Munson Institute

I suppose I must be one of the few men alive who can remember what life was like in the American Navy of sailing ships. All those fine old ships have sailed away into the Land of Dreams, mounting the swell like great birds. No smoke, no vibration, no noise except the occassional slatting of a reef point against its sail.

Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix III, The Old Navy


From June 26 to August 4, 1995, I was fortunate enough to attend the Munson Institute at Mystic Seaport Museum. In 1995 the program consisted of 3 graduate level courses of which I took two, "America Goes to Sea," and "The Maritime Way of Life." The first of these courses was a traditional lecture course covering U.S. maritime history from the Norse to the present. The second was a seminar with readings in 19th century American and British maritime literature. The course I didn't take was an Independent Study course. Graduate credit is available from a number of universities, and I chose U. Connecticut.

To give you a feel for the courses, I've include the syllabus for the first course. There were some additional activities along with this course, but this will give you a taste of what we did. Each class session was broken down into two lectures and ran from 9:30 to about 12:15.

Summary of Syllabus for "America Goes to Sea"

Monday, 26 June
9:30 Organization Meeting and Tour of Mystic Seaport
11:00 Ships, Rigging and Shipbuilding
Tuesday, 27 June
9:30 Introduction to Maritime History
11:00 The Norse Expeditions
Thursday, 29 June
9:30 Exploration and Discovery
11:00 European Expansion
Wednesday, 5 July
9:30 The British Empire
11:00 American Colonial Trade
Thursday, 6 July
9:30 The Coming of the American Revolution
11:00 Post-Revolutionary Adjustments
Friday, 7 July
9:30 American Spreads Her Sails: Naval and Maritime Developments
11:00 Neutral Trade and War
Monday, 10 July
9:30 Atlantic Coastal and Deepwater Trade in the Age of Sail
11:00 Packets and Clippers
Tuesday, 11 July
9:30 Hour Examination
11:00 The China Trade
Thursday, 13 July
9:30 The Civil War
11:00 From Sail to Steam and beyond
Monday, 17 July
9:30 The Old Navy
11:00 The Dark Age of the American Navy, 1865 - 1885
Tuesday, 18 July
9:30 American Naval Renascence
11:00 Decline of the American Maritime Industries, 1850 - 1914
Thursday, 20 July
9:30 Fisheries
11:00 Fisheries, cont.
Monday, 24 July
9:30 Hour Examination
11:00 America's Inland Seas
Tuesday, 25 July
9:30 Whaling
11:00 Whaling, cont.
Thursday, 27 July
9:30 U.S. Maritime Policy and Diplomacy, 1916 to 1945
11:00 U.S. Maritime Policy and Diplomacy, cont.
Monday, 31 July
9:30 Life at Sea
11:00 U.S. Maritime Policy, 1946 towards the 1990's
Tuesday, 1 August
9:30 The Impact of Technological Innovation
11:00 Maritime Enterprise and Policy: The Current Situation
Thursday, 29 August
9:00-12:00 Final

Faculty in 1995

Benjamin W. Labaree, Williams College, Director
Edward W. Sloan, Trinity College, Assistant Directory
William M. Fowler, Northeastern University
John B. Hattendorf, U.S. Naval War College
Jeffrey J. Safford, Montana State University
and four visiting lecturers.


I can't highly recommend these courses enough. I was fortunate also to have an interesting and diverse set of classmates, from curators to elementary school teachers; from students just starting a Masters program, to an individual who had retired and was going back to study maritime history. My only warning is that taking two classes was a lot of work. We were busy most of the time. It was a great time, but you really have to plan on devoting almost all your time to the program. I didn't believe it when I signed up, but it's true. If you'd like more details, please don't hesitate to contact me. Last I knew, the program in 1996 will be aimed at college professors, and will return in Summer 1997.

To find out more, contact the program:

Munson Institute
Mystic Seaport Museum
P.O. Box 6000
Mystic, CT 06355-0990
Ph:(203) 572-5359 Fax: (203) 572-5329
E-mail: AnnaMSM@AOL.COM


For those of you with patience or fast links to the internet, here is a page of pictures.

I'm always open to adding resources to my list, so if you know of other items, give me a holler:

Form last updated: Sat August 18 08:38:56 1995 EST.

Copyright 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 Mark Rosenstein. Disclaimer.