Join
Log in

Book Reviews

  • August 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    The Pieces of Eight: More Archaeology of Pirates

    Edited by Charles R. Ewen and Russell K. Skowronek

    A sequel to X Marks the Spot (2007), Pieces of Eight, edited by Charles Ewen and Russell Skowronek, brings together evidence of piracy from around the world from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ewen, an anthropology professor at East Carolina University, and Skowronek, an anthropology professor at University of Texas-Pan American, have previously worked on sites linked to piracy and previously edited X Marks the Spot.

    The anthology that Ewen and Skowronek have assembled reflects a variety of methodologies used to understand a group of people who are challenging to identify in the archaeological record. The main theme of the collection focuses on the potential for identifying piracy in the archaeological record, whether that be underwater shipwreck sites or terrestrial landscapes or the liminal space of the coastlines, and comparing real pirates to their Hollywood stereotypes. By providing a common theme of identifying piracy and its role in the world, Ewen and Skowronek provide an engaging account of piracy around the world through the latest discoveries in Panama, the Dominican Republic and Ireland and further research in North Carolina, Jamaica and Madagascar.

    The editors compiled a variety of different research from all over the known Golden Age of Piracy haunts to discuss the feasibility of identifying pirates in the archaeological record and breaking the Hollywood myths of piracy. The articles flow from one pirate haven to another, focusing on Queen Anne’s Revenge in North Carolina, Fiery Dragon in Madagascar, Ranger in Jamaica, Quedagh Merchant in the Dominican Republic, Morgan’s raiding of Panama, and the multitude of pirates in Ireland. The use of different sites offers a way for the editors to reach their goal of linking piracy together around the world, establishing methodologies for finding piracy in the archaeological record, and providing a means of creating an accurate image of piracy. This image shows that pirates were living in a real world filled with danger and excitement, yet they lived just as every other sailor in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, making them hard to identify in the archaeological record. This image was compared to Hollywood’s version of piracy. Through the chapters focusing on pirates as providers and their indeterminable presence in the archaeological record, the research offers the beginning attempts to break the Hollywood stereotype.

    The editors complied a well-written body of research. Each article convincingly argues the difficulties in finding the remains of pirates in the archaeological record, whether those be terrestrial or underwater. Unlike its predecessor anthology, this compilation does not divide the research into explicit sections. This lack of explicit division, however, provides a more dynamic read about the intricacies of pirate archaeology through the variety of sites presented in nondiscriminatory manner. By using sites throughout the world in no manner of importance, the editors have created a gripping tale of pirate archaeology. Although, as one author states “it is not possible to discern a definitive artifact pattern for pirate shipwreck,” Ewen and Skowronek have offered up the beginnings for future research into pirates in the archaeological and historical record.

    •  Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xvii + 318 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, tables, notes, references, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 97808130615890

    Reviewed by Allyson Ropp, East Carolina University

  • August 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    “No One Avoided Danger”: NAS Kaneohe Bay and the Japanese Attack of 7 December 1941

    J. Michael Wenger, Robert J. Cressman, and John Di Virgilio

    This volume is the first in a series that the Naval Institute Press has launched entitled Pearl Harbor Tactical Studies. No One Avoided Danger covers the attack on the newly-constructed naval air station at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, the base for the PBY-5 long-range patrol aircraft of Patrol Wing 1.

    The authors’ approach combines extensive archival documentation research, oral histories and interviews with participants, and a very broad array of photographs to present a very detailed and comprehensive narrative of the events of December 7, 1941, their background, and the outcome.

    No One Avoided Danger narrates the prewar activities of the Wing’s three squadrons, the two waves of Japanese attacks on the air station, and the aftermath of the virtual destruction of the Wing and heavy damage to its facilities. The two central chapters on the attacks themselves are comprehensive, as is coverage of events in the ensuing hours and days.

    The real danger of a study that concentrates so intensely of such a short period of time and such a limited location is that it can leave the reader mired in a mass of trivial detail and unable to comprehend the overall picture. The great accomplishment of this august team of authors is that they have completely succeeded in avoiding this trap. Throughout this very readable narrative, the voices of the participants, both American and Japanese, largely carry the story. This perspective brings the entire tale to life.

