Lascars were south Asian sailors who could be hired for a single voyage or for longer service, aboard country trade ships (commerce between Indian ports and other ports in Southeast Asia and China) as well as East India Company vessels sailing from England to India and China. They constituted a source of shipboard laborers for British and Asian ship owners to fill the ranks of seamen handling the lowliest jobs on these commercial vessels. This study is largely confined to vessels commanded by British masters.

Jaffer’s book stays close to the topic of his doctoral dissertation, emphasizing the mutinous aspect of lascars’ shipboard experiences more than other social and economic aspects of their lives.1 In that respect, it deals with the most dramatic element of their “wooden world.” A useful appendix provides summary accounts of thirty-eight shipboard uprisings involving lascar crews.

The greatest virtue of this monograph is the...

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