Image: Class via Zoom, with Prof. Colin Dewey in top left and Guest Prof. Marcus Rediker in top right.

The coronavirus has dramatically altered the educational landscape at Cal Maritime but cadets in Prof. Colin Dewey’s Maritime Culture class discovered just one benefit: a visiting lecturer that otherwise wouldn’t have made it to class. “When we had to shift to online teaching it was a steep learning curve but the ease with which we can bring people together can be a real plus. For this class I often bring maritime industry figures from the local area to visit and talk to cadets,” said Dewey. “This time I was able to invite renowned maritime historian and writer Marcus Rediker to join us from Pennsylvania because he “Zoomed” in—no worries about travel arrangements or accommodations!” 

Rediker, Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh, is the award-winning author and editor of over ten books including Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age, and The Slave Ship: A Human History. His pursuit of “history from below” seeks to recover the stories of people, like merchant mariners and enslaved people, left out of the national historical narrative. His books and lectures, he explained to the class “try to recapture the thoughts, the intentions, the actions and the working lives of the people I write about.” 

Before Prof Rediker’s visit, students in the class read several chapters of Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail: learning the stories of merchant seamen, the “real” Pirates of the Caribbean, and the African people who, enslaved and stripped of their cultures by the experience of the Middle Passage, fought to forge new social bonds under the brutal conditions of slavery in the West Indies and America.

Even on Zoom the cadets seemed captivated by Rediker’s insights and jumped right in with questions. Marine Engineering major Alexander Dru '22 of Irvine wanted to understand how the merchant marine of old relates to the present day one. Senior and Marine Transportation major Ruairi O’Donoghue was curious about English sailor Edward Barlow’s account of his life at sea while Daniel Nave, also a senior majoring in Marine Transportation wanted to understand how and why some mariners made the jump from their legal employment at sea to piracy.

Next week, the globetrotting in Dewey’s class will go even further afield. Professor Matteo Aria from the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy at University of Rome, Sapienza will visit via Zoom from aboard the vessel “Raj”, which is sailing from Gorgona to Corsica in the Mediterranean.

Established in 1929, California State University Maritime Academy is the only degree-granting maritime academy on the West Coast. Located in Vallejo, California, the campus serves nearly 1,000 students and offers undergraduate degrees preparing students for careers in engineering, transportation, international relations, business, and global logistics. The new oceanography degree program launched in the fall of 2020. Cal Maritime also offers a master’s degree in Transportation and Engineering Management, as well as a number of extended learning programs and courses.