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prmitch

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About prmitch

  • Birthday 07/04/1947

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    Male
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    Central New York
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    Marine engineering, ship modeling, maritime and naval research, sailing

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  1. Lascars and Indian Ocean Seafaring, 1780-1860: Shipboard Life, Unrest and Mutiny By Aaron Jaffer Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2015 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 235 pages Illustrations, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $115.00 ISBN: 9781783270385 This book is volume number twelve in a series of works on the East India Company. Aaron Jaffer draws upon several scholars who have previously studied the multitude of causes and effects, as well as the complexity, of mutinous events aboard sailing ships and compiles their evidence so as to give a broad, well-supported analysis of late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth century mutinies in the Indian Ocean. The study considers both East Indiamen and private merchant ships, referred to as country ships, that operated mainly in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. Jaffer offers five key themes to explain mutinous events, their causes, methods, alternatives, and consequences. He makes use of an extensive list of primary sources, including private papers, court proceedings, and factory records. Jaffer also includes conclusions reached by previous scholars in similar studies and compares these conclusions with each other as well as his primary source evidence. A basic overview of each theme of the book is outlined, and expanded upon, throughout its respective chapter, including references to other studies and the specific primary material from which Jaffer draws his information. He includes differences in language, religion, culture, superstition, age, level of experience, and marital status in the causes for mutinous events, comparing the numerous examples of such acts and, when possible, the documented reasons. He discusses the different forms of protest and mutiny that have been documented, including desertion, hunger and work strikes, as well as the overthrow of power onboard. Sources and evidence for each of these protests abound and Jaffer’s writing makes that clear. Jaffer exams intermediaries aboard sailing ships and their role in events of mutiny or protest. The ranks of intermediaries included translators, overseers, arbiters, representatives of certain crew members and interest groups, and often had a hand in the finances of the ship. Each role could be, and sometimes was, easily corrupted to sway people or events for personal gain. In the event of ship seizure as the result of a mutiny or protest, of which there are many examples, the resulting status of former officers, commanders, women onboard, and the crew often fell into disorder. Jaffer acknowledges that the surviving testimonies of mutiny investigations and personal accounts are tempered with bias, skewed descriptions, and embellishments, making them difficult for historians to interpret. International politics had a profound effect on protests and mutinies onboard sailing ships in the Indian Ocean. Shifts in politics and diplomacy led to changes in regards to asylum, arrest, trial, and imprisonment. Those who intended to carry out a mutiny, primarily for personal gain, had to be aware of changes in geopolitics of the time in order to be successful. Jaffer’s work is well researched and composed, including references to other scholars’ research as well as numerous excerpts from sources close to each respective mutinous event. This volume is useful for anyone studying sailing ships and shipboard life of the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth centuries. Olivia Thomas East Carolina University
  2. Commemorating the Seafarer: Monuments, Memorials and Memory By Barbara Tomlinson Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2015 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiv + 259 pages Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $50.00 ISBN: 97817843839705 Death at sea, whether through accident, or war, is often premature and unexpected. Sometimes bodies are not recovered, and people simply disappear. Although not all maritime memorials commemorate those lost at sea, perhaps this helps explain the reason, as Tomlinson notes, that maritime memorials are spread across Great Britain. According to Tomlinson, these memorials act as repositories for memory and grief, providing places for people to mourn and communicate with the dead. She also suggests that they provide information of historical and cultural importance, noting that all levels of society produced memorials affected by, and thus reflecting, such cultural forces as politics and religious as well as artistic trends. Tomlinson focuses on British maritime memorials from the sixteenth century through the modern era—from a time when only a small number of elite were honored in such a way to a broadening and democratization of commemoration to include the ordinary seaman. Ultimately, these memorials honored a wide range of people, including naval personnel, privateers, explorers, common seamen, and those lost in maritime disaster. Tomlinson states that her work concentrates on detailing artistically significant memorials, and the stories behind those monuments. Much of her study concerns naval memorials. She describes the funeral of Robert Blake, given a grand service and burial in Henry VII’s chapel in 1657. Three years later, churchmen disinterred his body, throwing it into a common grave, only to have his memory be honored in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with stained glass windows at Westminster and a statue at his birth place in Somerset. In another, poignant example, she describes a wall monument in Westminster commemorating two junior officers. bodies lost at sea. Friends, both died in the Battle of Solebay in 1672. Tomlinson describes their epitaphs, on adjacent panels sharing a common cornice. The destruction of their ship, Royal James, is shown in relief. The vessel fought off two Dutch fireships, but was set aflame by a third. The father of one son paid for the memorial. Tomlinson also details memorials to those lost in maritime accidents. One early memorial commemorates Hugh Everard, lost, along with the entire crew of Restoration, when the vessel wrecked in 1703. Everard was only fifteen when he died. His memorial shows a sinking vessel in relief and bears the inscription Spes nulla salutis (no hope of safety). Later, Tomlinson describes memorials commemorating those lost when the ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in 1987. One, in the vessel’s homeport of Dover, includes a window showing Christ stilling the waters. A wall painting in the same city depicts the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The bows of the ship appear below the figure of St. John. To Tomlinson, this shows “both death and new life through water.” She notes that sculptures of sinking ships are no longer used in memorials—they too explicitly remind people of their mortality—yet sinking ships remain a reality. Tomlinson’s work is a thorough and vibrant examination of British maritime memorials, providing both an enjoyable stroll through centuries of art and history, and a reminder of human mortality. Mark Keusenkothen East Carolina University
