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Title: Lascar mutiny in the age of sail, c.1780-1860
Author: Jaffer, Aaron
ISNI:       0000 0004 2744 4496
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the diverse body of seafarers known as ‘lascars’. Scholarship devoted to lascars who were employed during the age of sail has tended to focus on the minority who stayed and settled in Britain. Studying lascars as migrants can have the effect of obscuring the time they spent afloat and often risks casting them in the role of victims. Historians have failed to address fully the issue of how these men resisted the oppressive conditions of their employment whilst at sea. This thesis draws upon a wealth of unused source material – including logbooks, seafaring diaries and judicial records – to reconstruct lascar unrest aboard British merchantmen operating in the Indian Ocean between 1780 and 1860. It uncovers a wide range of hitherto overlooked forms of agency amongst lascars. These include everyday acts of collective protest such as demonstrations, refusals to work, assaults on officers and disorderly religious festivals. Such tactics enabled lascars to exert considerable influence aboard ship by venting anger, resisting unpopular orders and gaining concessions from their superiors. They also serve to broaden our understanding of what constitutes a ‘mutiny’ and how this could vary considerably between different cultural contexts. This thesis also examines more serious forms of mutiny, during which lascar crews killed commanders, commandeered vessels, expropriated cargoes and overturned established shipboard social relations. Uprisings of this nature occupy an important place in the long history of lascar employment and add significantly to our understanding of the Indian Ocean world. The last eight decades of East India Company rule witnessed a spate of such incidents, before European expansion and steam navigation rendered them unfeasible. The documents generated by this form of mutiny also provide one of the very few means of recapturing a lascar voice from the archives. Mutiny in all its forms thus offers an unparalleled window onto the working lives of these seafarers and the unique wooden world they inhabited.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts & Humanities Research Council (Great Britain) (AHRC) ; William Edwards Education Charity ; Economic History Society ; Royal Historical Society (Great Britain)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DS Asia