Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin, James Boles
This is the epic history of the "iron men in wooden boats" who built an industrial empire through the pursuit of whales. "To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme," Herman Melville proclaimed, and this absorbing history demonstrates that few things can capture the sheer danger and desperation of men on the deep sea as dramatically as whaling. Eric Jay Dolin begins his vivid narrative with Captain John Smith's botched whaling expedition to the New World in 1614. He then chronicles the rise of a burgeoning industry-from its brutal struggles during the Revolutionary period to its golden age in the mid-1800s, when a fleet of more than 700 ships hunted the seas and American whale oil lit the world-to its decline as the twentieth century dawned. This sweeping social and economic history provides rich and often fantastic accounts of the men themselves, who mutinied, murdered, rioted, deserted, drank, scrimshawed, and recorded their experiences in journals and memoirs. Containing a wealth of naturalistic detail on whales, Leviathan is the most original and stirring history of American whaling in many decades.
Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of the award-winning Fur, Fortune, and Empire; Leviathan; and When America First Met China. He and his family live in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Introduction 11 Arrival and Ascent, 1614-1774 John Smith Goes Whaling 17 "The King of Waters, The Sea-Shouldering Whale" 30 All Along the Coast 41 Nantucket, the "Faraway Land" 63 The Whale's Whale 75 Into "Ye Deep" 90 Candle Wars 109 Glory Days 119 Tragedy and Triumph, 1775-1860 On the Eve of Revolution 139 Ruin 149 Up from the Ashes 165 Knockdown 188 The Golden Age 205 "An Enormous, Filthy Humbug" 253 Stories, Songs, Sex, and Scrimshaw 275 Mutinies, Murders, Mayhem, and Malevolent Whales 282 Disaster and Decay, 1861-1924 Stones in the Harbor and Fire on the Water 309 From the Earth 335 Ice Crush 342 Fading Away 353 Epilogue: Fin Out 370 Notes 375 Select Bibliography 453 Illustration Credits 461 Acknowledgments 463 Index 467
"An exhaustive, richly detailed history of industrial American whaling.... A real taste of the vile life aboard a whaleship and a cleareyed analysis of the cutthroat tactics of the whale-oil trade." -The New York Times
Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America 4.7 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
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More than 1 year ago
More than 1 year ago
Dolin does a good job in tracing the American whaling industry from it's beginnings to it's demise. He's a little light on hard figures and the book could use some quantatative charts and tables but you can create your own from his raw data. My interest in the book was to provide more background on the whaling tradition and stories I grew up with here in New England. I also wanted to understand how industries rise and fall 'fishing, mini-computers'. What I also came away with is a comparison of the whale oil industry and the current petroleum industry. In both, as the resource got scarce, the industry had to go further from the US to find it. Costs increased. Alternative energy sources became more attractive 'petroleum to replace whale oil, ethanol, wind, solar for petroleum'. Because it was ship based, each time the US was at war 'Revolution, 1812, Civil' the whaling fleets were subject to attack, the supply of oil dropped, and whole towns lost their economic livelihood. Its easy to understand why the US Navy maintains a presence in the Gulf to protect oil tankers.