In Pursuit of Leviathan: Technology, Institutions, Productivity, and Profits in American Whaling, 1816-1906
In Pursuit of Leviathan traces the American whaling industry from its rise in the 1840s to its precipitous fall at the end of the nineteenth century. Using detailed and comprehensive data that describe more than four thousand whaling voyages from New Bedford, Massachusetts, the leading nineteenth-century whaling port, the authors explore the market for whale products, crew quality and labor contracts, and whale biology and distribution, and assess the productivity of the American fleet. They then examine new whaling techniques developed at the end of the nineteenth century, such as modified clippers and harpoons, and the introduction of darting guns. Despite the common belief that the whaling industry declined due to a fall in whale stocks, the authors argue that the industry’s collapse was related to changes in technology and market conditions.
Providing a wealth of historical information, In Pursuit of Leviathan is a classic industry study that will provide intriguing reading for anyone interested in the history of whaling.