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.

Author Biography

Joshua M. Smith

Joshua M. Smith grew up on Cape Cod and coastal Maine. He holds degrees from the University of St. Andrews, Maine Maritime Academy, East Carolina University, and the University of Maine. He is author of Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists, and Illicit Trade in the Northeast, 1783-1820, which won the John Lyman Award in American Maritime History in 2007, edited Voyages: Documents in American Maritime History, 1492-Present, a two-volume sourcebook in maritime history created in conjunction with the National Maritime Historical Society in 2009, and in 2011 published a look at maritime warfare in the Bay of Fundy entitled Battle for the Bay: The Naval War of 1812. He is an is an associate professor and head of the Department of Humanities at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, as well as Interim Director of the American Merchant Marine Museum. Smith lives with his family in New York City.