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Maritime History Development

The specialized field of Maritime History has emerged during the second half of the 20th century and experiences a constant rise since the 1970’s until today. Maritime History includes various maritime histories such as the maritime economic history, the new maritime economic history or the maritime labour history. However, Maritime History views the human societies through the lenses of the sea.

The creation of the specialized field of Maritime History, during the second half of the 20th century, is consistent with the international trend in historiography for more specialization. “All historians are more skilled (or to put it differently, more ignorant) in some subjects than in others.” The great English historian Eric Hobsbawm states that this specialization trend in specific subjects or time periods is due to reasons of convenience and technical necessity. These modern historiographical trends have resulted into a gradual approach of the science of history to the social sciences and, in particular, to the economics, micro- and macro- economic theory, as well as to the quantitative methods for analyzing fundamental markets’ sizes. Same realities have experienced the sciences of geography, sociology and anthropology, as well. Maritime history has an expanded view, as noted by Frank Broeze. As a result various maritime histories have emerged, as David Williams has aptly explained; for instance we have maritime economic history, new maritime economic history, maritime social history, maritime labour history, shipping business history and many more.
Maritime history views and analyzes the human societies from the side of the sea and not from the side of land. This is why maritime history refers not only to the economy, but to the politics, wars, society, religion, maritime communities, literature, as well as to human arts. The history of seamen and shipowners, of merchants and traders, of sailing and steam ships, of port-cities and islands-maritime centres cannot be understood or even studied only through numbers but through the analyze and study of the social space, the human mentalities and the psychology of the mass, as well.
Maritime history is the history that speaks for the continuity and the changes in society, politics and economy through the lenses of time, ships and humans in the port-cities and their hinterlands. With a rich and ever-expanding thematic, with the use of new and untapped archival material from all over the world, with unlimited scope of cross-cultural comparisons, Maritime history is aware of a constant rise since the 1970’s, and with a spectacular growth since the end of the 1980’s until today.

'Maritime History or the History of the Thalassa' (.pdf, content in english) - Gelina Haraftis, 'Maritime History or the History of the Thalassa' in Gelina Harlaftis, Nikos Karapidakis, Kostas Sbonias and Vaios Vaiopoulos (eds), The New Ways of History, IB Tauris, London 2009, p. 211-238