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The Water Connection
From the Puget Sound out to the world, water connects all people in ways explored at a history conference on seascapes, littoral cultures, and trans-oceanic exchanges.
By Ed Knudson
I live on the incredible waters of the Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. North of my home are the gorgeous San Juan Islands and the Gulf Islands off the large Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The whole territory is a water wonderland. The Strait of Juan de Fuca connects us with the Pacific Ocean. When I look over the little harbor on which I live I can imagine this water connecting me with the whole wide world.
Americans have often viewed the oceans east and west as barriers to others, as protection against enemies. But this defensive posture has now changed in these global times. Most every day I can see large container ships entering the port of Tacoma bringing goods from other places.
So I am always interested in reflection on matters having to do with water. I ran across the proceedings of a conference on Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges on February 12 through 15, 2003, at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Historians have written papers on many topics related to how water has influenced human affairs.
Under the topic of "Political and Imperial Organization" are these headings, for example.
The Organization of Oceanic Empires: The Iberian World in the Habsburg Period, Carla Rahn Phillips, University of Minnesota
Defining the Coastline: Eyewitness Testimony and the Mapping of Spain's First American Possessions, 1492-1536, William D. Phillips, Jr., University of Minnesota
Oceans, Migrants, and the Character of Empires: English Colonial Schemes in the Seventeenth Century, Alison Games, Georgetown University
Affinities and Empires: Tales from the Pacific, Matt K. Matsuda, Rutgers University
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