting particularly to a wide range of diplomatic and espionage documents. Finally, the book discusses the alleged Iberian secrecy policies regarding maritime knowledge, explaining why there is no serious reason to consider their success. +
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The Magnificent Boat
The Colonial Theft of a South Seas Cultural Treasure
Götz Aly
Harvard University Press, 2023

From an eminent and provocative historian, a wrenching parable of the ravages of colonialism in the South Pacific.

Countless museums in the West have been criticized for their looted treasures, but few as trenchantly as the Humboldt Forum, which displays predominantly non-Western art and artifacts in a modern reconstruction of the former Royal Palace in Berlin. The Forum’s premier attraction, an ornately decorated fifteen-meter boat from the island of Luf in modern-day Papua New Guinea, was acquired under the most dubious circumstances by Max Thiel, a German trader, in 1902 after two decades of bloody German colonial expeditions in Oceania.

Götz Aly tells the story of the German pillaging of Luf and surrounding islands, a campaign of violence in which Berlin ethnologists were brazenly complicit. In the aftermath, the majestic vessel was sold to the Ethnological Museum in the imperial capital, where it has remained ever since. In Aly’s vivid telling, the looted boat is a portal to a forgotten chapter in the history of empire—the conquest of the Bismarck Archipelago. One of these islands was even called Aly, in honor of the author’s great-granduncle, Gottlob Johannes Aly, a naval chaplain who served aboard ships that helped subjugate the South Sea islands Germany colonized.

While acknowledging the complexity of cultural ownership debates, Götz Aly boldly questions the legitimacy of allowing so many treasures from faraway, conquered places to remain located in the West. Through the story of one emblematic object, The Magnificent Boat artfully illuminates a sphere of colonial brutality of which too few are aware today.

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Maladies of Empire
How Colonialism, Slavery, and War Transformed Medicine
Jim Downs
Harvard University Press, 2020

A sweeping global history that looks beyond European urban centers to show how slavery, colonialism, and war propelled the development of modern medicine.

Most stories of medical progress come with ready-made heroes. John Snow traced the origins of London’s 1854 cholera outbreak to a water pump, leading to the birth of epidemiology. Florence Nightingale’s contributions to the care of soldiers in the Crimean War revolutionized medical hygiene, transforming hospitals from crucibles of infection to sanctuaries of recuperation. Yet histories of individual innovators ignore many key sources of medical knowledge, especially when it comes to the science of infectious disease.

Reexamining the foundations of modern medicine, Jim Downs shows that the study of infectious disease depended crucially on the unrecognized contributions of nonconsenting subjects—conscripted soldiers, enslaved people, and subjects of empire. Plantations, slave ships, and battlefields were the laboratories in which physicians came to understand the spread of disease. Military doctors learned about the importance of air quality by monitoring Africans confined to the bottom of slave ships. Statisticians charted cholera outbreaks by surveilling Muslims in British-dominated territories returning from their annual pilgrimage. The field hospitals of the Crimean War and the US Civil War were carefully observed experiments in disease transmission.

The scientific knowledge derived from discarding and exploiting human life is now the basis of our ability to protect humanity from epidemics. Boldly argued and eye-opening, Maladies of Empire gives a full account of the true price of medical progress.

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Maritime Musicians and Performers on Early Modern English Voyages
The Lives of the Seafaring Middle Class
James Seth
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
Maritime Musicians and Performers on Early Modern English Voyages aims to tell the full story of early English shipboard performers, who have been historically absent from conversations about English navigation, maritime culture, and economic expansion. Often described reductively in voyaging accounts as having one function, in fact maritime performers served many communicative tasks. Their lives were not only complex, but often contradictory. Though not high-ranking officers, neither were they lower-ranking mariners or sailors. They were influenced by a range of competing cultural practices, having spent time playing on both land and sea, and their roles required them to mediate parties using music, dance, and theatre as powerful forms of nonverbal communication. Their performances transcended and breached boundaries of language, rank, race, religion, and nationality, thereby upsetting conventional practices, improving shipboard and international relations, and ensuring the success of their voyages.
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The Maritime Silk Road
Global Connectivities, Regional Nodes, Localities
Franck Billé
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
The Maritime Silk Road foregrounds the numerous networks that have been woven across oceanic geographies, tying world regions together often far more extensively than land-based routes. On the strength of the new data which has emerged in the last two decades in the form of archaeological findings, as well as new techniques such as GIS modeling, the authors collectively demonstrate the existence of a very early global maritime trade. From architecture to cuisine, and language to clothing, evidence points to early connections both within Asia and between Asia and other continents—well before European explorations of the Global South. The human stories presented here offer insights into both the extent and limits of this global exchange, showing how goods and people traveled vast distances, how they were embedded in regional networks, and how local cultures were shaped as a result.
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The Maritime World of Early Modern Britain
Richard Blakemore
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
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.
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Mastering the Inland Seas
How Lighthouses, Navigational Aids, and Harbors Transformed the Great Lakes and America
Theodore J. Karamanski
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
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.
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The Mortal Sea
Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail
W. Jeffrey Bolster
Harvard University Press, 2012

