Mawer, Granville Allen 1943-
Mawer, Granville Allen 1943-
PERSONAL: Born July 20, 1943, in Gate Burton, Lincolnshire, England; married; children: one daughter. Education: University of Sydney, B.A. (with honors), 1966.
ADDRESSES: E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Australian federal public servant and public policy consultant, 1966-95; maritime historian and writer, 1994—.
Fast Company: The Lively Times and Untimely End of the Clipper Ship “Walter Hood,” 1852-1870, Plainwords Press (Hughes, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 1994.
Most Perfectly Safe: The Convict Shipwreck Disasters of 1833-42, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonard’s, New South Wales, Australia), 1997.
Ahab’s Trade: The Saga of South Sea Whaling, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Devil’s Gambit, released online, 2003.
The Wild Colonial Boy: The Life & Legend of Jack Doolan, Mulini Press (Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 2004.
South by Northwest: The Magnetic Crusade and the Contest for Antarctica, Wakefield Press (Kent Town, South Australia, Australia), 2006.
SIDELIGHTS: Granville Allen Mawer is an Australian maritime historian who specializes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His best-known book, Ahab’s Trade: The Saga of South Sea Whaling, explores all facets of the international whaling industry as it developed between 1650 and 1924. Not only does Mawer provide details about the evolution of whaling in America and Europe, but he also describes whaling efforts in the Pacific undertaken by British and Australian interests. Mawer’s study examines life aboard whaling ships, the many uses to which whale oil and other whale products were put, and how whaling techniques changed over time—without ever becoming foolproof or entirely safe. To quote W. Jeffrey Bolster in the New York Times Book Review: Ahab’s Trade“steeps readers in whaling lore.”
Ahab’s Trade was welcomed by reviewers for its comprehensive look at a livelihood that was so important in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that it influenced politics and drove some species of whales to the brink of extinction. “Among the many strengths of Mawer’s work are the ways he makes clear whaling’s role in terms of international relations and warfare,” wrote Andrew G. Wilson in the Historian. Bolster noted, “One of Mawer’s accomplishments is interleaving British and Australian whaling histories with that of the Yankees. Led by Nantucket Quakers, New Englanders dominated the industry from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries, and their story has generally been told by Americans without reference to competitors. Yet whaling was central to Australia’s founding, too, and might have remained big business there but for the nemesis of British tariff policy.” In Quadrant, Warren Reed wrote: “An outstanding strength of Ahab’s Trade is its clever blending of the rise and fall of the industry with the methodology used to catch the whales themselves. Few other books have come close to striking a balance, and it is this achievement which makes the work so readable, for readers with either a general or specialised interest.”
According to Time International contributor Elizabeth Feizkhah, “Mawer chronicles the rise of this first global industry with novelistic verve; as he remarks, the truth of whaling life was often as strange as fiction.” Reed similarly observed, “If you have ever wondered how much truth there is in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, this book will answer your questions. Actually, Moby Dick wasn’t far from reality. There were, indeed, massive bull whales which could take their revenge on a vessel. The Nantucket whale ship Essex was sunk by just such a giant in 1820 in mid-Pacific, and what happened to the captain and crew of that ship thereafter is a story which surpasses that of Moby Dick. Ahab’s Trade tells that story well, as it does man’s longstanding quest to profit from the largest creature of the sea.” Gilbert Taylor in Booklist felt that the work “bespeaks its author’s enthusiasm, widely shared, for the history of South Pacific whaling fishery.” According to Bolster, Mawer “has written a rousing, largely anecdotal and . . . elegant ‘saga’ . . . . Inspired passages . . . live up to Mawer’s stated desire ‘to evoke the past as much as to explain it.’”
Among Mawer’s other books is Most Perfectly Safe: The Convict Shipwreck Disasters of 1833-42, an account of several convict ships that were destroyed by shipwreck en route from England to Australia. In her Australian Book Review appraisal of the title, Margaret Steinberger concluded that Mawer “exploits the potential for history to read as exciting adventure and intrigue.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
American Studies International, February, 2001, Kenneth Speirs, review of Ahab’s Trade: The Saga of South Sea Whaling, p. 65.
Australian Book Review, July, 1997, Margaret Steinberger, review of Most Perfectly Safe: The Convict Shipwreck Disasters of 1833-42, p. 65.
Booklist, December 15, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 745.
Bulletin with Newsweek, June 27, 2006, Ashley Hay, “Freeze Company,” review of South by Northwest: The Magnetic Crusade and the Contest for Antarctica, p. 132.
Historian, summer, 2001, Andrew G. Wilson, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 891.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Stanley Itkin, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 132.
New England Quarterly, September, 2000, Robert Lloyd Webb, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 526.
New York Times Book Review, January 30, 2000, W. Jeffrey Bolster, “Catch Willy,” review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, December 6, 1999, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 67.
Quadrant, July, 2001, Warren Reed, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 112.
SciTech Book News, June, 2000, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 111.
Sea History, summer, 2000, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 44.
Time International, January 29, 2001, Elizabeth Feizkhah, “Princes of Whales,” p. 48.
Time Literary Supplement, July 7, 2000, review of Ahab’s Trade, p. 32.