A Sea of Misadventures
Shipwreck and Survival in Early America
Rather than debate the veracity of shipwreck tales, Mitchell-Cook provides a cultural and social analysis that places maritime disasters within the broader context of North American society. She answers questions that include who survived and why, how did gender or status affect survival rates, and how did survivors relate their stories to interested but unaffected audiences?
Mitchell-Cook observes that, in creating a sense of order out of chaotic events, the narratives reassured audiences that anarchy did not rule the waves, even when desperate survivors resorted to cannibalism. Some of the accounts she studies are legal documents required by insurance companies, while others have been a form of prescriptive literature—guides that taught survivors how to act and be remembered with honor. In essence, shipwreck revealed some of the traits that defined what it meant to be Anglo-American. In an elaboration of some of the themes, Mitchell-Cook compares American narratives with Portuguese narratives to reveal the power of divergent cultural norms to shape so basic an event as a shipwreck.
"News of maritime disasters always captivates us with a continuing fascination for the drama of calamity, the struggle against nature, and the desperation to survive. This volume offers a cultural and social analysis of more than 100 shipwreck narratives from colonial times to the Age of Steam demonstrating how these accounts reflected contemporary North American issues of status, gender, and race . . . an absorbing study that finally brings shipwrecks into the historiography of our culture."—Roger C. Smith, State Underwater Archaeologist, Florida Division of Historical Resources
Other Titles by Amy Mitchell-Cook
Other Titles from Studies in Maritime History
Other Titles in HISTORY / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)