Since the Viking ascendancy in the Middle Ages, the Atlantic has shaped the lives of people who depend upon it for survival. And just as surely, people have shaped the Atlantic. In his innovative account of this interdependency, W. Jeffrey Bolster, a historian and professional seafarer, takes us through a millennium-long environmental history of our impact on one of the largest ecosystems in the world.

While overfishing is often thought of as a contemporary problem, Bolster reveals that humans were transforming the sea long before factory trawlers turned fishing from a handliner's art into an industrial enterprise. The western Atlantic's legendary fishing banks, stretching from Cape Cod to Newfoundland, have attracted fishermen for more than five hundred years. Bolster follows the effects of this siren's song from its medieval European origins to the advent of industrialized fishing in American waters at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Blending marine biology, ecological insight, and a remarkable cast of characters, from notable explorers to scientists to an army of unknown fishermen, Bolster tells a story that is both ecological and human: the prelude to an environmental disaster. Over generations, harvesters created a quiet catastrophe as the sea could no longer renew itself. Bolster writes in the hope that the intimate relationship humans have long had with the ocean, and the species that live within it, can be restored for future generations.

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Nation on Board
Becoming Nigerian at Sea
Lynn Schler
Ohio University Press, 2016

In the 1940s, British shipping companies began the large-scale recruitment of African seamen in Lagos. On colonial ships, Nigerian sailors performed menial tasks for low wages and endured discrimination as cheap labor, while countering hardships by nurturing social connections across the black diaspora. Poor employment conditions stirred these seamen to identify with the nationalist sentiment burgeoning in postwar Nigeria, while their travels broadened and invigorated their cultural identities.

Working for the Nigerian National Shipping Line, they encountered new forms of injustice and exploitation. When mismanagement, a lack of technical expertise, and pillaging by elites led to the NNSL’s collapse in the early 1990s, seamen found themselves without prospects. Their disillusionment became a broader critique of corruption in postcolonial Nigeria.

In Nation on Board: Becoming Nigerian at Sea, Lynn Schler traces the fate of these seamen in the transition from colonialism to independence. In so doing, she renews the case for labor history as a lens for understanding decolonization, and brings a vital transnational perspective to her subject. By placing the working-class experience at the fore, she complicates the dominant view of the decolonization process in Nigeria and elsewhere.

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Navigating Semi-Colonialism
Shipping, Sovereignty, and Nation-Building in China, 1860–1937
Anne Reinhardt
Harvard University Press, 2018

China’s status in the world of expanding European empires of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has long been under dispute. Its unequal relations with multiple powers, secured through a system of treaties rather than through colonization, has invited debate over the degree and significance of outside control and local sovereignty. Navigating Semi-Colonialism examines steam navigation—introduced by foreign powers to Chinese waters in the mid-nineteenth century—as a constitutive element of the treaty system to illuminate both conceptual and concrete aspects of this regime, arguing for the specificity of China’s experience, its continuities with colonialism in other contexts, and its links to global processes.

Focusing on the shipping network of open treaty ports, the book examines the expansion of steam navigation, the growth of shipping enterprise, and the social climate of the steamship in the late nineteenth century as arenas of contestation and collaboration that highlight the significance of partial Chinese sovereignty and the limitations imposed upon it. It further analyzes the transformation of this regime under the nationalism of the Republican period, and pursues a comparison of shipping regimes in China and India to provide a novel perspective on China under the treaty system.

