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Mariner Letters 1600-1800

Mariner Letters 1600-1800

Prize Papers Project and MarineLives Project (Colin Greenstreet and Lucas Haasis)
Colin Greenstreet and Lucas Haasis
Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
Gefördert durch
Akademienprogramm der Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften / Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen
Vom - Bis
14.07.2022 - 15.07.2022
Dr. Lucas Haasis

An international workshop on letters written by or sent to early modern mariners organized by the Prize Papers Project and

Mariner Letters 1600-1800

Early modern seamen wrote letters. As archival findings and research in recent years have shown, this statement refers not only to the group of ship captains, helmsmen or comparably high-ranking officers both on merchant ships and in the royal navy, but to the entire crew of early modern seagoing vessels. Today, we assume that the literacy rate among seamen of all ranks on early modern ships is much higher than assumed in research a decade ago.

The aim of this international workshop is to bring together researchers and archivists of early modern maritime history, renowned scholars as well as international early-career scholars to discuss the research possibilities on mariners’ letters (17th-18th centuries) and to exchange ideas on where we can still find this special kind of letters in archives worldwide.

We define mariner letters as letters written by mariners or sent to mariners. They include both commercial and personal letters of all ranks of crew members on board of the ships. Mariners' letters are characterized by a particular form and language, and often by a particular material. These letters shed light on life on board, seafarers’ experiences, hierarchies and patriarchy on board, but also on larger trade networks, world events, labor markets, and colonial contexts. Sailors’ letters offer enormous research potential. In stark contrast, research on this special type of letter is still scarce.

In our workshop we want to set the course for intensifying research on seafarers’ letters in an international framework. The goal of the workshop is to explore the potential for building an international network of scholars and archivists to discover, visualize, and research early modern mariner letters.

As is prevalent in current research, the geographic framework includes Northern Europe, North America, Canada, the Caribbean, and the East Indies, however, the workshop furthermore places a special emphasis on regions that are less explored in terms of seafarers' letters. Thus, in addition to English and French letters, contributions focus on seafaring letters from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, the Hanseatic cities, Scandinavia or the Mediterranean Sea.

One particular theme of the workshop will be to assess discovery strategies and discovery potential for mariner letters in Portuguese, Brazilian, Spanish and North African municipal, provincial, and national archives and libraries.

A second theme will be the availability and publication of mariner letters within the English High Court of Admiralty Prize Papers currently digitized by the Prize Papers Project including letters in 19 different languages. The third theme to be discussed is our goal to connect and bring together international efforts, research and exchange of archives on mariners' letters in a network.

Over two days, we will discuss the topic of early modern mariner letters through eight papers (4 sessions) and a keynote. We would like to invite participants to think of this workshop not as a small conference, but rather as a "history lab", an online workshop where work in progress is presented and discussed. Papers should be no longer than 15 minutes, which will be followed by a 15-minute discussion for each paper.


Programme for the online workshop

Thursday, 14 July 2022

Chair: Lucas Haasis

2pm - 3:30pm

Lucas Haasis, Oldenburg, and Colin Greenstreet, London: Welcome & Introduction

Colin Greenstreet, London: Writing about letters: The use of metadata to characterise C17th English mariners' correspondence

Lucas Haasis, Oldenburg, and Randolph Cock, London: Mariner Letters in the Prize Papers Collection

3:30pm - 4pm

Coffee Break

4pm - 5pm

Helen Watt, Cheshire: Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France, 1793-1815

Myriam Bergeron-Maguire and Claire de Mareschal, Paris: Eighteenth century letters intended to Pierre Bourdron, sail-maker, from semi-literate women: a selection of French vernacular features

5pm - 5:15pm

Coffee Break

5:15pm - 6pm

Sara Caputo, Cambridge : Navy and clan: Scottish young gentlemen writing Home, 1791-1818 (Keynote)

Friday, 15 July 2022

Chair: Colin Greenstreet

2pm - 3pm

Thiago Krause, Rio de Janeiro: A history of absence? Mariner letters in the Portuguese Atlantic and where to search for them

Marilia Arantes Silva Moreira, London/Paris: Antoine René Larcher's desperate letters (1798-1801). The forced retirement of a French seaman

3pm - 3:30pm

Coffee Break

3:30pm - 4:30pm

Gustav Ängeby, Stockholm: The commodification of seafarers: Letters concerning 'Flag crews' in the Scandinavian Prize Papers, c. 1794-1803

Joachim Östlund, Lund: Letters from Swedish seafarers in the early modern Mediterranean: where to find them and the stories they tell

4:30pm - 5pm

Wrap Up


Dr Lucas Haasis
Prize Papers Project
Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg