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Liberty on the Waterfront American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution by Paul A. Gilje

Liberty on the Waterfront American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution

Part of the Early American Studies Series


Liberty on the Waterfront American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution by Paul A. Gilje

Through careful research and colorful accounts, historian Paul A. Gilje discovers what liberty meant to an important group of common men in American society, those who lived and worked on the waterfront and aboard ships. In the process he reveals that the idealized vision of liberty associated with the Founding Fathers had a much more immediate and complex meaning than previously thought. In Liberty on the Waterfront: American Maritime Culture in the Age of Revolution, life aboard warships, merchantmen, and whalers, as well as the interactions of mariners and others on shore, is recreated in absorbing detail. Describing the important contributions of sailors to the resistance movement against Great Britain and their experiences during the Revolutionary War, Gilje demonstrates that, while sailors recognized the ideals of the Revolution, their idea of liberty was far more individual in nature-often expressed through hard drinking and womanizing or joining a ship of their choice. Gilje continues the story into the post-Revolutionary world highlighted by the Quasi War with France, the confrontation with the Barbary Pirates, and the War of 1812.


This well-written, well-illustrated volume should become the standard, most accessible single source on seamen in antebellum America for many years to come. -Reviews in American History In its ambitious sweep and encyclopedic detail, Gilje's rendering of American maritime culture during the tumultuous century from 1750 to 1850 is unlikely to be surpassed. -William and Mary Quarterly Liberty on the Waterfront dramatically alters past perceptions of sailors and their worlds afloat and ashore. . . . A broad-based and skillfully crafted piece of social history. -Journal of American History

About the Author

Paul A. Gilje is Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Rioting in America and The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th March 2007


Paul A. Gilje

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University of Pennsylvania Press


360 pages


History of the Americas



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