Englishmen at Sea


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Labor and the Nation at the Dawn of Empire, 1570-1630

Eleanor Hubbard

View Inside Format: HC - Paper over Board
Price: $38.00
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A deeply researched, analytically rich, and vivid account of England's early maritime empire

Drawing on a wealth of understudied sources, historian Eleanor Hubbard explores the labor conflicts behind the rise of the English maritime empire. Freewheeling Elizabethan privateering attracted thousands of young men to the sea, where they acquired valuable skills and a reputation for ruthlessness. Peace in 1603 forced these predatory seamen to adapt to a radically changed world, one in which they were expected to risk their lives for merchants' gain, not plunder. Merchant trading companies expected sailors to relinquish their unruly ways and to help convince overseas rulers and trading partners that the English were a courteous and trustworthy "nation." Some sailors rebelled, becoming pirates and renegades; others demanded and often received concessions and shares in new trading opportunities. Treated gently by a state that was anxious to promote seafaring in order to man the navy, these determined sailors helped to keep the sea a viable and attractive trade for Englishmen.

Eleanor Hubbard is Elizabeth and J. Richardson Dilworth Fellow in Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies. She is the author of City Women: Money, Sex, and the Social Order in Early Modern London. She lives in Princeton, NJ.

“An important contribution to debates on national, religious and cultural identity, empire, and economic expansion, as well as our understanding of England’s seafaring community at a crucial stage in its development.”—Bernard Capp, The University of Warwick

"Eleanor Hubbard’s indefatigable sleuthing in challenging sources has uncovered a remarkable global history of the fractious and savvy mariners who sustained and defined the English empire in its earliest and formative years. Her book is an extraordinary accomplishment."—Alison Games, Georgetown University

"A readable and deeply researched history that shows how mariners' struggles over identity shaped the idea of English nationhood during the first era of England's imperial expansion."—Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, University of Southern California, Dornsife

"A highly original and compelling analysis of how the first phase of British maritime expansion was experienced by sailors themselves. Hubbard's reconstruction of shipboard politics is empirically rigorous, conceptually sophisticated, and engagingly written."—Steve Hindle, The Huntington Library

"This is an illuminating and absorbing study of the seamen whose labour made possible England’s global maritime expansion, vividly recapturing an emergent world and the extraordinary lives of its creators."—Keith Wrightson, Yale University

"With her characteristic archival heroism, Hubbard offers an original and significant analysis of the ordinary seafarers involved in early modern English maritime passages."—Linda Colley, Princeton University

shortlisted for the John Ben Snow Prize, sponsored by North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS)
ISBN: 9780300246124
Publication Date: November 16, 2021
368 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4