    The book’s style is lucid and fluent throughout. Wenger, Cressman, and Di Virgilio have produced an engaging, precise, and tightly-written account of the destruction of Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay and the men and women this event impacted.

    •  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
    • 8-3/4” x 11-1/4”, hardcover, xx + 186 pages
    • Photographs, tables, bibliography, index. $34.95

    Reviewed by Mark Meyers, New Bern, North Carolina

  • August 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Hunters and Killers; Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943

    Norman Polmar and Edward Whitman

    With these two quite short volumes, Norman Polmar and Edward Whitman set themselves the ambitious goal of covering the entire history of anti-submarine warfare from the origins of submarines to the present. It is a huge task to synthesize the extensive literature of submarine warfare into a clear, analytical, and competent historical summary that can satisfy both general readers and specialists. Overall, the authors do remarkably well.

    Volume 1 covers the anti-submarine campaigns of both world wars up to the point at which the Battle of the Atlantic turned in favor of the Allies. I and II. Its primary focus is on the efforts by the British and, later, Americans to defeat Germany’s U-boats in the Atlantic and, to a lesser extent, in coastal waters and the Mediterranean. Although they set a start date of 1776, the authors generally devote little effort to the early history of the submarine, nor do they much cover other navies’ submarine or anti-submarine campaigns up to 1943 since, correctly, they view operations against the U-boats as the critical issue.

    Volume 2 begins by documenting the second phase of World War II: the Allies’ crushing defeat of the U-boats (despite the advent of potentially dangerous submarine types very late in the war), the parallel effectiveness of American anti-submarine operations in the Pacific, and the devastating losses of Japanese merchant shipping at the hands of submarines of the United States Navy. Then the Cold War brought new anti-submarine warfare challenges, in the form of large-scale Soviet exploitation of German electro-boat technology, followed by the rapid adoption of nuclear-powered submarines by all major navies and the creation of ballistic missile submarine forces. The authors shift their focus to the interplay between the submarine and anti-submarine forces of the United States and Soviet Union as both sides contended with the technological challenges these developments brought.

    Several broad themes emerge from these two volumes. Since submarines throughout the period in general represented the technological cutting edge, an essential component for successful anti-submarine warfare was the application of cutting-edge science and technology. Detection of submarines using sonar, radar, or from their sound emissions, heat signatures, or magnetism all depended on the application of science and technology to the problem. Similarly, weaponry—depth charges, ahead-throwing weapons, homing torpedoes, and so on—all required advances in technological capability. Furthermore, effective use of detection systems and advanced weaponry necessitated scientific research and operator training.

    A second theme is how often the difference between an effective or an ineffective approach hinged on subtleties. Huge efforts could be expended implementing ideas that did not work, such as the large patrol forces deployed in both world wars. Sometimes effective methods required long periods of development and dedicated training and coordination to work, such as ahead-throwing weapons and sonar or the coordination of surface anti-submarine forces with aircraft.

    The work’s other very important message relates to scientific and technological advances. There was a dramatic rise in the rate at which successful scientific achievement in anti-submarine warfare increased from early in World War I until towards the end of World War II. Thereafter, there has been a constant race for supremacy between submarine design and countermeasure development, both in research and applied technologies. The authors, at least, are of the opinion that submariners are ahead of those seeking to locate and destroy them at present.

    Although quite a large part of the material in these two volumes is available in the existing literature, the authors ultimately succeed admirably in achieving their goal. In the process they also bring together this information in a most convenient and accessible format.

    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015 & 2016
    • 8-3/4” x 11-1/4”, hardcover, 210 & 254 pages
    • Photographs, figures, sidebars, tables, bibliography, indices. $44.95 & $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781591146896 & 9781612518978

    Reviewed by Paul E. Fontenoy, North Carolina Maritime Museum

  • August 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory

    Vincent P. O’Hara

    Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, was the largest amphibious assault in history to that time and the first such Allied operation against the Axis. Vincent P. O’Hara provides a highly readable account of this important event, drawing on a wide range of sources, including many often overlooked, such as French operational records from the period. 

