Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution

Article excerpt

Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution, by Paul A. Gilje. Pennsylvania, December 2003. $29.95

Paul Gilje has assembled a fine crew. Piecing together disparate bits from an impressive number of marine collections, Liberty on the Waterfront provides a vibrant portrait of the people, places, and ideas that constituted an American maritime culture in the late i8th and early igth centuries. Gilje uses the concept of "liberty" to illuminate his study. For most on the waterfront, "liberty" was a highly ambiguous concept: not only was it specific to each individual, but it also had geographic boundaries, meaning something very different on shore than it did on the high seas. Through this prism Gilje examines the culture of the waterfront from many different angles, including what sailors thought about the push and pull of home or family, the conflict between personal and national identities, the efforts of those who sought to reform sailors and their culture, and the stark dichotomy between unabashed freedom on shore and near slavery at sea. …

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