Mariners and Markets

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In this volume, eminent economist Charles Kindleberger sets out to challenge the widespread belief that the market for seafarers, in the days before steam, was efficient, conforming more or less to a strong prior belief in the neo-classical economic model of supply and demand.

Maritime history is traditionally strewn with references to crimping or shanghaiing, naval press-gangs, desertion, mutiny, marooning and shipwrecks due to drunkenness or negligence. In contrast, Kindleberger examines issues of recruitment and pay, the treatment of seamen, and the question of government intervention and its impact on efficiency, in the engaging narrative style that is his trademark.

Offering an original and informative account of the markets for seafarers in the age of sail, Mariners and Markets will be welcomed by economic and maritime historians alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating and enlightening guide to economic history, maritime lore, and labor market analysis. Kindleberger develops a trenchant critique of the current tendency to interpret all labor market phenomena as optimal and efficient outcomes and he does so with his usual wit and insight."-Daniel Mitchell, UCLA

"Vintage Kindleberger: well-written, witty, and informative."-Rondo Cameron, Emory University

Kindleberger (economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) challenges the usual supply-and-demand model of the market for labor aboard cargo, fishing, and naval ships during the age of sail. He examines seamen's recruitment and pay, life on board and on shore, and influencing factors such as government regulation; and concludes that the efficiency of the market, both for the workers and for society, varied from context to context. More widely, he declares that the issue cannot be fully explained by economics alone, but requires sociological analysis as well. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814746448
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1992
  • Pages: 232

Meet the Author

Charles P. Kindelberger is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Ch. 1 Recruitment and pay 1
Sources 1
Tradition 1
Migratory seasonal labor 5
For lack of better 6
Romantics 7
Scallywags 12
The nursery for seamen 13
Impressment and press-gangs 16
Quota men 18
Recruitment in France 19
Crimping 20
Pay 24
Ch. 2 The sailor's life at sea and in port 34
Shipwreck 34
Disease and illness 40
Food and drink 43
Brutality 47
In port 56
Ch. 3 Government, non-competing groups, and the efficiency of markets for seafarers 63
Government regulation 63
Countervailing power 69
Reformers and charities 70
The law 71
Government in behalf of shipowners 73
Sailors v. sailors, and sailors v. the population 75
Efficiency 83
References 91
Index 104
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