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Whales and Nations

Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas

by Kurkpatrick Dorsey

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright Page

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Foreword: Creatures of the Contested Deep

William Cronon

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pp. vii-xii

In 1968, the biologist Garrett Hardin published an article in Science that became an instant environmental classic. Entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons,” it offered a moral fable about medieval peasants who destroyed their shared pastures by gradually adding more and more grazing animals until the carrying capacity of the land collapsed, with devastating...

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pp. xiii-xviii

At the end of writing a book comes the monumental but happy task of counting up the numerous debts accrued over the course of many years of research and writing. With a list so long, where does one even begin?
Although none of them had any direct influence on this book, I realize now more than ever how indebted I am to excellent professors who put up...

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pp. xix-2

Over the past dozen or so years, when I have mentioned to someone that I have been writing a book on whaling, the reply frequently makes mention of Mystic, Connecticut, or New Bedford, Massachusetts, or maybe Moby Dick (yes, I have read it; no I don’t really recommend it). In most people’s minds, whaling still conjures up the allegedly romantic...

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pp. 3-16

History was a bout to repeat itself, warned Sidney Harmer. In 1913, while serving as keeper of zoology for the British Museum (Natural History), Sir Sidney concluded, “It is impossible to avoid seeing an analogy between what is taking place off South Georgia and the neighboring Antarctic localities and what has happened elsewhere in the world.” The...

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1. A Global Industry and Global Challenges

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pp. 17-48

The decision by landlocked Switzerland to sign the League of Nations’ 1931 Convention for the Regulation of Whaling might seem merely a humorous oddity, an inexplicable footnote to the history of diplomacy. Indeed, members of the Swiss Parliament commented during debate that the prime risk of the convention was the creation of a Swiss...

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2. The Pelagic and the Political

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pp. 49-82

In June 1938, delegates from several nations met in London at the Shell-Mex House to negotiate an extension to the 1937 Convention on Whaling. After nearly a week of meetings, which had produced some progress and a consensus that the 1937 convention should be strengthened, Don Manuel Malbran, the delegate from Argentina, which desired to govern the...


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pp. 83-90

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3. World War and the World’s Whales

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pp. 91-128

In January 1944, during a special conference in London to update the 1937 whaling convention, Henry Maurice, now president of the Zoological Society of London, invited American scientist Remington Kellogg to his office. Perhaps they reminisced about their disagreements in the late 1930s or traded gossip on the fates of Helmuth Wohlthat and...

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4. Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

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pp. 129-162

In one of the more famous comments about the postwar military occupation of Japan, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wrote to his superiors in Washington just after the Japanese surrender, “Give me bread or give me bullets.”1 Japan, he observed, was nearly in a state of starvation, and if he could not win the people over with food he would need to control...

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5. Melting Down and Muddling Through

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pp. 163-194

In 1964, the International Whaling Commission held its sixteenth annual meeting in the whaling town of Sandefjord, Norway. As the delegates convened in the newly renovated Park Hotel, owned by one of the leaders of the Norwegian whaling industry, at least some were aware of the stark contrast before them. They were in a grand modern building...


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pp. 195-206

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6. Save the Whales (For Later)

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pp. 207-242

In July 1971, Tom Garrett of Friends of the Earth testified before a US congressional committee that was investigating a ten-year worldwide ban on commercial whaling. In the midst of statements for and against such a moratorium, Garrett launched a slashing attack on the International Whaling Commission, which had been “exposed as a tragic farce, discredited...

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7. The End of Commercial Whaling

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pp. 243-278

At the 1979 meeting of the International Whaling Commission, the American folksinger John Denver showed up for the public comment session, produced a guitar, and began singing the subtly titled “I Want to Live.” Denver asked: “Have you heard the song the humpback hears five hundred miles away? Telling tales of history of passages and home.” The...

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pp. 279-290

In June 2011, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times posted an interview with Paul Watson, leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, on his environmental interest blog, Dot Earth. Watson had maintained a place in the limelight after his 1979 run-in with the Sierra by harassing Icelandic whalers in the 1980s, challenging the Makah hunt of...

Appendix: Whaling Data, 1904–1965

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pp. 291-294


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pp. 295-338


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pp. 339-346


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pp. 347-365

Other Works in the Series

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E-ISBN-13: 9780295804941
E-ISBN-10: 0295804947
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295993119
Print-ISBN-10: 0295993111

Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Diplomacy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Environmental law, International -- History -- 20th century.
  • Whaling -- Law and legislation -- History -- 20th century.
  • Sustainable fisheries -- History -- 20th century.
  • Whales -- Conservation -- History -- 20th century.
  • Whaling -- Environmental aspects -- History -- 20th century.
  • Whaling -- Political aspects -- History -- 20th century.
  • International cooperation -- History -- 20th century.
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