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Neptune’s Laboratory
Fantasy, Fear, and Science at Sea
Antony Adler
Harvard University Press, 2019

An eyewitness to profound change affecting marine environments on the Newfoundland coast, Antony Adler argues that the history of our relationship with the ocean lies as much in what we imagine as in what we discover.

We have long been fascinated with the oceans, seeking “to pierce the profundity” of their depths. In studying the history of marine science, we also learn about ourselves. Neptune’s Laboratory explores the ways in which scientists, politicians, and the public have invoked ocean environments in imagining the fate of humanity and of the planet—conjuring ideal-world fantasies alongside fears of our species’ weakness and ultimate demise.

Oceans gained new prominence in the public imagination in the early nineteenth century as scientists plumbed the depths and marine fisheries were industrialized. Concerns that fish stocks could be exhausted soon emerged. In Europe these fears gave rise to internationalist aspirations, as scientists sought to conduct research on an oceanwide scale and nations worked together to protect their fisheries. The internationalist program for marine research waned during World War I, only to be revived in the interwar period and again in the 1960s. During the Cold War, oceans were variously recast as battlefields, post-apocalyptic living spaces, and utopian frontiers.

The ocean today has become a site of continuous observation and experiment, as probes ride the ocean currents and autonomous and remotely operated vehicles peer into the abyss. Embracing our fears, fantasies, and scientific investigations, Antony Adler tells the story of our relationship with the seas.

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Normandie
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press

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Octopus Crowd
Maritime History and the Business of Australian Pearling in Its Schooner Age
Steve Mullins
University of Alabama Press, 2019
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
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On Wide Seas
The US Navy in the Jacksonian Era
Claude Berube
University of Alabama Press, 2022
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.
 
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Our Suffering Brethren
Foreign Captivity and Nationalism in the Early United States
David J. Dzurec III
University of Massachusetts Press, 2019
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.
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Out of the Depths
A History of Shipwrecks
Alan G. Jamieson
Reaktion Books, 2024
A highly illustrated voyage through shipwrecks ancient and contemporary.
 
Out of the Depths explores all aspects of shipwrecks across four thousand years, examining their historical context and significance, showing how shipwrecks can be time capsules, and shedding new light on long-departed societies and civilizations. Alan G. Jamieson not only informs readers of the technological developments over the last sixty years that have made the true appreciation of shipwrecks possible, but he also covers shipwrecks in culture and maritime archaeology, their appeal to treasure hunters, and their environmental impacts. Although shipwrecks have become less common in recent decades, their implications have become more wide-ranging: since the 1960s, foundering supertankers have caused massive environmental disasters, and in 2021, the blocking of the Suez Canal by the giant container ship Ever Given had a serious effect on global trade.
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The Palatine Wreck
The Legend of the New England Ghost Ship
Jill Farinelli
University Press of New England, 2017
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.
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PCE 1604 Series, Frigate Panter
Henk Visser
Amsterdam University Press, 2021
The six Frigate Panters were all built in the USA with MDAP funds. They were designed to escort slow coastal convoys in the Channel and North Sea areas and were operated as a single squadron by the Royal Netherlands Navy. They proved useful in a number of peacetime tasks, especially fishery protection, and some retained this role in the North Sea until the mid-1980s.
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Piracy in World History
Stefan Amirell
Amsterdam University Press, 2022
In a modern global historical context, scholars have often regarded piracy as an essentially European concept which was inappropriately applied by the expanding European powers to the rest of the world, mainly for the purpose of furthering colonial forms of domination in the economic, political, military, legal and cultural spheres. By contrast, this edited volume highlights the relevance of both European and non-European understandings of piracy to the development of global maritime security and freedom of navigation. It explores the significance of ‘legal posturing’ on the part of those accused of piracy, as well as the existence of non-European laws and regulations regarding piracy and related forms of maritime violence in the early modern era. The authors in this volume highlight cases from various parts of the early-modern world, thereby explaining piracy as a global phenomenon.
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The Pirates’ Code
Laws and Life Aboard Ship
Rebecca Simon
Reaktion Books, 2024
Fall captive to the code—the real-life buccaneer bylaws that shaped every aspect of a pirate’s life.
 
