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Rites and Passages

Rites and Passages
The Experience of American Whaling, 1830–1870

$28.99 (G)

  • Date Published: August 1995
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521484480

$ 28.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • Traditional accounts of whaling celebrate exotic locales and dangerous exploits but shed little light on the lives of the men who went to sea. Rites and Passages places sailors at the center of a social history of whaling and explores the ways in which the history of the sea and the history of the shore have intersected. Drawing on the evidence of ship logs and sailors' letters and journals, Margaret S. Creighton examines American whalemen during the industry's peak--the mid-nineteenth century--and argues that whaling life and culture were shaped by both the American mainland and by the exigencies of ocean life. Unlike other accounts of seafaring, this work brings gender into the maritime equation, not only with a discussion of the ways that women figured in this male-dominated world, but also with an examination of the ways that seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood. Professor of History at Bates College, Margaret Creighton is the author of Dogwatch and Liberty Days: Seafaring Life in the 19th Century and co-editor of Iron Men and Wooden Women: Gender and Maritime History. She has been guest curator at The Peabody Museum of Salem and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum of Boston.

    • Differs from traditional accounts in that it places sailors themselves at the center of maritime history, not the periphery
    • Uses the personal testimony of over 200 American whalemen
    • Incorporates gender into the maritime equation with a discussion of women in shipboard culture, and with an examination of the ways that seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood
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    Reviews & endorsements

    " intriquing probe of the heyday of the industry..." The Midwest Book Review

    "In her informative, engaging book, Creighton...offers valuable insight into the existence of real-life Ishmaels and Ahabs at the height of the American whaling industry....Creighton's study isn't sunk by theoretical jargon; it's an accessible reconstruction of shipboard life and the feelings of sailors towards officers, each other and those left behind." Publishers Weekly

    "Margaret Creighton has written a fascinating book on the world of whalemen in whaling's golden era. From her reading in more than two hundred diaries and letters, Creighton shows how factors such as gender, religion, and the profit motive produced the whalemen's rich and lively culture. This is an insightful piece of historical scholarship and a good story as well." E. Anthony Rotundo, author of American Manhood

    "...a commendable analysis of the whaleman's experiences....Rites and Passages is important reading for anyone interested in American essential reference for further work in this field." Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., Nautical Research Journal

    "...this is a book well worth reading. The depth of research alone is impressive. Frequent quotations from the sailors' diaries and letters allow the reader to form personal opinions of the matters at hand....She has created a convincing "chapter of human history." John F. Battick, International Journal of Maritime History

    "...this remains a valuable and important book in a field that remains dominated, at least obliquely, by the genius of Melville." Stephen Innes, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    "...artful and engaging....a well-written and beautifully illustrated book..." Simon P. Newman, The PA Magazine of History & Software

    "Rites and Passages: The Experience of American Whaling, 1830-1870, Creighton takes the historiography of American Whaling well beyond its traditional boundaries to investigate issues as subtle and affective as gender identity, masculinity and femininity, the influence of race and class, and the rites of passage from adolescence into manhood. With this book, the ongoing conversation about the import and effect of American whaling has been advanced and updated significantly. Even the most casual student of whaling should have this intriguing book on his or her self." Glenn S. Gordinier, The Mariner's Museum Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 1995
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521484480
    • length: 252 pages
    • dimensions: 233 x 154 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.347kg
    • contains: 34 b/w illus. 19 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Archives and collections
    Introduction: the passing of Nathaniel Robinson
    1. The evolution of the American whale fishery, 1650–1900
    2. 'Tis advertised in Boston': the shaping of a ship's crew
    3. 'Wondrous tales of the mighty deep': whaling life and labor
    4. The 'old man': the sea captain's split personality
    5. Crossing the line: Fraternity in the forecastle
    6. The attack of the Daniel: whalemen ashore
    7. Sailors
    sweethearts, and wives: gender and sex in the deepwater workplace
    8. Afterword

  • Author

    Margaret S. Creighton, Bates College, Maine

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