Sea History 156 - Autumn 2016

Page 64

too emaciared and ill to au empr any real negoriarions, sailing away impolirely imo rhe nighr. This is a naurical rale. Jampoler provides an incredibly rich and full descriprion of life ar sea and exoric bur difficulr Asian desrinarions, panicularly rhe harbors and shipya rds and maririme connecrions to rhe Old World capirals, overlain by rhe imprim of navies of rhe world. The narrarive is as seen from Peacock's quan erdeck, and does nor imend to presem rhe view from rhe shore. Wirh a few notable exceprions, Asian voices and agency are rherefore absem , rhe acrions and reacrions of Asian officials seen ch rough America n eyes only. This is nor an imernarional tale as much as an examinarion of rhe· role of rhese overseas calls wirhin an American narrarive. Given rhe role of rhe US Navy today, chis is an im-

pon am reminder of whar ir was rhen, our roars before A. T. Mahan. The obvious lack of culmral undersranding by rhe officers and diplomars is reminiscem of Lord Macanney's 1793 mission to Peking, foreshadowed by rhe aurho r in rhe early pare of rhe book. Indeed, a rrue meering berween rhe differem culrures seems highly implausible. For chose who have somehow managed to avoid rhe history char involved 7 1% of rhe planer, Embassy to the Eastern Courts is an imoxicaring plunge into rhe deep endbring a life jacker. For chose who love rhe maririme world, Embassy is a joy. Some may find rhe exrended caprions, foomores, and rangem s a bir bewildering (descriprions of pons nor visired? nores on paimings nor included as figures?). Yer rhese offer parricularly rare surprises, such as rhe experience of H arrier Low and ocher New Eng-

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land women in China, or rhe legacy of rhe Parsee shipwrighrs of Bombay. Jampoler's skill and passion for capmring rhe unique perspecrive of maririme and naval history is abundand y clear. Commanding officers come and go, and even Edmund Roberrs himself fails ro comp le re rhe second voyage, dying of illness in Macao in 1836. The on ly consisrem ch aracrer is USS Peacock herself; rhe ship being rhe sole venue for all naurical experience; rhe narrarive rherefore remains unfinished umil her loss ar rhe Columbia River bar in 184 1. HANS VAN TrLBURG

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From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains: 250 Years o/Women at Sea by Jo Stanley (The History Press, Gloucesrershire, UK, 2016, 304pp, illus, appen, gloss, nores, index, ISBN 978 -0-7524-8878-3; $28.25pb) Umil recendy, women's hisrory, parricularly women's place in maririme history, had been neglecred by hisrorians. Exceprion al women-queens and ochers who dominare rhe popular media- like Eleanor Roosevelr, for example-receive adequare auemion in rhe news and in hisrory books. In defense of rheir unbalanced coverage of history, hisrorians have argued char rhe everyday woman didn'r do anyrhing to warram hisrorical analysis. W hen char defense collapsed, a shonage of marerial and sources became rhe next excuse. While there is no arg uing that sources and evidence are harder to find for this demographic, a shonage of information is not the same as no information. Jo Stanley's From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains: 250 Years of Women at Sea is a solid example of whar can be done wirh limired resources to expand women's history-expand, bur nor fill, a vase void. Sranley addresses one of rhe mosr difficulr arenas where women were forbidden for cemuries and only in recem rimes have been allowed emry, while prejudice remains barely resuained-females ar sea. Drawing on anecdoral evidence, for rhe mosr pan Brirish, rhe aurhor builds a monumem to females who overcame mulriple obsracles to serve at sea for two and a half cemuries. Many of the characters in Stanley's work disguised themselves as males to get aboard ships. Some were fo und out, others not, and probably masc lefr no uace of their success or failure. SEA HISTORY 156, AUTUMN 2016