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Shanghai referred to Seemannssprache forcible recruitment of seamen for war and merchant ships . This type of deprivation of liberty , also known as pressing , was also used at times for supplementing the army.


The pressing of sailors was particularly common in the 18th and 19th centuries and mainly in European (British) and North American ports. Notorious ports in the USA were Portland in particular , and London in England . Shanghai was also established in Hamburg , as Knigge describes in his story by Peter Clausen .

In order to see sailors in Shanghai, press units (also known as press gangs) and armed ship crews combed the harbor district, mainly pubs and brothels . Seafarers present were kidnapped using ruse, alcohol or violence and forced to serve on war and often merchant ships. Occasionally, press victims were able to volunteer retrospectively; An incentive was the usually paid advertising money , which was then given to them.

The British Royal Navy used compulsory recruitment at the latest from the Elizabethan Age , since 1563 this was legally legitimized. As of 1597, the Vagabonds Act (39 Eliz. C. 4) could force wandering sailors, beggars, fortune tellers and other traveling people to "lifelong service in the galleys of this realm". Particularly from the beginning of the 18th century, more precise rules for pressing were established, so in 1740 they were limited to British citizens between 18 and 55 years of age. In practice, however, these restrictions have often been ignored. Civilian ships were also regularly used by the Royal Navy to "supplement" their own crew by simply forcibly recruiting required sailors from any merchant ship, which also had the advantage of being able to squeeze qualified men in a targeted manner.

In 1747 riots broke out in the British colony of Boston after Admiral Charles Knowles wanted 46 people to be forcibly recruited. Even after American independence, Americans continued to be forced into the Navy as Britain continued to consider all Americans born British as its citizens. In the course of the coalition wars , around 9,000 Americans were forcibly recruited into the British fleet. This approach was one reason for the outbreak of the British-American War (1812–1815). After these wars ended, the practice largely disappeared, even if the legal basis persisted.

Until the 18th century, military services were also pressed ashore; the Prussian advertisers were feared. The desertion rates of the mercenary armies were correspondingly high for a long time . With the introduction of compulsory military service laws in the 19th century and the establishment of a reporting system, such violent actions became obsolete because soldiers could now be officially called up.

The Swiss Maritime Law (SR 747.30) still requires a consul to be present in order to be able to register a seaman in the model roll . The seaman has to sign the entry and confirm his will to be hired . Even on German ships, the captain is not allowed to change the pattern roll himself.

Word history

The term probably originated around the middle of the 19th century and was taken from the slang of American sailors into German. From Shanghai , the most important port in East Asia since the 1840s, a particularly large number of ships (the “ coolie clippers”) came with Chinese forced laborers for the mining of guano on the South American coast, for farm work in the USA and for the construction of the Panama Canal . Originally perhaps the forcible recruitment of these workers for overseas services was also an occasion for the formation of the word.

A "regular system of kidnappings", a "systematic intercourse with white slaves" in New York, London and Liverpool was already described in 1864.

See also


  1. (Vol. I, Riga 1783, p. 239 ff.)
  2. a b British Navy Impressment ,
  3. Joseph R. Tanner: Tudor constitutional documents, AD 1485-1603 . 1922, BEGGARS ACT OF 1598, p. 484-488 ( ).
  4. ^ The Boston Impressment Riot of 1747 ,
  5. Dietmar Bartz: Sailor's Language. From ropes, Pütz and shrouds. Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-7688-1933-6 , p. 230 f.
  6. ^ Shanghai # story
  7. Wolfram Claviez: Maritime Dictionary. Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 1973, ISBN 3-7688-0166-7 , p. 297
  8. ^ Rudolf Köster: Proper names in the German vocabulary . DeGruyter, Berlin 2003, p. 159, online , accessed on June 2, 2015.
  9. Meliora. A quarterly review of social science. Volume 6, London 1864, p. 164. Online , accessed July 5, 2010

Web links

Wiktionary: shanghai  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations