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Nordby, Sønderho, and Marstal: Global Maritime Communities in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

  • Author(s): Goodale, Sif Ida
  • Advisor(s): Mitchell, Laura J
  • Coller, Ian
  • et al.
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This dissertation is a cultural and global history of the maritime communities of Nordby and Sønderho on Fanø, and Marstal on Ærø, in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This dissertation suggests the possibility of alternative histories of global engagement in the Age of Empires. Although not a history of the nation state of Denmark, it suggests alternatives for thinking about the past of people who live in this region, especially the global labor force of sailors. I argue that, contrary to the stereotype of Jack Tar, sailors from Nordby, Sønderho, and Marstal had strong social ties within their communities. They were married and had children, and their strong social bonds connected them to their home communities, even as they labored far from their homes for years on end. There was a strong gendered component to maritime labor: Sailors and their wives labored separately during long periods of absence. Sailors’ wives were more likely to do traditional male labor, something which many other historians have pointed out. I argue that sailors were also more likely to do work which was traditionally women’s work. The blurring of gender roles in maritime communities was accompanied by a reaffirmation of gender roles in written evidence.

For sailors, the global aspect of their work was central to their identities. Global literacy was central to their memoirs, and it was also important in how other people saw them. They spoke multiple languages, engaged in cross-cultural encounters, and were familiar with religions, customs, climates, animals, plants, port cities, social structures, and foods which were not found in their home communities. This was central to how they constructed their identities. Especially their cross-cultural engagements were marked by the fact that they were working class rather than European elites. I speculate that as sailors crossed cultural boundaries, they may also have come across medical paradigms which were not established in their home communities. In approaching disease and medicine, their global travels may have been influential as well.

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This item is under embargo until March 25, 2025.