I certainly found the people very civil & accommodating & they behaved
much better than I had any idea of & in fact as well as any people I ever
was amongst. Making proper allowance for the manners & customs.
-- Capt. Jacob Crowninshield,
aboard America III,
off the coast of Sumatra, 1801
they are all without exception a set of cheats, & this they will vouch for,
if you should doubt their rascality.
-- Capt. Thomas Ward, aboard Minerva,
off Canton, 1809
|Captain Jacob Crowninshield (1770-1808)|
Courtesy, Library of Congress
It helps to have a historical context in which earlier American responses to the world ground our current questions. An appreciation for the range of first encounters inspired my writing in True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity (https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/true-yankees) and I hoped the book would challenge the conventional wisdom that posits an American exceptionalism should rule the world. Colleagues have told me that they have used the book effectively in their classrooms to raise their students’ awareness of American encounters in the world. For my next project, I wanted to foreground the travelogues, correspondence, mariner’s journals and other sources that tell these stories. So, serendipitously, when Hackett Publishing (www.HackettPublishing.com), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached me to develop a textbook, I jumped at the opportunity.
Yankees Abroad: Early American Encounters in the World will describe the post-Revolution diaspora to regions that lay “eastward of Good Hope,” or, beyond South Africa into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. These American travelers found the world to be a complicated place. As suggested in the journal entries from Captains Crowninshield and Ward above, Yankees Abroad will explore the range of responses that Americans recorded in their early ‘voyages round the world.’ The book will carry readers vicariously into four of these regions of encounter--the Muslim world of West Asia and North Africa, China, India, and the South Seas. The book will situate the country’s changing perceptions of the world within their search for opportunities, describing how merchants sought exotic markets and trade goods, captains scouted new routes and discovered new passages, amateur and professional scientists chased new species, artists surveyed imaginative new scenes, and missionaries hunted for “lost” souls ripe for conversion. At the same time, students will share in the fears of Yankee travelers as they encountered the dangers of unfamiliar and distant lands--assaults on their ships from pirates or cannibals, shipwreck on uncharted coasts, and, always, the specter of tropical disease.
|Launching of the Ship Fame, George Ropes, 1802|
Courtesy, Peabody Essex Museum
I hope the book will enable students to situate our current global relationships within a historical context that sheds light on both earlier American responses to the world and current engagements with it.