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Oceanic Archives, Indigenous Epistemologies, and Transpacific American Studies$
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Yuan Shu, Otto Heim, and Kendall Johnson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888455775

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888455775.001.0001

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American and International Whaling, c. 1770–1820

American and International Whaling, c. 1770–1820

Toward an Ocean History

Chapter:
(p.25) 1 American and International Whaling, c. 1770–1820
Source:
Oceanic Archives, Indigenous Epistemologies, and Transpacific American Studies
Author(s):

James R. Fichter

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888455775.003.0002

This chapter outlines an international environmental history of whaling in the South Seas (the Southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans). Pelagic (ie., deep-sea) whaling was not discretely national. “American” whaling, as traditionally understood, existed as part of a broader ecological and economic phenomenon which included whalers from other nations. Application of “American,” “British” and other national labels to an ocean process that by its nature crossed national boundaries has occluded a full understanding of whaling’s international nature, a fullness which begins with whaling community diaspora spread across the North Atlantic from the United States to Britain and France, and which extends to the varied locations where whalers hunted and the yet other locations to which they returned with their catch. Ocean archives—the Saint Helena Archive, the Cape Town Archive Repository, and the Brazilian Arquivo Nacional—and a reinterpretation of published primary sources and national whaling historiographies reveal the fundamentally international nature of “American” pelagic whaling, suggesting that an undue focus on US whaling data by whaling historians has likely underestimated the extent of turn-of-the-nineteenth-century pelagic whaling.

Keywords:   Whaling, Sperm whale, Pelagic, Environmental history, Ecology, Economy

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