Shanghaiing Sailors

A Maritime History of Forced Labor, 1849–1915


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About the Book

“Shaghaiing,” or forcing a man to join the crew of a merchant ship against his will, plagued seafarers the world over between 1849 and 1915. Perpetrators were known as “crimps,” and they had no respect for a man’s education, social status, race, religion, or seafaring experience. The merchant ships were involved in the opium, tea and gold trades, and the practice was spurred by the opening of the Suez Canal. A major reason for it was a shortage of sailors and the unwillingness of seamen to sail on certain types of ships. They suffered from great deprivations, all for a paltry sum usually squandered during shore leave. Navies and pirates had their own form of shanghaiing called impressment.
This work explores the rich history of shanghaiing and impressment with a focus on victims and also considers the 19th century seafarer and the circumstances that made shanghaiing so lucrative.

About the Author(s)

Researcher Mark Strecker writes about current and historical events on his website, Mark Strecker’s Historical Perspective ( He lives in Norwalk, Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Mark Strecker
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 45 photos, 8 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9451-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1576-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  v

Preface  1

1. A Conspiracy of Events  3

2. A Mariner’s Life  26

3. Rebellion on the Open Water  46

4. The Crimps and Their Business  63

5. Liberty Days  87

6. Shanghaied!  104

7. Impressment: Shanghaied by a Navy  122

8. The Oysterman Problem  143

9. The Hunt for Whales and Men  159

10. The Struggle to End Shanghaiing  180

Chapter Notes  197

Bibliography  225

Index  239

Book Reviews & Awards

“fascinating examination…. Strecker is to be praised for his unyielding sensitivity toward the plight of the maritime labourer…interesting, well-written”—The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord.