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Professor Dane Morrison Discusses His Newest Publication, ‘Eastward of Good Hope’

Interview with the Center for Research and Creative Activities

Professor of History Dane Morrison’s new book, Eastward of Good Hope: Early America in a Dangerous World, will be published by John Hopkins University Press this November. The book serves as a follow-up to his last book, published in 2014, True Yankees. Professor Morrison focuses his studies on American voyages across the world after the colonial era.

As someone who has been on sailing ships before, Morrison, prior to beginning the book, was interested in learning the bigger story behind American sailing. Morrison utilized archives from the Phillips Library to acquire the evidence for both True Yankees and Eastward of Good Hope. As he notes, “In True Yankees, I was really interested in the celebration of national identity, but I knew there were more people needed to hear so I always had the idea for a second book in the back of my mind,” revealing some of the inspiration behind this new book.

The book itself takes place right before the American Revolution up until the Civil War and discusses this history at the international level. In analyzing journals, diaries, letters, and ship logs from this time period, Morrison discovers what Americans experienced during their initial voyages overseas. Morrison emphasizes the point that “before Independence, before 1783, British regulations prevented Americans from traveling outside of the Atlantic, so they had not really encountered people of the Ottoman Empire, people of China, India, or the Pacific directly.” Morrison took notice of a theme of celebration in being the first Americans to visit some of these places, primarily in print culture. True Yankees touches on this idea and Eastward of Good Hope: Early America in a Dangerous World develops these ideas further while also exposing some of the darker sides of American voyages. Morrison describes the book as, “trying to reframe the story or the dominant narrative that has previously been written in the 1920s by popular historians… When I looked at the archives I was seeing a darker side of the story.” The book works to dive deeper into these narratives full of fear and anxiety and move away from the more common, nationalist story that has typically been told.

Any student interested in reading this book does not need to have a prior background in history. Morrison foregrounds the dominant narrative by “describing what earlier historians have written and then using the voices of the mariners themselves to contest that racial script.” In writing this book Professor Morrison is hoping that readers will be able to gain a new perspective on this era of history. He also hopes that students and readers will feel inspired to research subjects like this for themselves and to read the original documents on their own; he adds, “I want my students to come away feeling confident that they don’t have to write the same old thing.” In telling the darker side of this narrative Morrison also hopes to create a sense of authenticity and humanity for the people who were a part of these journeys.

Now that Professor Morrison has finished this book, he is turning his attention to researching a topic he and his wife have already been working on and off for years now. This new topic will feature a family who lived in Salem in the 1830-40s. The family makes the courageous decision to move out of the country after the husband, and father, is offered a job at an American merchant firm in China. This will be the third study of American voyagers that he has worked on, with this one being more of a micro-history with the focus on one family.

Congratulations Professor Morrison! We look forward to engaging with the fascinating content within Eastward of Good Hope and cannot wait to see where this new adventure in Salem history takes you!

Jill Willis
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