Pirates have long captured our imaginations with images of cutlass-wielding swashbucklers, eye patches, and buried treasure. But what was life really like on a pirate ship? Piracy was a risky, sometimes deadly occupation, and strict orders were essential for everyone’s survival. These “Laws” were sets of rules that determined everything from how much each pirate earned from their plunder to compensation for injuries, punishments, and even the entertainment allowed on ships. These rules became known as the “Pirates’ Code,” which all pirates had to publicly swear by. Using primary sources like eyewitness accounts, trial proceedings, and maritime logs, this book explains how each one of the pirate codes was the key to pirates’ success in battle, on sea, and on land.
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Preserving Maritime America
A Cultural History of the Nation's Great Maritime Museums
James M. Lindgren
University of Massachusetts Press, 2019
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.
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Prisoners of the Bashaw
The Nineteen-Month Captivity of American Sailors in Tripoli, 1803–1805
Frederick C. Leiner
Westholme Publishing, 2022
FINALIST FOR THE GILDER LEHRMAN MILITARY HISTORY PRIZE
America’s first crisis with the Islamic world: the diplomatic and military mission to free more than three hundred enslaved sailors
On October 31, 1803, the frigate USS Philadelphia ran aground on a reef a few miles outside the harbor of Tripoli. Since April 1801, the United States had been at war with Tripoli, one of the Barbary “pirate” regimes, over the payment of annual tribute—bribes so that American merchant ships would not be seized and their crews held hostage. After hours under fire, the Philadelphia, aground and defenseless, surrendered, and 307 American sailors and marines were captured. Manhandled and stripped of their clothes and personal belongings, the men of the Philadelphia were paraded before the Bashaw of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanali. The bashaw ordered the crew moved into an old warehouse, and the officers were eventually moved to a dungeon beneath the Bashaw’s castle. While the officers were treated as “gentlemen,” although imprisoned, the sailors worked as enslaved laborers. Regularly beaten and given a meager diet, several died in captivity; escape attempts failed, while a few ended up converting to Islam and joined their captors. President Thomas Jefferson, Congress, U.S. diplomats, and Commodore Edward Preble, commander of the naval squadron off Tripoli, grappled with how to safely free the American captives. The crew of the Philadelphia remained prisoners for nineteen months, until the Tripolitan War ended in June 1805. 
            The Philadelphia captives became the key to negotiations to end the war; the possibility existed that if threatened too much, the Bashaw would kill the captives. Ultimately, the United States paid $60,000 to get them back—about $200 per man—a sum less than the Bashaw’s initial demands for compensation. In June 1805, the Americans began their journey home. Combining stirring naval warfare, intricate diplomatic negotiations, the saga of surviving imprisonment, and based on extensive primary source research, Prisoners of the Bashaw: The Nineteen-Month Captivity of American Sailors in Tripoli, 1803-1805 by Frederick C. Leiner tells the complete story of America’s first great hostage crisis. 
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The Problem of Piracy in the Early Modern World
Maritime Predation, Empire, and the Construction of Authority at Sea
John Coakley
Amsterdam University Press, 2024
In the early modern period, both legal and illegal maritime predation was a common occurrence, but the expansion of European maritime empires exacerbated existing and created new problems of piracy across the globe. This collection of original case studies addresses these early modern problems in three sections: first, states’ attempts to exercise jurisdiction over seafarers and their actions; second, the multiple predatory marine practices considered ‘piracy’; and finally, the many representations made about piracy by states or the seafarers themselves. Across nine chapters covering regions including southeast Asia, the Atlantic archipelago, the North African states, and the Caribbean Sea, the complexities of defining and criminalizing maritime predation is explored, raising questions surrounding subjecthood, interpolity law, and the impacts of colonization on the legal and social construction of ocean, port, and coastal spaces. Seeking the meanings and motivations behind piracy, this book reveals that while European states attempted to fashion piracy into a global and homogenous phenomenon, it was largely a local and often idiosyncratic issue.
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The Punishment of Pirates
Interpretation and Institutional Order in the Early Modern British Empire
Matthew Norton
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A sociological investigation into maritime state power told through an exploration of how the British Empire policed piracy.
 
