Far Beyond Jack Tar: Maritime Historians and the Problem of Audience

Joshua M. Smith


This article is based on a paper entitled “Maritime Narrative and Nationalist Interpretations,” given at the 2011 annual meeting of the North American Society for Oceanic History at Old Dominion University. This paper examines some recent trends in maritime history, why some scholars do not consider themselves maritime historians, and the emphasis on international or blue water topics. The author posits that maritime historians fall into two groups: Traditionalists, who concern themselves solely with an academic audience and graduate training, and Utilitarians, who are much more concerned with shaping maritime policy.

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