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Maritime Labour

Maritime Labour: Contributions to the History of Work at Sea, 1500-2000

Edited by Richard Gorski
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Maritime Labour
    Book Description:

    This is a collection of soundings into various aspects of the history of maritime labor from the close of the Middle Ages to the present. The spatial emphasis of the essays is north European and Atlantic since they deal with the countries around the North Sea and Baltic with some coverage of North America. The phrase work at sea naturally makes one think of merchant seafaring and its ancillary trades but, again, several authors in this book deal with navies and naval personnel as important constituents of the seagoing workforce. Indeed, from time to time the authors leave the sea behind in order to examine broader issues such as labor markets, the regulation and institutions of seafaring, and industrial relations on the waterfront. But at all points there is a common theme of sea-related labor, and a common objective of better understanding what have often been perceived as difficult and elusive groups of people. Marcus Rediker was surely correct in a recent essay to stress the challenge of producing more inclusive maritime historical research: We need to get back to basics, to careful empirical reconstructions of the lifeways of peoples long rendered silent in the writing of history.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2111-1
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 7-12)
    Richard Gorski

    This is a collection of soundings into various aspects of the history of maritime labour from the close of the Middle Ages to the present. The majority of the papers in this volume arose out of a workshop held at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, in December 2005. The workshop was the first in a series of meetings in which to discuss and develop issues relating to the broad and cosmopolitan field of maritime labour history.

    The spatial emphasis of the essays in this collection is north European and Atlantic since they deal with the countries around...

  2. Six cross-sections of the Dutch maritime labour market: A preliminary reconstruction and its implications (1610-1850)
    (pp. 13-42)
    Jelle van Lottum and Jan Lucassen

    An examination of the maritime labour market of the Dutch Republic, its prehistory and its aftermath, does not seem to need a defence. Nevertheless, it is good to briefly lay out where our main interests lie. Recently the success of the Dutch Republic has been explained in the framework of an ‘upscaling’ of centres in leadership in Europe during the early modern period. Starting in the city-states in northern Italy in the late middle ages the centre shifted – via the Southern Netherlands – to the Dutch Republic, and then in the eighteenth century to Britain. Only from the eighteenth...

  3. On maritime labour and maritime labour markets in Germany, 1700-1900
    (pp. 43-60)
    Heide Gerstenberger

    From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century the development of seafaring and hence of maritime labour markets in the German seafaring states¹ was closely linked with the development of international law concerning the right to navigate the seas. This law – like any international law – was the outcome of power contests. If, from the sixteenth century onwards, German seafaring states were too weak to participate in this brokerage of power then they were nevertheless affected by the results. This article will focus on one of the reactions to changes in the Law of the Sea: the transition from custom...

  4. Swedish naval personnel in the merchant marine and in foreign naval service in the eighteenth century
    (pp. 61-82)
    György Nováky

    During the eighteenth century Sweden was mostly at peace. The severe setbacks and losses experienced in the Great Nordic War (1700-1720) had once again reduced Sweden to a small nation on the northern fringes of Europe. New social forces started to influence its development and the economy, especially trade, began to expand. However, the military continued to be a major social force even during peacetime. Professor Gunnar Artéus has described the eighteenth century as a period of thorough militarization of society. The different branches of the armed forces employed more than ten per cent of the adult male population of...

  5. Quantifying British seafarers, 1789-1828
    (pp. 83-104)
    David J. Starkey

    Pessimism has been the hallmark of most appraisals of the primary sources relating to the size and composition of the British seafaring labour force before the late nineteenth century. The tone was set by Ralph Davis, who observed in 1962 that the ‘pathway through the shipping statistics of the seventeenth and eighteenth century is a slippery and often misleading one’.¹ Despite acknowledging that ‘researchers in the period after 1750 are well served with official records [relating] to seamen’,² an assessment by Sarah Palmer and David M. Williams of the quality of this material was ‘certainly depressing and might even be...

  6. ‘But for the loves of the fishes’: Maritime labour and ecological culture in nineteenth-century Newfoundland
    (pp. 105-128)
    Sean T. Cadigan

    Over the past twenty years, researchers have emphasized the importance of the early modern capitalist organization of maritime labour, whether in seafaring, fishing, or hunting sea mammals; they depict maritime labourers as either market agents or the vanguard of proletarian resistance to exploitation at sea. Yet works on seafaring in New England and Atlantic Canada suggest that maritime workers often served in paternalistic relationships defined by the bonds of kin and community in the ports from which they sailed. Most seafarers worked for short periods of their lives in deep-sea trades; they otherwise worked in a variety of related trades...

  7. The Shipping Federation and the free labour movement: A comparative study of waterfront and maritime industrial relations, c.1889-1891
    (pp. 129-154)
    William Kenefick

    It was Sydney and Beatrice Webb who suggested that the ‘new unionism’ of the late 1880s and early 1890s was a different type of trade unionism and since then historians have come to accept this view of ‘new directions in industrial relations’. Indeed, as it was linked to the organization of unskilled workers and because of its connections with the socialist movement many historians have read into it ‘evidence of a new class consciousnesses’. Moreover, it was commonly held that the impulse for this movement was historically linked with the London dock strike of August 1889, or at the very...

  8. Health and safety aboard British merchant ships: The case of first aid instruction, 1881-1908
    (pp. 155-184)
    Richard Gorski

    During the nineteenth century loss of life was one of the principal causes of state intervention in the business of shipping and seafaring. When government turned its gaze toward the sea, as it often did in this period, its objective frequently was to protect the lives and property engaged on the world’s shipping lanes. Huge resources, whether calculated in money or man-hours, were directed toward the investigation and improvement of maritime safety. The front in this campaign was necessarily broad, for it encompassed issues as diverse as nautical design and construction, competent navigation and manning, proper cargo stowage and insurance...

  9. British merchant marine engineer licensing, 1865-1925
    (pp. 185-218)
    Alston Kennerley

    When, two centuries ago, engines were first installed in ships, the promoters probably had little appreciation of the impact the new technology would have on ship manning. At a stroke a new and significant craft appeared aboard ships which would rival and outclass such long-standing shipboard skills as seamanship, sail-making, gunnery, cooperage, blacksmithing, shipwrighting and even, when a theoretical basis for ships’ engineering had been developed, navigation. Half a century after their introduction, ships’ engineers were licensed in the same way that mates and masters had been a decade earlier. By the end of the nineteenth century, marine engineers emerged...

  10. Transatlantic fishers: New England and British trawlermen, 1960-1972
    (pp. 219-234)
    Colin J. Davis

    During the 1960s the respective working worlds of New England and British trawlermen were undergoing a painful transition. Fears of foreign competition were rampant, and there was increasing dissatisfaction with safety aboard ship. How each group perceived their changing circumstances says much for a universal appreciation of work across international frontiers. A transnational focus on Atlantic fishers has much to commend it. On a daily basis fishing vessels from Europe and the United States shared the same work space. The Atlantic Ocean was a shared platform, but during the 1960s the Atlantic fisheries were also under intense threat and undergoing...

  11. Masters and chiefs: Enabling globalization, 1975-1995
    (pp. 235-257)
    Tony Lane

    In the mid-1970s the shipping companies of Western Europe and Japan were predominant in international seaborne trade, their ships flying the flags and engaging crews congruent with the companies’ national locations. Twenty years later, Western European and Japanese shipping companies were still predominant but far less frequently flew flags signifying the national location of their operational centres. Even less frequently did they employ full crews of own-nationals. By the mid-1990s, after a decade and a half of depressed international trade, European and Japanese shipowners had adopted, in imitation of their North American counterparts, the recourse of flag of convenience ships...