Thalassography and Historiography
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
Series Editor’s Preface
Why invoke a neologism? While Alexander Agassiz’s historic voyages in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico in 1877 and 1880 were published as a “Contribution to American Thalassography,” the term has generally lain dormant. Even a recent attempt to encourage more thinking about the sea used the term Thalassology. ...
In 2009, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the trans-oceanic voyage that created New Amsterdam, two professors at the Bard Graduate Center, Deborah Krohn and myself, along with a curator at The New-York Historical Society, Marybeth DeFilippis, organized an exhibition about the life of a woman who was born in Amsterdam, ...
Introduction: The Sea Is the Land’s Edge Also
The opening of Roberrt Musil’s Man Without Qualities is as good an introduction to the problematics of thalassography as it is to a long novel about the end of the Habsburg Empire. Musil was trying to locate his story, not without some irony and even perhaps some satire, in space and time, ...
One. Two Men in a Boat: The Braudel-Goitein“ Correspondence” and the Beginning of Thalassography
The concluding section of Abraham ibn Daud’s Sefer ha-Qabbalah (c. 1261 CE) tells the story of four men—rabbis—in a boat sailing from Bari. The boat is captured by Muslim pirates and three of the rabbis are distributed, or ransomed away, to the cities of Fustat (Old Cairo), Qairawan, and Cordoba. ...
Two. Atlantic and Caribbean Perspectives: Analyzing a Hybrid and Entangled World
How has a thalassographic prism enabled new approaches in the historiography of the Atlantic world? In order to answer this question, I delve into the writing of Atlantic history since its coming of age in the last two decades. I distinguish five different ways to write Atlantic history: one school stresses agency, another adaptation, ...
Three. Tide, Beach, and Backwash: The Place of Maritime Histories
The aim of this chapter is precisely that of the gathering at which its oral precursor was read—to investigate the nature and potential of “the new thalassography” as a scholarly initiative, while it is indeed still relatively new. Thalassography has hitherto been a maritime mirroring of geography, ...
Four. The East Asian “Mediterranean”: A Medium of Flourishing Exchange Relations and Interaction in the East Asian World
The present contribution uses the macro-geographical space of an “East Asian Mediterranean” in order to characterize multilateral exchange relations in the East Asian world that have traditionally been investigated as relations of various independent nation-states or countries (territorial area studies), ...
Five. Metaphorical Perspectives of the Sea and the Sulu Zone,1768–1898
My initial encounter with the Sulu Zone, located between the Asian mainland and the large islands of Mindanao, Borneo, and Sulawesi, began forty-five years ago. I first learned of the Sulu Archipelago and the maritime world of the Samal Bajau Laut when I received my Peace Corps posting in 1967, ...
Six. Connecting Maritime and Continental History: The Black Sea Region at the Time of the Mongol Empire
The Athenian, the Venetian, the Portuguese: three thalassocracies of different scales that became political Leviathans of their own age, and as such established their power onto “their” seas and oceans.1 But maritime history, as David Armitage reminds us, is not just the struggle between states and empires. ...
Seven. An Ocean of Islands: Islands, Insularity, and Historiography of the Indian Ocean
In his marvelous philosophical novella starring self-enlightened hero Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān (Alive son of Awake), the Andalusian philosopher Abū Bakr Ibn Ṭufayl (d. 1185/6) situates Ḥayy’s home in an equatorial island “lying off the coast of India below the equator,” and characterized by “the most tempered climate on earth.”1 ...
Eight. Skerries, Haffs, and Icefloes: Small Seas and Maritime Histories
Writing in the North American Review at the end of the nineteenth century, Charles Minor Blackford triumphantly declared that “the progress of thalassography has been so rapid and so great during this century, that it can be sketched only in bare outline.” ...
Nine. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Peiresc
In the early 1930s, while a lycée teacher in Algiers, Fernand Braudel met Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637). He seems to have been assigned the task of making sense of the correspondence between Peiresc and Sanson Napollon, governor of the French presidio of Bastion de France between 1628 and 1633. ...
Afterthoughts: Histories in Bottles
We had all heard of the proverbial message-in-a-bottle long before it was immortalized by Sting and The Police in a song from their album Reggatta de blanc in 1979. It symbolizes the dilemma of the Robinson Crusoe figure, the castaway on an “island lost at sea” sending out a message not to anyone in particular but to everyone in general, ...
Nicola Di Cosmo is the Henry Luce Foundation Professor of East Asian Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study since 2003. Previously he taught at Harvard University and at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. His main research fields are the archaeology and history of ancient China, Chinese military history, and Mongol and Manchu history. ...