Seafaring communities, 1800–1850 Chapter uri icon


  • That paradox – of the central and yet largely overlooked role seafarers played within the broader nineteenth-century Atlantic world – remains the focus of this essay. We know a great deal about the circulation of goods, peoples, and knowledge which comprises Atlantic history, and yet, the sailors who moved those items, individuals, and ideas are often ignored or taken for granted. There are many possible explanations for our selective amnesia regarding the waterborne world, but the most signi cant factor is almost certainly the strange disciplinary divides which still insist on treating sailors as a distinct class of people worthy of separate inquiry. In the words of one early American maritime historian, ‘the sailor lives in a little world of his own,’ and ‘is like the inhabitants of some undiscovered country.’ As that attitude became consensus opinion, seafaring communities were often studied as discrete and bounded entities unto themselves, almost entirely cut off from the world which surrounded them. This insistence upon sailor isolation was ironic, though, given the in uential role mariners played in weaving together the disparate threads of the Atlantic basin. Even a cursory glance at the early nineteenth-century maritime world belies claims about the sailor’s relative isolation, and forces us to concede that seafaring communities have long been at the center of the Atlantic world.

author list (cited authors)

  • Rouleau, B.

editor list (cited editors)

  • Coffman, D., Leonard, A., & O'Reilly, W.

Book Title

  • The Atlantic World

publication date

  • December 2014