    The author begins with a broad overview of the strategic and diplomatic situation that led the United States and Great Britain to launch an assault on Vichy France’s North African holdings in November 1942. He then continues by discussing Allied preparations, demonstrating that the Western Allies were unprepared for such a major amphibious operation, due to poor training, lack of critical supplies, inadequate support doctrine, shortage of forces, and inexperienced leadership. He concludes that Operation Torch saved the Allies from embarking on a potentially disastrous early assault on Continental Europe and provided time for training forces and leaders and developing effective amphibious doctrines.

    O’Hara shines in his description of the details of operations, particularly the naval engagements between French and Allied forces off Oran and Casablanca. The inclusion of his own clear maps and relevant contemporary photographs make for compelling chapters. He is less effective in placing Operation Torch in the larger context of the struggle for Europe, devoting only one brief chapter to an analysis the campaign’s results, most of which addresses only the short-term outcomes in French North Africa.

    Torch: North Africa and the Allied Path to Victory will probably become the definitive combat study of this invasion, since O’Hara has succeeded in bringing together so much blow-by-blow detail from both sides during the operation. Readers looking for this level of operational analysis will be more than satisfied. Those readers seeking a study placing this operation in a broader strategic context will need to look elsewhere.

    •  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, ix + 371 pages
    • Photographs, maps, tables, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781612518237

    Reviewed by George Coleman, Austin, Texas

  • May 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    USS Constellation on the Dismal Coast: Willie Leonard’s Journal, 1859-1861

    Edited by C. Herbert Gilliland

    Willie Leonard’s journal, carefully and skillfully edited by Gilliland, is a rare account of life aboard ship a nineteenth-century sloop-of-war in the United States Navy. Even more unusual is the fact that Willie Leonard was a common seaman, just one of 304 hands serving aboard the last sail vessel commissioned by the. Navy (in 1854) and dispatched as flagship of the Africa Squadron. Both the Royal Navy and American Navy patrolled the West African coast for illegal slavers, and Leonard describes many meetings and interactions between the American and English vessels. His description of the routine of life aboard ship are speckled with intermittent bouts of excitement in pursuing slave ships, and the expected humorous events of sailors trying to pass the time either between watches or ashore.

    Gilliland first describes his editing method, noting that nothing has been left out, but that he chose to paragraph the journal entries, providing commentary and context in italics as he sees necessary for the reader. He continues with a brief prologue on young Leonard’s previous experience at sea and his present state when signing papers at the age of twenty-one years. From there the reader has access to each subsequent day in the service, the chapters organized by month. Included are drawings of the ship based on 1859 drawings, two maps portraying the patrol area assigned the Africa Squadron (primarily from the Cape Verde Islands to the Congo River), and more than twenty illustrations or figures of various historic persons, ports, and vessels—all remarked up on by seaman Leonard. Gilliland is careful to correct historical errors made by Leonard when they occur, but these are usually a matter of what ship departed or arrived when and where, the issue usual a matter of a few days.

    As is always the case when reading primary documents, the reader is often surprised by what historical details can be gleaned. For example, a less informed reader of American naval history might not know what a flag officer was, or that in 1859 it was the highest rank an officer could achieve, effectively being a squadron’s commodore. Both entertaining and surprising is Leonard’s list and description of the forty “kroomen,” all of a local Liberian ethnic group, brought on as temporary hands, paid as ship’s boys, and used to man the boats in the hotter equatorial waters. Multiple such examples abound, from the process of court martial, leave ashore, daily routines of the watch, and of course, “splicing the main brace”.

    Overall, the work is very well organized by the editor, the modern spelling and paragraphing make it accessible to any reader interested in nineteenth-century naval history, particularly the daily life and observations of a common seaman in the United States Navy. Leonard decommissioned in October 1861, and though we learn of his reenlistment three years later, this account was the only journal he kept of his time at sea. Very insightful, Gilliland’s remarks are informative, though the entries are at times a bit repetitive (life at sea was endless routine) they are also at times very entertaining. At just over 400 pages, it is certainly well worth a read.

    •  Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2013
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xii + 413 pages
    • Illustrations, diagrams, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781611172898

    Reviewed by Daniel M. Brown, University of South Carolina

  • May 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Confederate Saboteurs: Building the Hunley and Other Secret Weapons of the Civil War

    Mark K. Ragan

    The Confederacy often relied on efforts to use technological innovation to counteract gross disparities in manpower and resources. Much of this was the work of the Singer Secret Service Corps, a small skilled team of inventors and investors led by Edgar Collins Singer, set up in early 1863 at Port Lavaca, Texas.

