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Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges

Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, & Kären Wigen (eds.)

Publication Year: 2007

Historians have only recently begun to chart the experiences of maritime regions in rich detail and penetrate the historical processes at work there. Seascapes makes a major contribution to these efforts by bringing together original scholarship on historical issues arising from maritime regions around the world. The essays presented here take a variety of approaches. One group examines the material, cultural, and intellectual constructs that inform and explain historical experiences of maritime regions. Another set discusses efforts—some more successful than others—to impose political and military control over maritime regions. A third group focuses on issues of social history such as labor organization, information flows, and the development of political consciousness among subaltern populations. The final essays deal with pirates and efforts to control them in Mediterranean, Japanese, and Atlantic waters.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The essays in this volume originated at a research conference on “Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges” held in February 2003 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The conference represented part of a larger effort to build bridges between the various fields of area studies scholarship that focus on well-defined world regions by accentuating the ...

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pp. 1-18

To judge from movie marquees, tourist brochures, or bestseller lists, seascapes loom large in the public imagination. Yet on the mental maps of most scholars, oceans are oddly occluded. Geographically marginal to the grids of academic inquiry, the watery world seems to fall between our conceptual cracks as well. When not ignored altogether, maritime topics are routinely relegated to subfields on shipping or migration, pirates or ...


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1. Islands in the Making of an Atlantic Oceania, 1500-1800

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pp. 21-37

Civilizations think about islands in very different ways. The inhabitants of precolonial Polynesia saw themselves as inhabiting a sea of islands, connected rather than divided by water and thus more like an aqueous continent. “Their universe comprised not only land surfaces, but the surrounding ocean as far as they could traverse and exploit it,” writes Epile Hau‘ofa, “Their world was anything but tiny.”¹ For them the sea was ...

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2. Vessels of Exchange: The Global Shipwright in the Pacific

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pp. 38-52

Maritime ethnographers and archaeologists have always held the ship to be more than a simple inanimate object. Instead, it is a complex cultural artifact, a record of specific seafaring traditions and regional variations. And ships, which carry numerous items of trade, can themselves be traded, altered, and redefined. The transoceanic exchange in this case is the adoption and continued use of traditions in nautical technology ...

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3. Maritime Ideologies and Ethnic Anomalies: Sea Space and the Structure of Subalternity in the Southeast Asia Littoral

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pp. 53-68

Conceptions of sea space have been integral to political imaginaries in Southeast Asia.


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4. The Organization of Oceanic Empires: The Iberian World in the Habsburg Period

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pp. 71-86

Globalization arguably began, not with the voyages of Columbus, but with the treaties that claimed to divide the non-European world into Portuguese and Spanish spheres of influence, including exclusive seaborne channels of exploration and communication. In the early sixteenth century both Iberian powers established commercial and governmental ...

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5. The Ottoman "Discovery" of the Indian Ocean in the Sixteenth Century

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pp. 87-104

Vasco da Gama’s successful voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 has long been recognized as a major turning point in world history, marking the beginning of direct and continuous contact between the civilizations of Western Europe and the Indian Ocean. Much less well known to modern scholarship, by comparison, is the Ottoman Empire’s ...

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6. Lines of Plunder or Crucible of Modernity? The Legal Geography of the English-Speaking Atlantic, 1660-1825

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pp. 105-120

As Max Weber wrote in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the essence of modern capitalism is its commitment to quotidian regularity, gradual accumulation, and the rule of law; but for these qualities, the ethos of the commercial bourgeoisie would be indistinguishable from that of the premodern brigand. For Weber, the chief exemplar ...

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7. Transgressive Exchange: Circumventing Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Commercial Restrictions, or The Discount of Monte Christi

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pp. 121-134

In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith asserted that human beings have a propensity to “truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.”¹ In this view of the world, trading developed because individual people knew—almost innately—what they wanted, as well as how and where to acquire it. But residents of the eighteenth- century Atlantic World were not free to engage in any commerce ...


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8. "Tavern of the Seas"? The Cape of Good Hope as an Oceanic Crossroads during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

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pp. 137-153

The Cape of Good Hope was the major crossroads for European ships traversing the Atlantic and Indian oceans between Europe and Asia, until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Situated at the southernmost tip of the African continent, the stunning vista of Table Mountain, the spectacular scenery of the Cape Peninsula, and the tumultuous seas ...

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9. The Turbulent Soil: Seafarers, the "Black Atlantic," and Afro-Caribbean Identity

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pp. 153-168

For much of their history, from the dawn of human settlement to recent times, the islands of the West Indian archipelago have been peopled by the product of seaborne diasporas. Beginning with the Amerindians over 5,000 years ago, the ebb and fl ow of human conflict and expansion has contributed to successive waves of inward and outward migration ...

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10. Race, Migration, and Port-City Radicalism: West Indian Longshoremen and the Politics of Empire, 1880-1920

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pp. 169-185

The association of migration to Panama with death, as the epigraph to this chapter suggests, reflected the harrowing conditions of building one of the world’s most complex waterways. Although West Indian workers were commonly viewed as shiftless, ignorant, and unreliable tropical laborers, they performed the lowest paid and most dangerous assignments ...

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11. South Asian Seafarers and Their Worlds: c. 1870-1930s

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pp. 186-202

Despite providing the plots and the characters for some outstanding works of historical scholarship in which they appear to offer unrecovered redoubts of lost ideals (whether revolutionary republicanism or radical Afro-American cosmopolitanism), seafarers have not been an enduring focus of interest to the historical profession.


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12. Marking Water: Piracy and Property in the Premodern West

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pp. 205-220

Discourse around the political entity, or polity, has often been informed by concretized notions of what Marvin Becker called the “territorial state”—defined by Max Weber as a “compulsory organization with a territorial basis.”¹ Weber’s reference to compulsion nonetheless implies that the state is an improvised, artificial construct. ...

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13. With the Sea as Their Domain: Pirates and Maritime Lordship in Medieval Japan

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pp. 221-238

So wrote the prolific Jesuit chronicler, Luis Frois, in 1586 regarding Noshima Murakami

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14. The Pirate and the Gallows: An Atlantic Theater of Terror and Resistance

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pp. 239-250

In the early afternoon of July 12, 1726 William Fly ascended Boston’s gallows to be hanged for piracy. His body was nimble in manner like a sailor going aloft; his rope-roughened hands carried a nosegay of flowers; his weather-beaten face had “a Smiling Aspect.” He showed no guilt, no shame, no contrition. Indeed, as Cotton Mather, the presiding prelate, noted, he “look’d about him unconcerned.” But once he stood upon the ...


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780824864248
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824830274

Publication Year: 2007