Boyd Cothran and Adrian ShubertOct 2, 2023
The Edwin Fox
How an Ordinary Sailing Ship Connected the World in the Age of Globalization, 1850-1914
University of North Carolina Press 2023
It began as a small, slow, and unadorned sailing vessel—in a word, ordinary. Later, it was a weary workhorse in the age of steam. But the story of the Edwin Fox reveals how an everyday merchant ship drew together a changing world and its people in an extraordinary age of rising empires, sweeping economic transformation, and social change. The Edwin Fox: How an Ordinary Sailing Ship Connected the World in the Age of Globalization, 1850–1914 (University of North Carolina Press, 2023) by Dr. Boyd Cothran and Dr. Adrian Shubert is a fascinating work of global history offers a vividly detailed and engaging narrative of globalization writ small, viewed from the decks and holds of a single vessel. The Edwin Fox connected the lives and histories of millions, though most never even saw it.
Built in Calcutta in 1853, the Edwin Fox was chartered by the British navy as a troop transport during the Crimean War. In the following decades, it was sold, recommissioned, and refitted by an increasingly far-flung constellation of militaries and merchants. It sailed to exotic ports carrying luxury goods, mundane wares, and all kinds of people: not just soldiers and officials but indentured laborers brought from China to Cuba, convicts and settlers being transported from the British Empire to western Australia and New Zealand—with dire consequences for local Indigenous peoples—and others. But the power of this story rests in the everyday ways people, nations, economies, and ideas were knitted together in this foundational era of our modern world. Readers will never see globalization the same way again.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.