Trade in the Eastern Seas, 1793-1813

Trade in the Eastern Seas, 1793-1813

Trade in the Eastern Seas, 1793-1813

Trade in the Eastern Seas, 1793-1813

Excerpt

Maritime history has never yet taken its rightful place as a subject for investigation. We have, on the one hand, the economic historian, who tells us much about imports and exports but very little about shipping. We have, on the other hand, the student of nautical archaeology, who tells us much about ships but very little about trade. Somewhere between these two types of scholarship, and largely unheeded by both types of scholar, lies the true history of the sea. Maritime history I have called it, and this would seem to be its only possible name. In the text-book of economic history we learn of goods being sent overseas to this country and to that. We have the facts given us, together with such columns of figures as may serve to enliven the tale, and with that we must be content. Is not this, however, a little remote from human activities as we can picture them? Abstract statements about imports and exports do very well for the counting house, but there is that in most of us which demands more concrete information. We wish to visualise the quayside, the ships and the bales of goods. In books again of a different kind we may read of the speed and beauty of clipper ships; but here we are often disappointed by our failure to learn what the ships carried or even why they were in a hurry. It is the task of the maritime historian to bridge the gulf between these two types of work, avoiding equally the abstract and the anecdotal.

It is my contention that there is much in English history which cannot be understood without its maritime context. It is also my belief that naval history, as now studied, is far too apt to lack its economic background. Were naval history treated as an aspect of maritime history it would itself become . . .

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