    Singer had developed a spring loaded detonator for mines (then known as torpedoes) for use both on land and in the water. His group operated across the Confederacy as their services were needed. Their successes included sinking Union vessels (nine were sunk, including five ironclads) but often the mere presence, or even rumor, of Singer torpedoes tended to inhibit Union operations in Southern waters.

    In late 1863, Singer agents used land torpedoes to derailed eight Union supply trains in Tennessee, but repairs usually were effected very quickly, so these efforts were little more than a nuisance. Singer Secret Service Corps boat and bridge burning operations were more effective, seriously disrupting transportation along the Mississippi.

    The Singer group also worked on designs for submarines and torpedo boats, most famously the submarine CSS Hunley. Ragan, the Hunley project’s historian, thoroughly covers its design, construction, trials, and ultimate demise after sinking Housatonic at Charleston. He also documents the group’s work on a massive steam-powered ironclad torpedo boat at Buffalo Bayou, near Houston, at the end of the Civil War.

    Ragan and other researchers have done excellent work in uncovering sources for the Singer group’s activities despite the destruction of so many records (for obvious reasons) late in the war. Surviving Confederate Secret Service documentation is fragmentary, but the author largely succeeds in reconstructing a coherent exposition of this numerically tiny organization’s critical role in defending the South’s ports and waterways. Confederate Saboteurs is a skillfully crafted study that is an important addition to the naval histories of the Civil War.

    • College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2015
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 249 pages
    • Illustrations, map, diagrams, notes, bibliography, index. $35.00
    • ISBN: 9781623492786

    Reviewed by William Kingsman, University of North Carolina

  • May 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Site Formation Processes of Submerged Shipwrecks

    Edited by Matthew E. Keith

    Site Formation Processes of Submerged Shipwrecks is a timely contribution to maritime archaeology scholarship and fieldwork practices. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 2001 guidelines for best practices in the field strongly advocates for in situ site preservation and monitoring as the first management option. The editor, Matthew Keith, has compiled a highly informative and practical combination of current case studies that illustrate the many oceanographic and anthropogenic variables influencing the preservation of a shipwrecks in diverse underwater environments. These range from dynamic beaches and surf zones to more intact deep water sites. Experienced and expert professional practitioners of maritime archaeology qualify and quantify the impacts of factors impacting the integrity and stability of sites including wave action and sand scouring, hull corrosion, bacterial erosion, impacts of trawl nets, offshore developments like oil drilling operations, infrastructure associated with salvage operations such as cranes and winches, shipbreaking and stranding. The case studies include shipwreck categories that are equally diverse geographically and chronologically: Roman vessels in the Aegean and Black Sea, eighteenth-century warships in England, nineteenth-century China traders in Australia, and World War II shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.

    While the case studies bring attention to the plethora of phenomena impacting shipwrecks mostly already known to experienced maritime archaeologists, the more substantive contribution of this volume are the discussions about methods and efforts on trial to measure, interpret and predict how, and at what rate, these processes take place. These discussions showcase a new kit of conceptual tools and frameworks that aid stewards and caretakers of this submerged maritime heritage in their mandates. For employees in state and federal historic preservation offices, or in commercial and consultation archaeology positions, there is a renewed recognition of the important need for pro-active management studies and decisions. It is essential not only to understand the immediate and long term impacts of development, but also to provide substantiating data sets to address regulatory compliance recommendations. For example, while it is clear that bottom trawling impacts shipwreck sites, understanding the effects requires documentation of both the extent and intensity of trawling activity spatially and temporarily, and to follow up with repeated site monitoring. In the biological impact assessment, identifying wood tunneling bacteria in wood is the first step, but extending this study to an analysis of which sections or faces of timbers have been covered or uncovered by sediment would add significantly to the overall site assessment. In this respect the case studies vary in content. Some contributions focus on simply identifying and explaining the impacts on shipwrecks, others are more expansive on the applications of interpretive methodologies.

