What did whaling had to do with New England’s colonization

The development of the whaling industry in New England and Nantucket had its origin in the wider colonization process of the American continent – and this also reflects the area’s heritage.1 .

From the 17th century onwards, many settler societies along the coast of New England were involved in the whaling industry as a natural extraction industry to varying degrees. Today there is research about the whaling history of various cities such as the Hudson Bay2, Long Island3, New London4, Rhode Island5, Fall River6, Salem7, Dartmouth in Nova Scotia8, as well as Nantucket9 and New Bedford.10

For the period of the whaling industry between 1784 and 1928, Finley lists even over 75 different whaling ports along the North American coastlines.11 Despite the high amount of whaling ports however, the economic power was still concentrated just on few ones. Nantucket belonged to the most famous and successful cities as their fleet amounted almost 70% of all ships cruising along the whale patterns in the Atlantic.

It were not only settlers, but mariners with background of Native American communities or from the African continent, which contributed crucially to the rise of thw whaling industry. Scholars like Karttunen, Nicholas, Shoemaker, Silverman and Vickers localize the whaling industry’s success to the important role of Colonial Others such as Native American communities and of people with roots from the African continent.12 According to research opinions, the arriving settler families, who took part in the whaling industry, grounded their economic success on the extraction of labour force via distinct practises such as indentured servitude13 or a complex system of “indebtedness”.14 The labour forces of the whaling industry, as Vickers revealed, consisted mainly of “hands from the Indian community”15 and from people with roots from the African continent.

Shoemaker reminds us that Native American communities kept a relationship to whales long before the contact with European actors.16 Even before the arrival of the Mayflower with its first Pilgrim and Dutch settlers in Cape Cod in 1619, Native American communities and sachems along the coast of New England were familiar with these seasonal movements and the processing of stranded whales. Shoemaker realizes that “Sachem held sovereign rights to whales that stranded in the shallows or on shore” and parts of the whale like “fins and flukes may have been considered delicacies or, more likely, may have had symbolic and ceremonial value”. The “political and legal practices” of sharing “pieces of stranded whales as gifts”17 seems to have been common in the area and similar observations have been done in neighbouring communties. Nantucket’s geographic position is also close to Cape Cod.

William Bradford was one of the passengers onboard the Mayflower and became the first colonial Governor of the then established Plymouth colony. Based on the accounts of him, Philbrick notes that they “were cutting the whale’s blubber into long strips when they saw the shallop approaching and fled, ´running to and fro, as if they had been carrying something.´”18 The Captain of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, as Philbrick adds, was himself formerly active in the Greenland whaling industry, and while cruising close to New England’s coastline, he ”claimed that if only they’d had some harpoons and lances they might have taken between three thousand and four thousand pounds’ worth of whale oil and baleen.”19 The settlers arrived in the area of southern New England, which today form the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut20.

 