Early in the seventeenth-century boom of seafaring, piracy allowed many enterprising and lawless men to make fortunes on the high seas, due in no small part to the lack of policing by the British crown. But as the British empire grew from being a collection of far-flung territories into a consolidated economic and political enterprise dependent on long-distance trade, pirates increasingly became a destabilizing threat. This development is traced by sociologist Matthew Norton in The Punishment of Pirates, taking the reader on an exciting journey through the shifting legal status of pirates in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
 
Norton shows us that eliminating this threat required an institutional shift: first identifying and defining piracy, and then brutally policing it. The Punishment of Pirates develops a new framework for understanding the cultural mechanisms involved in dividing, classifying, and constructing institutional order by tracing the transformation of piracy from a situation of cultivated ambiguity to a criminal category with violently patrolled boundaries—ending with its eradication as a systemic threat to trade in the English Empire. Replete with gun battles, executions, jailbreaks, and courtroom dramas, Norton’s book offers insights for social theorists, political scientists, and historians alike.
 
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The Salvager
The Life of Captain Tom Reid on the Great Lakes
Mary Frances Doner
University of Minnesota Press, 2017

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.

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Ships and Shipwrecks
Stories from the Great Lakes
Richard Gebhart
Michigan State University Press, 2022
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.
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Shipwreck in the Early Modern Hispanic World
Carrie L. Ruiz
Bucknell University Press, 2022
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.
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Stories from the Wreckage
A Great Lakes Maritime History Inspired by Shipwrecks
John Odin Jensen
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2019
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.
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Sub Culture
The Many Lives of the Submarine
John Medhurst
Reaktion Books, 2022
A deep dive into the significance of submarines, across everything from warfare and politics to literature and film.
 
Sub Culture explores the crucial role of the submarine in modern history, its contribution to scientific progress and maritime exploration, and how it has been portrayed in art, literature, fantasy, and film. Ranging from the American Civil War to the destruction of the Russian submarine Kursk in 2000, the book examines the submarine’s activities in the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, and in covert operations and marine exploration to the present day. Citing the submarine, particularly the nuclear submarine, as both ultimate deterrent and doomsday weapon, Sub Culture examines how its portrayal in popular culture has reinforced, and occasionally undermined, the military and political agendas of the nation-states that deploy it.
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The Sun King at Sea
Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV's France
Meredith Martin
J. Paul Getty Trust, The, 2022

Winner of the 2023 Leo Gershoy Award

2023 Winner of The David H. Pinkney Prize 

Honorable Mention for The Mediterranean Seminar Best Book Prize 2023

Winner of the 2022 Kenshur Prize 

Shortlisted for Apollo Magazine's 2022 Book of the Year

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.

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Surviving the Essex
The Afterlife of America's Most Storied Shipwreck
David O. Dowling
University Press of New England, 2016
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.
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To My Dearest Wife, Lide
Letters from George B. Gideon Jr. during Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan, 1853–1855
Edited by M. Patrick Sauer and David A. Ranzan
University of Alabama Press, 2019
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.
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Trade and Privateering in Spanish Florida, 1732–1763
Joyce Elizabeth Harman, With a New Introduction by Carl E. Swanson
University of Alabama Press, 2004
Trade and Privateering examines the illegal yet highly profitable and mutually beneficial trade between Spanish Florida and the English colonies on the eastern seaboard in the mid-18th century. In St. Augustine, the arrival of subsidies from Spain was erratic, causing shortages of food and supplies, so authorities ignored the restrictions on trade with foreign colonies and welcomed British goods. Likewise, the British colonists sought Spanish products from Florida, especially oranges.
But when England and Spain became declared enemies in the War of Jenkins’ Ear and the French and Indian Wars, this tacit trade arrangement was threatened, and the result was a rise of privateering in the region. Rather than do without Spanish goods, the English began to attack and capture Spanish vessels with their cargoes at sea. Likewise, the Spaniards resorted to privateering as a means of steadily supplying the Florida colony. Harman concludes that, both willingly and unwillingly, the English colonies helped their Spanish neighbor to sustain its position in the Southeast.
 