    The authentic quality of the volume and credentials of the experienced contributing field archaeologists are especially evident in the challenges presented in the call to action to monitor site formation processes. This may include the necessity to include specialists in an archaeological team—such as a geo-archaeologist or geologist to competently detail and interpret sedimentary and fluvial processes. It may be economically unfeasible to return to a site to gather data over time necessary to produce a timeline of change, or for port developers to argue that past dredging has already erased any archaeological record, thus negating the need for further inspection.

    This is a truly valuable contribution to underwater archaeology scholars, academics teaching submerged maritime historic preservation courses, and new professionals entering the field of compliance archaeology in coastal areas.

    •  Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, ix + 276 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, tables, notes, references, index. $79.95
    • ISBN: 9780813061627 

    Reviewed by Lynn B. Harris, East Carolina University

  • May 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    A Confederate Biography: The Cruise of the CSS Shenadoah

    Dwight Sturtevant Hughes

    Over the past decade no fewer than ten books have been written about the Confederate cruiser CSS Shenandoah. These volumes include the published memoirs of 1st Lieutenant William C. Whittle, a biography of the ship’s commander, James Iredell Waddell that focuses almost exclusively on his time aboard Shenandoah, two studies that focus on the ship’s layover in Australia while repairing and refueling, and a handful of more general works relating the story of this most fascinating of Confederate vessels. Perhaps only CSS Alabama has gained more attention from writers and scholars, and quite possibly only because the raider was first, sailing earlier than Shenandoah. Alabama’s captain, Raphael Semmes, was also quite the self-promoter, writing of the ship’s exploits immediately following its destruction by USS Kearsarge in June 1864. Being the only Confederate ship to circumnavigate the globe, Shenandoah is worthy of such attention. However, this reviewer was skeptical when presented with yet another study of this admittedly famous ship. At what point is saturation reached?

    Coming in at slightly more than 200 pages, A Confederate Biography offers a well-written, thoroughly documented, and mostly lively account of Shenandoah’s service. Based almost exclusively upon the vast amount of primary sources available, mainly the officers’ diaries and memoirs, as well as the ship’s log, the author picks and chooses his quotes to fit every purpose and make the book come alive. He is also very well-versed in the secondary literature not only on Shenandoah, but on the Union and Confederate navies in general. While this book does not exactly break any new interpretive ground, it tells the story as well as, if not better than, most of the previous works. The pacing of the book is excellent, with most chapters being only ten pages long, allowing readers to digest the book in small chunks if they wish.

    The author is at his best when relaying human interest stories. He does a wonderful job of bringing each officer’s or petty officer’s personality to the forefront, displaying their strengths, weaknesses, likenesses, and differences. The reader feels as if they know each one by the end of the book. Accounts of the time spent in Australia and on remote Pacific islands are also very well written. Stories of the capture and destruction of each prize are action-packed, keeping the reader engaged throughout. The book includes two very helpful diagrams of the ship and a map of its cruise, as well as a section of photographs, all of which add to the reader’s understanding.

    While there is little to criticize about this book, a couple of things should be mentioned. The pace of the book slows considerably when the author is covering periods of relative inactivity. Portions of Shenandoah’s cruise were very lackluster, particularly days and weeks that stretched on with no action, and nothing to report save for occasional bad weather. The reader can very much perceive the lag in these portions of the book. Second, the author consistently remarks on the disposition of the ship’s sails throughout the entire book. A reader with solid knowledge of period sailing vessels may find this kind of detail interesting, but the general reader will find this information superfluous.

    These minor shortcomings aside, A Confederate Biography stacks up well against the aforementioned number of volumes about CSS Shenandoah and its crew. Paired with Angus Curry’s The Officers of the CSS Shenandoah (University Press of Florida, 2006) any reader would learn just about all they care to know about the ship and its famous cruise. This reviewer doubts that there is anything left to write about the subject; saturation has been reached.

