This book contributes to what has recently been called a 'new social history of seafaring'. This new maritime history places sailors themselves at the center, not the periphery, of the maritime past, and explores ways that the history of the sea and the history of the shore have intersected. It differs from traditional accounts which celebrate exotic trades, powerful merchants, maritime technologies, and military exploits. Drawn on the evidence of nearly two hundred ship logs and sailors' diaries, Rites and Passages examines American whalemen at the height of the whaling industry in the 1800s and argues that whaling life and culture was shaped by both the American mainland and by the exigencies of ocean life. Unlike other published 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 world, but also with an examination of the ways that seafaring served as a rite of passage into manhood.
List of illustrations; Acknowledgements; 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; Appendixes; Index.