Family Business: Creating a ‘Maritime Contact Zone’ in the Colonial Anglo-World, 1790-1840

Principal Investigator: PD Dr. Eva Bischoff (Trier University)

Doctoral Researcher: Haureh Hussein, M.A. (Trier University)

German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG)

Duration: 1 August 2021 – 31 July 2024

This project investigates the interactions between whalers and indigenous peoples on the coasts of the "Anglo-World" (Belich) between 1790 and 1840. It aims at reconstructing the space, the maritime contact zone, which emerged from the manifold social, economic, and cultural transfers and processes of exchange and considers it from a perspective of Global History. To this end, the project focuses on the relationships that developed between members of leading whaling families, who were also members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and Māori who encountered them. It traces the global dimension of the experiences and actions of these actors, who were deeply involved in the whaling industry. Moreover, in using whaling as an example, it demonstrates the interlocking of local and regional economies in the process of economic globalization during the first decades of the nineteenth century. It studies the socioeconomic practices that created the maritime contact zone and demonstrates the ways in which maritime and land-based economies were intertwined. It thereby pursues a new, innovative research approach that combines the previously separate investigation of the history of Anglophone settler colonial expansion with approaches from New Maritime History. Methodologically, the project draws on the systematic and reflective combination of different focal lengths of historical analysis ("jeux d'échelles”, Revel). It rests on a broad, multiarchival source base, combining written material such as private letters and company records of selected Quaker and Māori families, reports and correspondence of missionaries on the ground, and print media with records from the colonial administration, especially the Land Claims Office. The results of the project will be documented in a monograph, providing an important case study of the significance of maritime economies for the development of settler colonial expansion in the Pacific. By focussing on the whaling industry, this study will demonstrate the transoceanic interconnections of the globalization processes at the beginning long nineteenth century. In addition, several articles for international peer-reviewed journals will be produced, which will discuss fundamental, theoretical and methodological questions of a transoceanic history along individual aspects of the project. They will contribute to the development of the newly emerging field of transoceanic history. Thus, the project provides a historically informed, critical reflection on the relationship between humans and the ocean, a topic that is of particular importance in light of current debates on sustainability and climate change.

The project is part of the research projects of the Trierer Institut zur Erforschung des Transfers von Menschen, Gütern und Ideen von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (TRANSMARE).