Ship Newspapers and Passenger Life Aboard Transoceanic Steamships in the Late Nineteenth Century

Roland Wenzlhuemer, Michael Offermann

Abstract


Despite the many technological innovations that had for some time contributed to a significant reduction of global travel times, intercontinental ship passages in the late nineteenth century were no quick affair. Depending on the route, such journeys could last between a few weeks and several months. During this time, crew and passengers shared the narrow space of the ship—largely isolated from the rest of the world and basically suspended between origin and destination. On many long-distance steamers, the production and consumption of ship newspapers became one possible means of whiling away the time in transit for the passengers. In this article, we seek to demonstrate how these extraordinary publications can serve as lenses not only on shipboard life but actually on historical actors of globalisation in a more general context. First, we seek to highlight why and how ship newspapers played an important role in the shaping of the peculiar social space of the passenger ship. We will then give a brief overview of the context in which these newspapers were produced and what kind of news they contained. In a third step, we will introduce two brief examples of topics discussed in ship newspapers and outline possible fields of research on which ship newspapers will be able to shed new light.


Keywords


steamships; transit; history of transport; ship newspapers; ship passage; transcultural history; global history

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/ts.2012.1.9363