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Tragedy and Triumph on the Great Lakes
Richard Gebhart
Michigan State University Press, 2024
Richard Gebhart traces little-known voyages of Great Lakes ships that sailed the Atlantic beginning in the 1850s. They bore cargoes to and from the lakes and as far as Constantinople. Gebhart recovers the voices of long-ago ship captains, along with their cargo manifests and itineraries. Drawing on deep research in old newspapers and maritime archives, he traces the construction of new ships and shipyards, and the comings and goings and travails of the lakes’ workhorses. Included is a mournful visit to a boneyard where many ships’ lives ended. Among many other lost tales, Gebhart brings to light the rise of oil tankers, marking the great twentieth-century energy transition in shipping. A must-read for Great Lakes shipping fans.
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Type 42 destroyer Southampton
Jantinus Mulder
Amsterdam University Press, 2019
The primary role of the Type 42 destroyers was providing air defense for the fleet. With their long-range sensors, the ships could also act as radar pickets, sailing ahead of a task group. HMS Southampton was the eighth ship originally destined to be a 16-ship class – two of these ships have been exported to Argentina. The type 42 comprised eight Batch 1 vessels, four Batch 2 and four Batch 3 Stretched Type 42.
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Vast Expanses
A History of the Oceans
Helen M. Rozwadowski
Reaktion Books, 2019
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.
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The Whale and His Captors; or, The Whaleman's Adventures
Henry T. Cheever
University Press of New England, 2018
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.
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Where Light in Darkness Lies
The Story of the Lighthouse
Veronica della Dora
Reaktion Books, 2022
An illuminating history of both real-life lighthouses and the beacons of literature and art alike, shedding light on the multifaceted power of these liminal structures.
 
Suspended between sea and sky, battered by the waves and the wind, lighthouses mark the battle lines between the elements. They guard the boundaries between the solid human world and the primordial chaos of the waters; between stability and instability; between the known and the unknown. As such, they have a strange, universal appeal that few other manmade structures possess.
 
Engineered to draw the gaze of sailors, lighthouses have likewise long attracted the attention of soldiers and saints, artists and poets, novelists and filmmakers, colonizers and migrants, and, today more than ever, heritage tourists and developers. Their evocative locations, isolation, and resilience, have turned these structures into complex metaphors, magnets for stories. This book explores the rich story of the lighthouse in the human imagination.
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Willem Ruys
Arne Zuidhoek
Amsterdam University Press

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Yankees in the Indian Ocean
American Commerce and Whaling, 1786–1860
Jane Hooper
Ohio University Press, 2022

The history of US imperialism remains incomplete without this consideration of long-overlooked nineteenth-century American commercial and whaling ventures in the Indian Ocean.

Yankees in the Indian Ocean shows how nineteenth-century American merchant and whaler activity in the Indian Ocean shaped the imperial future of the United States, influenced the region’s commerce, encouraged illegal slaving, and contributed to environmental degradation. For a brief time, Americans outnumbered other Western visitors to Mauritius, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and the East African littoral. In a relentless search for commodities and provisions, American whaleships landed at islands throughout the ocean and stripped them of resources. Yet Americans failed to develop a permanent foothold in the region and operated instead from a position of weakness relative to other major colonizing powers, thus discouraging the development of American imperial holdings there.

The history of American concerns in the Indian Ocean world remains largely unwritten. Scholars who focus on the region have mostly ignored American involvement, despite arguments for the ocean’s importance in powering global connections during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Historians of the United States likewise have failed to examine the western Indian Ocean because of a preoccupation with US interests in Asia and the Pacific. Failing to understand the scale of American trade in the Indian Ocean has led to a fixation on European commercial strength to the exclusion of other maritime networks. Instead, this book reveals how the people of Madagascar and East Africa helped the United States briefly dominate commerce and whaling.

This book investigates how and why Americans were drawn to the western Indian Ocean years before the United States established a formal overseas empire in the late nineteenth century. Ship logs, sailor journals, and travel narratives reveal how American men transformed foreign land- and seascapes into knowable spaces that confirmed American conceptions of people and natural resources; these sources also provide insight into the complex social and ecological worlds of the Indian Ocean during this critical time.

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