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Maritime Empires

Maritime Empires: British Imperial Maritime Trade in the Nineteenth Century

David Killingray
Margarette Lincoln
Nigel Rigby
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Maritime Empires
    Book Description:

    Britain's overseas Empire pre-eminently involved the sea. In a two-way process, ships carried travellers and explorers, trade goods, migrants to new lands, soldiers to fight wars and garrison colonies, and also ideas and plants that would find fertile minds and soils in other lands. These essays, deriving from a National Maritime Museum (London) conference, provide a wide-ranging and comprehensive picture of the activities of maritime empire. They discuss a variety of issues: maritime trades, among them the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Honduran mahogany for shipping to Britain, the movement of horses across the vast reaches of Asia and the Indian Ocean; the impact of new technologies as Empire expanded in the nineteenth century; the sailors who manned the ships, the settlers who moved overseas, and the major ports of the Imperial world; plus the role of the navy in hydrographic survey. BR Published in association with the National Maritime Museum. DAVID KILLINGRAY is Emeritus Professor of Modern History, Goldsmiths College London; MARGARETTE LINCOLN and NIGEL RIGBY are in the research department of the National Maritime Museum.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-245-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Roy Clare

    The National Maritime Museum has always reached its audiences through its superb collections and its flourishing exhibition, education, research and publication programmes. Our long commitment to working with scholars from a range of academic disciplines and institutions has made a significant contribution to our efforts to make maritime and imperial history accessible to more people, and to keep it fresh and relevant to specialist and nonspecialist alike.

    Maritime Empiresis another step along the way, opening up and exploring the relationship between the British Empire and Britain’s maritime history.

    A conference of the same name, jointly organised by the Museum...

  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. 1 Introduction Imperial seas: cultural exchange and commerce in the British Empire 1780–1900
    (pp. 1-12)

    Was the British Empire a maritime empire? Certainly the first English empire, centred on the British islands, depended in part on sea power to transport soldiers and supplies to and from France and Ireland. The wider, overseas empire that developed from the ‘age of reconnaissance’, first in the Americas and then in Asia, relied on mastery of the seas and protection of trade routes. It also required a naval strength, developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that could resist and thwart other competing imperial maritime powers, notably the Spanish, Dutch and the French, and then control overseas territories in...

  7. 2 From slaves to palm oil: Afro-European commercial relations in the Bight of Biafra, 1741–1841
    (pp. 13-29)

    Britain’s abolition of its slave trade in 1807 and its subsequent efforts to suppress slave carrying by other countries had an important impact on Afro-European relations in West Africa. In the Bight of Biafra, the external pressure to end slave exports led to expanding exports of other products, even while exports of slaves continued, legally or otherwise. The local merchants who had once supplied British merchants before 1808 were able to shift their business to non-British slave traders, at least until 1841, at the same time as exports of palm oil expanded to meet rising British demand for industrial raw...

  8. 3 ‘Pirate water’: Sailing to Belize in the mahogany trade
    (pp. 30-47)

    The increased prosperity of British and North American Atlantic port cities over the course of the eighteenth century is effectively illustrated by the significant expansion in the production of luxury furniture. Hardwoods such as oak and walnut from the British Isles and Europe had long been popular and demand from a range of industries – from furniture to shipbuilding – greatly outstripped local supplies. Imported hardwood species from South America, Africa and South Asia were introduced to suit the demand, whether for strong wood of consistent grain that took well to carving and finishing, or for inlays and veneers that bore the...

  9. 4 Cape to Siberia: The Indian Ocean and China Sea trade in equids
    (pp. 48-67)

    The international trade in equids was both valuable and strategic in the long nineteenth century (i.e. the late eighteenth century to 1914). Horses and mules were part of the sinews of war, essential for field artillery, cavalry, mounted infantry and the baggage train. Economic uses multiplied under the impact of the industrial revolution, notably for urban transport, rural feeder routes to railways, agriculture, and forestry. The impact of the internal combustion engine only began to be felt in the early twentieth century, particularly for urban transport. Moreover, many expanding leisure pursuits depended on horses, especially riding, hunting, racing and polo....

  10. 5 Aden, British India and the development of steam power in the Red Sea, 1825–1839
    (pp. 68-83)

    On the morning of 19 January 1839, a combined Royal Navy and East India Company force assembled off the south-west coast of Arabia. In addition to a frigate, a cruiser and an armed schooner, transports carried 700 British and Indian troops. Their purpose was the seizure of the near-derelict port of Aden. The ensuing naval bombardment quickly reduced the town’s crumbling fortifications to rubble; despite a gallant local defence, the invading troops soon overwhelmed the inadequately armed Arabs. Within a matter of hours, the Union flag was hoisted and Aden became a British territory.¹ The reasons for the capture of...