  1. Daley, Justin (2020): New England Whaling Heritage. The impact of Capitalism on Preservation and Public Interpretation. PhD Thesis. Flinders University, Adelaide. College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, https://flex.flinders.edu.au/file/7c97e563-7828-481c-aa62-3d2175890ab8/1/DaleyThesis2020.pdf , [last access: 10.02.2022] []
  2. Schram, Margaret (2004): Hudson’s Merchants and Whalers. The Rise and Fall of a River Port, 1783-1850. New York: Black Dome Press. []
  3. Strong, John (2018): America´s Early Whalemen. Indian Shore Whalers on Long Island, 1650-1750: University of Arizona Press. []
  4. Shoemaker, Nancy (2015): Native American Whalemen. Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. []
  5. Sherman, Stuart (1965): The Voice of the Whaleman. With an Account of the Nicholson Whaling Collection. Providence RI. []
  6. Lund, Judith (2012): Fall River goes Whaling. In: Coriolis – Interdisciplinary Journal of Maritime Studies 3 (2), pp. 1-14. []
  7. Druett, Joan (2009): The Salem Connection. American Contacts with Early Colonial New Zealand. In: Journal of New Zealand Studies 8, pp. 169-194.; Medina, Isagani (1973): American Logbooks and Journals in Salem, Massachusetts on the Philippines 1796-1894. In: Asian Studies, Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia 11 (1), pp. 177-198. []
  8. Follini, Maida (2006): A Quaker Odyssey. The Migration of Quaker Whalers from Nantucket, Massachusetts to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Milford Haven, Wales. In: Canadian Quaker History Journal 71, pp. 1-21. []
  9. Stackpole, Edouard A. (1972): Whales and Destiny. The rivalry between America, France, and Britain for control of the southern whale fishery, 1785-1825. Amherst MA.; Vickers, Daniel (1983): The first Whalemen of Nantucket. In: The William and Mary Quarterly 40 (4), pp. 560-583; Vickers, Daniel (1985): Nantucket whalemen in the deep-sea fishery. The changing anatomy of an early American labor force. In: The Journal of American History 72 (2), pp. 277-296. []
  10. Gallman, Robert; Davis, Lance; Gleiter, Karin (1997): In Pursuit of Leviathan. Technology, Institutions, Productivity, and Profits in American Whaling, 1816-1906. Chicago: Chicago University Press.; Stackpole 1972 []
  11. Finley, Skip (2020): Whaling Captains of Colour. America´s first Meritocracy. Dulles VA: Naval Institute Press, pp. 235-237 []
  12. Karttunen, Frances (2005): The Other Islanders. People who pulled Nantucket’s oars. New Bedford: Spinner Publications, Inc.; Nicholas, Mark (2002): Mashpee Wampanoags of Cape Cod, the Whalefishery, and Seafaring’s Impact on Community Development. In: The American Indian Quarterly 26 (2), pp. 165-197.; Shoemaker 2014; 2015 ; Silverman, David (2001): The Impact of Indentured Servitude on the Society and culture of Southern New England Indians, 1680-1810. In: The New England Quarterly 74 (4), pp. 622-666.; Vickers 1983; 1985. []
  13. Salmond, Anne (1997): Between Worlds. Early Exchanges between Maori and Europeans 1773-1815. Auckland NZ: Penguin Books, p. 316. []
  14. Vickers 1983, p. 577 []
  15. Vickers 1983, p. 568 []
  16. Shoemaker, Nancy (2014): Living with whales. Documents and oral histories of Native New England whaling history. Amherst: University of Massachussetts Press.. []
  17. Shoemaker 2014, p. 32 []
  18. Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006): Mayflower. A story of courage, community, and war. New York: Penguin Group.. []
  19. Philbrick 2006, p. 57. []
  20. Karttunen 2002; Philbrick 2006; Salisbury, Neal (1984): Manitou and Providence. Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500-1643. New York: Oxford University Press.; Zelner, Kyle (2009): A Rabble in Arms. Massachusetts Towns and Militiamen during King Philip’s War. New York: New York University Press; Bahar, Matthew (2019): Storm of the Sea. Indians & Empires in the Atlantic´s Age of Sail. Oxford: Oxford University Press. []

What my dissertation project would say about the year 2021 (2/2)

July to September 2021 – vacation, vaccination, and preparation

In July 2021, I planned to take some weeks free from work, free from writing, free from reading articles and take a break of constantly thinking of my research project. Apart from visiting friends, applying for an UK visa, I used also the opportunity to attend together with some other doctoral researchers a “Schreibwerkstatt”, kindly organized by PD Dr. Simon Karstens from Trier University. Within two very intensive and productive days, we talked, discussed and analyzed text passages, the working environments as well as useful tools and skills to write and to structure the work in long-term projects.

I used the first weeks of August to organize the last aspects of my archive stay in the UK and to book the places in Birmingham, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest and London. The August marked also the beginning of this research blog and one of my first intentions was to devote at least one blog article to each archive.

By the late August I eventually moved to London and Birmingham and quickly began to read the first manusripts of the Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham in the first weeks of September. The Missionary manuscripts turned out to be very productuve and helpful from the very beginning. In Birmingham, I also contacted some staff members of the Department of History at the Birmingham University and so came in touch with Dr. Tom Cutterham. We had a great conversation and agreed to stay in touch in the future.

October to December 2021 – conferences, conferences, conferences

The preparation of conference presentations as well as archive researches in Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and London shaped the last quartal of 2021. At the first of October, I had the opportunity to introduce my topic to the audience of the Australian Seascapes Conference of the “Gesellschaft für Australienstudien“, which took place virtually via Zoom between 30th Sept. and 2nd Oct. 2021.

In the last week of November then between 23rd and 26th Nov. 2021, the New Zealand Historical Association came virtually together under the conference title “Ako: Learning from History“. I was delighted and very thankful to have had the possibility to present my research project in front of a Aotearoa/ New Zealand audience.

The last presentation, which I had in 2021 was in mid of Dec. 2021 to the GHI London Colloquium, where I have shown the first results of findings during the time in the UK. Being back in Germany now, I have used the christmas days to take a break and look forward to beginning the new year of 2022 with new motivation and to read the archive material, which I have collected and gathered.

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