    •  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xvii + 239 pages
    • Illustrations, map, diagrams, notes, bibliography, index. $41.95
    • ISBN: 9781612518411

    Reviewed by Andrew Duppstadt, North Carolina State Historic Sites

  • February 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Matthew Fontaine Maury, Father of Oceanography: A Biography, 1806-1873

    John Grady

    Matthew Fontaine Maury is very much an oddity in the pantheon of the United States’s naval heroes. Whereas virtually all such heroes achieved their status as a consequence of their bravery in action, Maury is revered for his scientific accomplishments. In addition, though Maury most certainly actively participated in war, such efforts were reviled during his lifetime and for many years after his death. Finally, while many of his peers who fought for the Confederacy received their due acknowledgement for their services from the nation as a whole quite quickly after the Civil War ended, Maury steadfastly adhered to the Confederate States of America, even in defeat, hindering honoring his accomplishments.

    This new biography, by John Grady, is a remarkably thorough narrative of his background and life, and is the first new assessment in some thirty years. He comprehensively covers the vicissitudes of his family’s experiences after the Revolution, Maury’s hardscrabble upbringing, and his early naval life.

    Maury’s seagoing career was halted by injury, and he moved on to undertake the work for which he is most famous: navigation and oceanography. His research, conducted over many years, in determining wind patterns and charting them to make them useful to mariners was revolutionary and contributed mightily to the advance of the American merchant marine in the years before the Civil War.

    When war came, Maury, without hesitation, opted to serve the Confederacy. His most notable contributions to its cause were working with others to secure orders for ships in Europe and perfecting electrically-detonated mines (then often called torpedoes). This latter work, especially when he applied it for defense against attack on land, generated considerable opprobrium, since it was considered an underhand tactic.

    After the Confederacy’s defeat, Maury essentially exiled himself, largely because he was very uncertain he would be granted amnesty if he returned to the United States. He involved himself in schemes to resettle disaffected southerners in Mexico in conjunction with the French ambitions (that ultimately failed disastrously) to establish Emperor Maximilian there. He finally returned to the United States in 1868 to a new career in academia.

    The depth of Grady’s research is amply demonstrated by the very comprehensive bibliography. This effort pays off in his exhaustive detailing of the events of Maury’s life. This detail, however, seems to this reviewer to mask Grady’s limited analysis of his material; he does not go beyond the bald statements of fact to explore Maury’s motivations and assess his impact more completely. Nevertheless, this biography is a major contribution to the study of this remarkable naval officer.

    • Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2015
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, viii + 354 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00
    • ISBN: 9780786478217

    Reviewed by William Emerson, San Diego, California

  • February 15, 2016 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Patroons & Periaguas: Enslaved Watermen and Watercraft of the Lowcountry

    Lynn B. Harris

    Small watercraft, especially logboats, make wonderful subjects for models (Irwin Schuster’s recent presentations in the Nautical Research Journal illustrate this well). They are simple to build, their size allows for construction at a large scale, and, above all, they are readily identifiable within their cultures.

    Dr. Harris’s new book is a splendid illustration of the interconnection between material culture—in the form of working watercraft in South Carolina—and the societies that generate it. It is a fascinating combination of archaeological reportage, watercraft documentation, traditional historical documentary research, and iconographic presentation woven together to reveal a totally absorbing account of the complexities of South Carolina’s lowcountry society in the era of slavery.

    A remarkable feature of this book is the author’s ability to go beyond the traditional historical approach by including a substantial body of very personal narratives from the enslaved watermen of the period. This lends her story a powerful immediacy that is utterly compelling and engaging, and is unusual.

    Overall, this is a most impressive work. It is occasionally obvious that Dr. Harris’s grasp of the nuances of nautical terminology (or perhaps that of her editor) is a little less than complete (for example, the stern sheets noted on page 97 have nothing to do with sails), but this is a minor point when compared to her achievement.

    • Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, ix + 146 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $24.95
    • ISBN: 9781611173857

    Reviewed by George Mason, Raleigh, North Carolina


The Nautical Research Guild regularly publishes reviews of books about naval/maritime history and ship modeling.  Each issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes several book reviews, but there are often more book reviews than the Journal can accommodate. 

The listing below includes book reviews for each issue of the Journal starting with Volume 58.  You may browse the reviews by the issue of the Journal, by book title, or by author.

Book reviews marked 'Journal Only' (and are not clickable) are found in the pages of the listed issue of the Nautical Research Journal.

Title

Listing Type

Filter


Listings

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software