  11. 6 The heroic age of the tin can: Technology and ideology in British Arctic exploration, 1818–1835
    (pp. 84-99)

    On 11 August 1831, the men of theVictory, under Captain John Ross, were hard at work in a desolate bay in Arctic Canada. Rather strangely, given the location, they were busy stocking up on provisions, helping themselves to a vast array of supplies left behind when an earlier naval expedition had had to abandon one of its ships, theFury. Suddenly, and briefly, one of the most hostile environments in the world became a place of spectacular bounty. The incongruity between the supplies and the setting was not lost on Ross, who later wrote:

    I need not say that...

  12. 7 The proliferation and diffusion of steamship technology and the beginnings of ‘new imperialism’
    (pp. 100-110)

    ‘It is tempting to suggest’, Gordon Jackson has observed, that ‘the surge of imperialism in the last quarter of the nineteenth century . . . owed most to changes in European technology, especially the triple-compound-engined steel ships around 1880 and the subsequent dramatic fall in freight rates’. Given the proliferation of explanations that abound in the literature on the so-called new imperialism of the late nineteenth century (Professor Jackson alludes to several), it is controversial to assign technology generally and steel ships in particular a dominant deterministic role.¹ To clarify and pursue the assertion further one must start with the...

  13. 8 Lakes, rivers and oceans: Technology, ethnicity and the shipping of empire in the late nineteenth century
    (pp. 111-127)

    This is not perhaps one of Kipling’s best poems. It was written especially for a school text book published in 1911 and was therefore intended for a juvenile audience. As part of the propaganda of a maritime empire, it is perhaps fascinating to deconstruct it. The steamers, it may be observed, are big. Indeed, in the original the repeated titular refrain of Big Steamers is always capitalised. They run on and they carry British coal. But the stress is entirely on food, not industrial raw materials. The fundamental message is that the British are fed

    ¹C.R.L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling,...

  14. 9 Making imperial space: Settlement, surveying and trade in northern Australia in the nineteenth century
    (pp. 128-141)

    This chapter is grounded in the proposition that maritime trade needs to be historicized not only in terms of flow – people, ships, commodities, payments and so on – but also in terms of enabling processes, specifically those associated with making the space, literally and figuratively, within which trade, on the terms that it is constructed, could proceed. That is the reason for the title of the chapter. The issue is settlement and naval surveying in northern Australia in the first half of the nineteenth century with special reference to Melville Island, Port Essington, the Torres Strait and Cape York. I will...

  15. 10 Hydrography, technology, coercion: Mapping the sea in Southeast Asian imperialism, 1850–1900
    (pp. 142-158)

    Historiography on imperial mapping has never dealt with the sea as ardently or efficiently as it has with cartography on land. There have been good reasons for this. Approximately 90 per cent of the earth’s land mass came to be controlled by Europeans by 1914, and historians no doubt felt they had their hands full in trying to explain theseterra firmaconquests alone. Land was the ‘ground zero’ of cultural contact; surely the terrestrial realm was the best place to formulate interpretations of domination. Yet these processes of conquest and incorporation were also very important by sea, and epistemological...

  16. 11 Pains, perils and pastimes: Emigrant voyages in the nineteenth century
    (pp. 159-172)

    ‘There is nothing more agreeable to picture and nothing more pathetic to behold’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879, reflecting on his crossing of the Atlantic in the steps of his mistress and future wife, Fanny Osborne. His fellow passengers he described as ‘a company of the rejected; the drunken, the incompetent, the weak, the prodigal’. Yet, rather incongruously, he continued, ‘it must not be supposed that these people exhibited depression. The scene . . . was cheerful. Not a tear was shed on board the vessel. All were full of hope for the future, and showed an inclination to...

  17. 12 Ordering Shanghai: Policing a treaty port, 1854–1900
    (pp. 173-194)

    Maritime empires are based on ports, many of them beyond the bounds of formal empire, or only latterly incorporated into it. Such ports might be described as bridgeheads – base areas for deeper incursions into indigenous societies.¹ In practice, of course, the greatest benefit was often derived from the bridgehead itself. Securing those ports in ways favourable to trade on British terms required a broad repertoire of techniques and a range of collaborators subject to varying degrees of state influence and control. Ronald Robinson’s ‘ideal prefabricated collaborator’ – the settler – was a vital agent even beyond the world of formal colonisation.²...

  18. 13 Toward a people’s history of the sea
    (pp. 195-206)

    I begin with words written by the West Indian novelist Jamaica Kincaid:

    In the Antigua that I knew, we lived on a street named after an English maritime criminal, Horatio Nelson, and all the other streets around us were named after some other English maritime criminals. There was Rodney Street, there was Hood Street, and there was Drake Street.¹

    English maritime criminals’: to many people, in England and throughout the English-speaking world, these words will sound treasonous. I suspect the author meant them to be. In any case, whether they are or they are not, whether we like them or...

  19. Select bibliography
    (pp. 207-222)
  20. Index
    (pp. 223-229)