Indian Ghat Sarangs as Maritime Labour Recruiting Intermediaries During the Age of Sail

Title:
Indian Ghat Sarangs as Maritime Labour Recruiting Intermediaries During the Age of Sail
Authors:
Fisher, Michael H.
Abstract:
As European ships created and expanded direct sea links with Asia by venturing around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, increasing numbers of Asian seamen also sailed intercontinentally. But the prevailing recruitment and service patterns for seamen in the Indian Ocean differed significantly from those in European waters. In the Indian Ocean, lascars (Asian seamen) customarily served collectively in maritime labour gangs recruited by an Indian broker, a ghat sarang (literally ‘wharf or landing headman’). In the Atlantic world, in contrast, European, African and American sailors increasingly had individual written contracts and documents of employment for each man, policed and enforced by the European state. Even as British rule spread across the Indian subcontinent, European ships' captains and owners, and also East India Company officials, struggled to assert their control in India's major ports over labour recruitment of Asian maritime workers during the age of sail. From the seventeenth through to the mid-nineteenth centuries, these Europeans attempted with limited success to impose European-style patterns of maritime employment in colonial ports. Over the same period, developing European racial concepts and legal regimes increasingly identified ghat sarangs and Asian seamen, as well as their recruitment practices, as separate and inferior. In each major South Asian port, ghat sarangs and seamen long resisted such European colonial efforts to control the maritime labour recruitment system. In particular, ghat sarangs insisted that they themselves continue to stand as exclusive intermediaries between European employers and officials on the one hand and collectively recruited Asian lascar labour gangs on the other. Tracing this process based on original sources, this article focuses on Calcutta and other ports on the coast of the Indian subcontinent, showing the competing strategies by European captains and shipowners on the one hand and South Asian maritime labour brokers and seamen on the other. This article thus complements existing studies of maritime labour elsewhere, and also of Asian lascars in later, more industrialised periods when European employment practices and new racial classifications largely prevailed for intercontinental steam shipping.
Citation:
Fisher, Michael H. 2014. "Indian Ghat Sarangs as Maritime Labour Recruiting Intermediaries During the Age of Sail." Journal for Maritime Research 16(2):153-166.
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
DATE ISSUED:
2014
Department:
History
Type:
Article
PUBLISHED VERSION:
10.1080/21533369.2014.959338
Additional Links:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21533369.2014.959338
PERMANENT LINK:
http://hdl.handle.net/11282/336483

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorFisher, Michael H.en
dc.date.accessioned2014-12-02T13:53:21Zen
dc.date.available2014-12-02T13:53:21Zen
dc.date.issued2014en
dc.identifier.citationFisher, Michael H. 2014. "Indian Ghat Sarangs as Maritime Labour Recruiting Intermediaries During the Age of Sail." Journal for Maritime Research 16(2):153-166.en
dc.identifier.issn2153-3369en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11282/336483en
dc.description.abstractAs European ships created and expanded direct sea links with Asia by venturing around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, increasing numbers of Asian seamen also sailed intercontinentally. But the prevailing recruitment and service patterns for seamen in the Indian Ocean differed significantly from those in European waters. In the Indian Ocean, lascars (Asian seamen) customarily served collectively in maritime labour gangs recruited by an Indian broker, a ghat sarang (literally ‘wharf or landing headman’). In the Atlantic world, in contrast, European, African and American sailors increasingly had individual written contracts and documents of employment for each man, policed and enforced by the European state. Even as British rule spread across the Indian subcontinent, European ships' captains and owners, and also East India Company officials, struggled to assert their control in India's major ports over labour recruitment of Asian maritime workers during the age of sail. From the seventeenth through to the mid-nineteenth centuries, these Europeans attempted with limited success to impose European-style patterns of maritime employment in colonial ports. Over the same period, developing European racial concepts and legal regimes increasingly identified ghat sarangs and Asian seamen, as well as their recruitment practices, as separate and inferior. In each major South Asian port, ghat sarangs and seamen long resisted such European colonial efforts to control the maritime labour recruitment system. In particular, ghat sarangs insisted that they themselves continue to stand as exclusive intermediaries between European employers and officials on the one hand and collectively recruited Asian lascar labour gangs on the other. Tracing this process based on original sources, this article focuses on Calcutta and other ports on the coast of the Indian subcontinent, showing the competing strategies by European captains and shipowners on the one hand and South Asian maritime labour brokers and seamen on the other. This article thus complements existing studies of maritime labour elsewhere, and also of Asian lascars in later, more industrialised periods when European employment practices and new racial classifications largely prevailed for intercontinental steam shipping.en
dc.language.isoen_USen
dc.publisherTaylor & Francisen
dc.identifier.doi10.1080/21533369.2014.959338en
dc.relation.urlhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21533369.2014.959338en
dc.subject.departmentHistoryen_US
dc.titleIndian Ghat Sarangs as Maritime Labour Recruiting Intermediaries During the Age of Sailen_US
dc.typeArticleen
dc.identifier.journalJournal for Maritime Researchen
dc.identifier.volume16en_US
dc.identifier.issue2en_US
dc.identifier.startpage153en_US
dc.rightsArchived with thanks to Journal for Maritime Researchen
All Items in The Five Colleges of Ohio Digital Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.