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Reviewed by:
  • Maritime History as World History, and: Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean
  • Rainer F. Buschmann
Maritime History as World History. Edited by Daniel Finamore. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004. 216 + xii pp. $59.95 (cloth).
Sea Changes: Historicizing the Ocean. Edited by Bernhard Klein and Gesa Mackenthun, New York: Routledge, 2004. 219 + ix pp. $26.95 (paper).

The discovery of the world's oceans for historical inquiry is a rather recent pursuit. Historians traditionally regarded oceans as barriers to communication or empty spaces on the way to legendary continents. J.H. Parry's classical The Discovery of the Sea (New York: Dial, 1974) maintained that the discovery of new landmasses necessitated the understanding of ocean currents and wind patterns. A wealth of works [End Page 102] investigating individual oceans followed. More recently, Martin Lewis and Kären Wigen in their work The Myth of Continents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997) argued for an investigation of sea and ocean basins as sound geographical and historical categories. The two works under review answer such calls and provide the reader with theoretical horizons from which to conceptualize oceans in a world-historical framework. Both volumes resulted from conferences held in the year 2000, but the similarities end there. Indeed, the methodological and theoretical approaches of these two volumes are almost on opposite ends. Despite their differences, they illustrate a much needed synthesis of historical writings on oceans and important direction of future research.

Daniel Finamore's Maritime History as World History is based on a set of papers delivered in Salem, Massachusetts, in spring 2000. As the title suggests, the volume represents an attempt to merge the field of world history with that of maritime history. Maritime inquiries have always been a stimulating subfield of history. Broadly defined as the interaction of humans with the watery realm of oceans and seas, maritime history has moved in a number of directions, many of which are represented in the present work. Contributors to Maritime History are among the best-known practitioners in the field, whose articles represent more a synthesis of historical information than theoretical insights. Felipe Fernández-Armesto opens with an important chapter that illustrates both the strengths and limitations of merging world and maritime histories. Reluctant to subsume global maritime history into readily existing world-historical categories, Fernández-Armesto nevertheless encourages practitioners, through the study of Japanese, Arab, and Greek mariners, to consider non-Western as well as Western participants in the exploration of the world's oceans. His advice seems to fall somewhat on the wayside if one considers subsequent contributions by Lionel Casson,William Phillips, Jr., and Carla Rahn Phillips. These chapters chart the contributions of ancient, medieval, and early modern explorers notable to the expansion into the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and reflect a myriad of motives behind their endeavors. Their exercise remains, however, a European affair, with only brief glimpses of non-Western mariners. This is not to fault the authors, but this reviewer wonders about the lacking inclusion of, for instance, African, Asian, or Pacific peoples in maritime histories, especially given the title of the book. Leaving this critique aside, the volume dazzles the reader with insights into the legal aspects of ocean expansion (Elizabeth Mancke), technological advances in deep sea exploration (Justin Manley and Brendan Folley), a conceptualization [End Page 103] of oceans as highways rather than barriers (Olaf Janzens), and a reevaluation of ideological foundations of "sea power" in the twentieth century (Jon Tetsuro Sumida). The contributions by John Hattendorf remind the reader that conflict on sea can be understood only in conjunction with affairs occurring on land. Hattendorf's assertions that terrestrial affairs complement aquatic ones is echoed by John Armstrong, who argues that for a full understanding of global maritime affairs one needs to consider shorter coastal and river travel, all of which provided a nursery for future naval personnel and contributed immensely to the economic development of coastal nations. Reflecting on Armstrong's chapter, this reviewer wonders whether a comparative note on West African societies could have elucidated this point. Most intriguing is Richard Unger's attempt to chart European maritime affairs in Mediterranean and northern...


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