Sailors, National and International Labour Markets and National Identity, 1600-1850

  • M. van Rossum (Speaker)
  • L. Heerma van Voss (Speaker)
  • J. Lottum (Speaker)
  • J.M.W.G. Lucassen (Speaker)

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


Maritime expansion in the early modern period was crucial for economic development at large. However, in order to make this expansion possible, it depended on the active recruitment of labour which usually involved long-distance migration and thus led to the emergence of geographically extended labour markets. The present paper presents an overview of recruitment patterns of European nations with regard to their maritime activity in European, intercontinental and Asian waters. National recruitment patterns being the norm for most European shipping, we argue that in the early modern period some important exceptions can be discerned. First, Dutch shipping in virtually all branches, employing mixed crews from North-West Europe. Second, Northern European shipping across the Atlantic, following the Dutch recruitment pattern. Third, European shipping within Asiatic waters, employing mixed crews of European and Asian sailors.
The paper attempts to offer some first explanations for these findings. The paper argues that internationalisation did not necessarily lead to a form of class consciousness, as Rediker has suggested for the eighteenth century Atlantic. Other forms of identification, such as nationality, or local and ethnic identities, seem to have been more important. Furthermore, it is argued that despite possible problems caused by identification and loyalty in an international setting, the strategy of employing mixed crews did not hamper efficiency.
Period5 Aug 2009
Event titlePresentatie World Economic History Congress, Utrecht augustus 2009
Event typeConference