Finding Lascar ‘Wilful Incendiarism’: British Ship-Burning Panic and Indian Maritime Labour in the Indian Ocean
From the 1790s to the 1850s, three dozen major merchant ships burned in India's important ports. Panic-stricken British shipowners, merchants and East India Company officials apprehended disruption of their intercontinental trade, so vital to the burgeoning British Empire. In all these cases, they accused Indian seamen (lascars) of selfish ship-burning. As a context, the lascars had, for centuries prior to European arrival in the Indian Ocean, worked collectively under their own petty officers. They and Indian recruiters in each port had long resisted colonial efforts to appropriate their maritime labour system. Britons used this half-century of alleged arson to finally impose British controls over lascar recruitment ashore and conditions of service aboard ships.
Fisher, Michael H. 2012. "Finding Lascar ‘Wilful Incendiarism’: British Ship-Burning Panic and Indian Maritime Labour in the Indian Ocean." South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 35(3): 596-623.
Taylor & Francis
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Lascar, Arson, Bombay, East India Company, Indian Ocean, Maritime labour, Merchant shipping, Ship-burning