SOCIETY AND CULTURE AMONG ANGLO-AMERICAN DEEP SEA SAILORS, 1700-1750
This dissertation focuses upon transatlantic sailors, particularly merchant seamen and pirates, between 1700 and 1750. Early modern seamen were among the earliest free wage laborers in the international economy, and one of the first occupations to engage in steady industrial work. Their labor was assembled and enclosed on the ship, a precursor of the factory, where cooperation was organized among workers who owned neither the tools nor the materials of production. Seamen toiled under a shipboard regime armed with violent disciplinary powers to insure their cooperation. They sold their muscle on a sprawling international market for monetary wage. Much of the world's population would undergo similar experiences with the Industrial Revolution. Based on some 2,200 cases heard in Admiralty Courts around the Atlantic as well as many other sources, this study argues that there was a chronic conflict between the needs and imperatives of the international market economy organized by merchant capitalists and those of an international moral economy constructed by common seamen. Since sailoring in the eighteenth century was an inherently life-threatening occupation due to both natural and unnatural hazards, whether accidents, disease, or abusive mistreatment, seamen collectively relied on an ethic of mutuality and a process of negotiation to defend and expand their privileges and rights. In the course of this struggle a specifically maritime occupational consciousness veered in the direction of class consciousness, and seamen began to develop wider patterns of association, sympathy, and identification. The seaman's world in many ways represented an autonomous, alternative society, a counterculture of sorts, with values distinct and often radically different from those normally associated with the rise of capitalism. This alternative world was instrumental in the formation of a larger working-class culture: seamen not only experienced first the changes occurring in society at large, but were crucial to the growth of plebeian traditions. They used their mobile, pivotal position in the social division of labor to create linkages with an extraordinary assortment of other working people. Seamen were thus central to both the structural and cultural dimensions of capital-labor relations in early modern America and England.
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|Authors:||REDIKER, MARCUS BUFORD|
|Type of publication:||Other|
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