Proposal preview

The globalization of the waves: shipping and its role in promoting global markets for goods, services, capital, labor, and ideas, c. 1800—2000

By definition, international seaborne transport is an activity that crosses borders, where the factors of production have always been extremely mobile. Ships and seamen are employed all over the world, so the link to the “home country” is often very limited. Consequently, shipping has sometimes been referred to as “the world’s first globalized industry” (Fink 2011). Moreover, shipping is an activity that promotes globalization of other markets, by integrating agents that are geographically dispersed.
The aim of our sessions is to analyze these two dimensions – both the globalized and the globalizing aspects of shipping – and how they have developed across time. Improvements in shipping tied the continents together and facilitated the establishment and growth of the international economy. We want to analyze the pioneering role of the shipping industry in establishing global markets – for goods, services, capital, labor, and ideas – and also evaluate the manner in which the global dimension has affected seafaring cultures and communities. Ideally, these topics will be discussed in two 90-minute sessions.
The first session – Maritime transport: promoting global markets – will deal with the global nature of the shipping market in general, and the manner in which the shipping sector has been a harbinger and carrier of globalization. Potential topics include:
• the manner in which declining freight rates have encouraged specialization of production and division of labor (ref. North 1968 and Knick-Harley 1988);
• the basis for and effects of technological developments, at sea and in ports;
• analyses of the political dimension – shipping and empires;
• the development of auxiliary industries (shipbuilding, classification, finance, etc.);
• national and international regulation of shipping and seafarers.

The second session – Maritime labor: economic and cultural exchange – will deal specifically with the market for seafarers, which was the first global labor market. However, in addition to the conventional questions of function and efficiency, we want to welcome contributions that discuss cultural elements. Before the advent of cheap mass travel, sailors were in many communities the most important source of knowledge about and artifacts from different parts of the world. Potential topics include:
• the emergence of a global labor market for seamen in the age of sail;
• technological development and maritime skills;
• the role of captains in a principal/agent-setting;
• national regulation of maritime labor, at sea and in port;
• seafarers and the diffusion of foreign culture and ideas;
• the economic role of maritime labor in local communities (ex. The Philippines);
• Flags of Convenience and the global pool of seafarers in the postwar period.

With regard to format and participation, we would like to keep this as open as possible. The format that we prefer, is a regular session consisting of six ten-minute presentations (with draft papers provided in advance), a ten minute prepared discussion and a twenty minute discussion/Q&A with the audience.
Thematically, the session would be complementary to the previously accepted session on “The logistics of globalization in pre- and early industrial times”. However, our analysis “begins” where the other session ends. Moreover, given the crucial role of maritime transport in the globalization process, we think the topic is far from exhausted by the already accepted session.
The organizers have an extensive network within the maritime/ global history community. We have gauged this network to make sure that there will be sufficient interest and participation. In the process of making the proposal, we have assembled a group of scholars that is diverse with regard to geography, career stage and gender. However, there will be room in the session
s for at least four individual contributions from other scholars.


  • Stig Tenold, Norwegian School of Economics,, Norway
  • Jari Ojala, University of Jyväskylä,, Finland
  • Pirita Frigren, University of Jyväskylä,, Finland
  • Jelle van Lottum, Huygens Institute for the history of the Netherlands,, The Netherlands

Session members

  • Skip Fischer, Memorial Unviersity of Newfoundland,
  • Sif Goodale, University of California, Irvine,
  • Fei Sheng, Sun Yat-sen University,
  • Malcolm Tull, Murdoch University,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Ingo Heidbrink, Old Dominion University,