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People down on their luck fleeing to the colonies on the first available ship is a mainstay of 19th century fiction. It was a convenient way for an author to either get rid of an unnecessary character, or to bring a surprise new person into the narrative mix with dramatic effect.
In Ocean Under Steam Frances Steel explores the impact of the 19th-century sea transport revolution in one of the extremities of the British Empire, the South Pacific Ocean. Published as part of the Manchester University Press ‘Studies in Imperialism’ series, under the general editorship of John MacKenzie, this is a self-consciously ‘de-centred’ imperial history.
The Pacific forms part of the series ‘Seas in History’ edited by the late Geoffrey Scammell. Already published are the volumes about the Atlantic, the Baltic and North Seas and the Indian Ocean. The historiography of seas and oceans has an illustrious tradition (Fernand Braudel, Kirti Chaudhuri, O. H. K. Spate, J. H.