  3. Embassy to the Eastern Courts: America’s Secret First Pivot Toward Asia, 1832-37 By Andrew C.A. Jampoler Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xv + 236 pages Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $44.95 ISBN: 9781612514161 Andrew Jampoler’s Embassy to the Eastern Courts: America’s Secret First Power Pivot Toward Asia is a well written academic work about American diplomatic developments. His book follows the cruise of USS Peacock and USS Boxer from 1832-1834 and the cruise of Peacock with USS Enterprise from 1835 to 1837. In these two cruises, the ships travel to various Asian ports such as Manila, China, Siam, and Muscat. The first voyage marks an important diplomatic push for the United States. Edmund Quincy Roberts set sail aboard Peacock in 1832 as it was bound for Asia. His objective, however, was kept secret as then-President Andrew Jackson wanted him to attempt to secure a treaty to formalize and regularize American trade with China, Siam, and “the powers of Arabia on the Red Sea.” The concealment of his role was to prevent the British from catching wind of the somewhat nefarious scheme. Roberts was a merchant from New Hampshire, but his job was to present a letter to leaders of the various Asian countries that expressed the desire for a treaty to be signed to secure trade and to ensure the prosperity and flourishing of all involved economies. This was not the first time a rather informal and secret trade mission was executed under the Jackson administration, however. In years prior, Jackson quietly sent three commissioners to the Ottoman Empire to meet with the Sultan in order to gain access to the Black Sea trade routes. In typical Jacksonian manner, the United States Congress was not consulted in this endeavor, which was successful. Jampoler describes the voyages by various American frigates, most diplomatic in nature and all aiding in the United States’ trade endeavors. Including a general overview of the United States’ naval buildup and the qualms of Congress with regard to said buildup, the book has a very holistic approach to American diplomacy with regard to Asia. The author follows the second voyage in 1835 to Asia by Peacock and Enterprise rather closely. This voyage, which circumnavigated the globe, was plagued with misfortune, quite literally. Roberts was also aboard on this voyage, tending to more diplomatic tasks. As a result of a cholera outbreak on this ship, many of the crew died, including Roberts, which halted all diplomatic endeavors. Jampoler has done something that, in academic writing, can be very difficult. He has not only created a superbly researched and written account of a specific portion of American History, he has done it so well that even a lay person to the subject can follow along and enjoy the work without feeling at a loss. His prose keeps the reader on edge, as if reading a suspenseful novel. He relates these diplomatic missions to the world around them, which gives the reader scope. Though it reads like one, Embassy to the Eastern Courts is not a general history. More importantly, it does not suffer from common ailments that come with general histories. Jampoler has a solid thesis and ample citations, making his book an exceedingly excellent addition to academia. Jessica Rogers Kestler East Carolina University
  4. God and Sea Power: The Influence of Religion on Alfred Thayer Mahan By Suzanne Geissler Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiii + 264 pages Photographs, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95 ISBN: 9781612518435 As described by Suzanne Geissler, Alfred Thayer Mahan lived a life devoted to God and the United States’ military. Using Mahan’s letters and a journal from his service in the navy, Geissler seeks to demonstrate the influence that Christianity played in his career, providing a detailed account of the events that influenced Mahan to be a devout Christian, renowned leader, and respected writer. As a historian and theologian, Geissler tackles this biography from a less secular point of view than previous authors, critiquing previous biographies of Mahan and providing further evidence of the influence of God in his life. Her goal is to provide an understanding on Mahan’s religious faith, its developed, its influence on his thinking, and his role within the Episcopal Church. Mahan grew up in an environment equally influenced by God and country. His father, Dennis Hart Mahan, was a graduate of West Point, a member of the Corps of Engineers, and later in life an advocate for military scholarship. Dennis Mahan was a devoted Episcopalian his entire life. Mahan’s uncle, Milo Mahan, was not only a staunch Christian but an ordained deacon and priest. Unlike his brother, Milo Mahan devoted himself to the church, serving as a professor of ecclesiastical history for many years. Clearly, Mahan's forefathers played an important role in the sculpting of his interests. Mahan and his five siblings roamed the grounds of West Point as children, maintaining strict adherence to the Sabbath. Both he and his younger brothers later served in the military. As a young man, Mahan showed interest in God and in firepower. He spent his teenage years at St. James, an Episcopal boarding school in Maryland. Later, he attended school at Columbia College in New York where he became close with his religious uncle, Milo. In autumn of 1856, Mahan entered the Naval Academy and began his journey into naval history. Geissler carefully analyses his personal writings alongside current events, spending significant time defending Mahan’s personal righteousness. Mahan appears to be a man simply struggling with his spirituality during political and military upheaval, something Robert Seager II apparently addresses with mockery and sarcasm in his biography of Mahan. At one point in Seager’s work, he suggests that Mahan was an anti-abolitionist. According to Geissler, Mahan had not developed a definitive view on slavery during the Civil War, but did know that it had to end. Despite negative views on Mahan’s personal life, none can deny the importance his writing had on the study of naval history. Mahan’s most respected contribution to the military, The Influence of Sea Power on History, 1660-1783, continues to inspire a hundred years later. For readers interested in military biographies, I strongly recommend this book. Geissler provides a new perspective into the life of a very complex man whose work continues to impact our country's navy. Her account clearly outlines the influences of religion in the life of Alfred Thayer Mahan and challenges authors who disagree with Geissler’s viewpoint. Samantha Bernard East Carolina University
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