Nostalgia and Imagination in Nineteenth-century Sea Shanties

By Kelby Rose, published May 2012


Shanties were an everyday feature in the lives of nineteenth-century merchant sailors. In their primary function, shanties were used to co-ordinate the heavy physical labour of a group of seamen required to handle a sailing ship effectively. The lyrics of shanties, however, reveal a secondary use of the songs—collective nostalgic expression. Through a thematic analysis, this paper investigates the relationship between the structure, function, and significance of the shanty as a means for self-expression and group identity in the context of nineteenth-century merchant sailing.

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Filed under: Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Merchant Marines

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