Global Sea or National Backwater?

Leon Fink

in Workers Across the Americas

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199731633
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894420 | DOI:
Global Sea or National Backwater?

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


Show Summary Details


Merchant shipping offers an ideal setting for examining the changing regulatory regimes applied to workers across the 19th and 20th centuries. Given powerful nation-states and a global marketplace in the 19th century, recruitment and regulation of merchant seamen became a high priority and a vexing problem for western powers like the United States and Great Britain. After World War I, the deskilling impact of steam and diesel power, hypercompetition among shipping powers, and a worldwide reach for cheap labor threatened wage and living standards established by previous collective bargaining and political accommodation. No occupational sector looked with greater hope to the International Labor Organization in 1919 for restoring a semblance of order and humane treatment. Given the diversity of the international seafaring workforce, however, regulation—whether global or national in inspiration—inevitably reflected regulators' racial, ethnic, and imperial designs. When ethnic, political, and economic differences prevented global regulations from taking hold, national actors, by the mid-1930s, took charge. Despite its failures, the International Labor Organization and especially its maritime division were among the few broadly international bodies to survive the wreckage of economic depression, another world war, and the large-scale collapse of democracy with both machinery and aspirations intact.

Keywords: maritime; merchant seamen; International Labor Organization; shipping; imperial

Chapter.  10581 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.