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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Pacific by steamboat

Image of book cover for Oceania under steamOceania under steam

Sea transport and the cultures of colonialism, c.1870–1914
Frances Steel

The age of steam was the age of Britain’s global maritime dominance, the age of enormous ocean liners and human mastery over the seas. The world seemed to shrink as timetabled shipping mapped out faster, more efficient and more reliable transoceanic networks. But what did this transport revolution look like at the other end of the line, at the edge of empire in the South Pacific?

Taking history offshore, Oceania under steam argues for a reinvigorated scholarship of empire and the maritime world. It places human stories at the heart of this industrial subject, unsettling smooth narratives of the transformative power of steam.

Through the historical example of the largest and most important regional maritime enterprise – the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand – Frances Steel eloquently charts the diverse and often conflicting interests, itineraries and experiences of commercial and political elites, common seamen and stewardesses, and Islander dock workers and passengers. By connecting the intimate details of shipboard life with the high politics of imperial ocean space, Oceania Under Steam presents a wealth of new insights into the significance of shipping and the sea in the everyday life of colonialism.

Drawing on a variety of sources, including shipping company archives, imperial conference proceedings, diaries, newspapers and photographs, this account is a finely researched and lively study of empire in the age of steam. It will appeal to cultural historians and geographers of British imperialism, scholars of transport and mobility studies, and historians of New Zealand and the Pacific.

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