Maritime History from Below: Rethinking Societies and the Sea

This two-day conference offers new stories of humankind’s relationship to the sea, including the experiences of sailors, transported prisoners, enslaved people, and Indigenous Americans.

Explore the emergence of a new kind of maritime history that is more inclusive, inter-disciplinary, intellectually rigorous, and closely engaged with contemporary scholarship. The Huntington is the perfect place for a conference that pushes the boundaries of what maritime history is, and what it should be. The Huntington's extensive maritime collections and the recently established Kemble Fellowships in Maritime History reflect an institution that has considerable scope to shape the ways that maritime history is perceived both within the academy and by wider public audiences.

Funding provided by The John Haskell Kemble Maritime Fellowship Endowment and the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

Conference Schedule

Friday, Nov. 3

9 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

9:30 a.m. | Welcome

  • Susan Juster (The Huntington Library)

9:45 a.m. | Remarks

  • James Davey (University of Exeter)
  • Kevin Dawson (University of California, Merced)

10 a.m. | Session 1: Solidarity and Resistance at Sea

  • Niklas Frykman (University of Pittsburgh)
    “Hydrarchy in the Age of Atlantic Revolution”
  • Kevin Dawson (University of California, Merced)
    “Maritime Marronage: Multi-Ethnic Voyages to Communities of Belonging”

Noon | Lunch

1 p.m. | Session 2: Indigenous Histories

  • Akeia Gomes (Mystic Seaport Museum)
    “(Under)water Worlds: African and Dawnland Maritime Histories”
  • Josh Reid (University of Washington)
    “Ranald MacDonald: Making Pacific Worlds and Indigenous Futures through Exploration”

3 p.m. | Break

3:15 p.m. | Session 3: Maritime Economies

  • Tawny Paul (UCLA)
    “Sailors’ Pay Tickets and Economies of Coercion in 18th Century Britain”
  • Helen Berry (University of Exeter)
    “From ‘Sailor towns’ to ‘Matriarchal Amphibious Economies’: Women’s Work in English Coastal Communities, c. 1700-1750”

Saturday, Nov. 4

8:30 a.m. | Registration and Coffee

9 a.m. | Session 4: Recovering Sailors’ Voices

  • Sara Caputo (University of Cambridge)
    “Seamen's Agency in British Naval Hospital Registers, 1792-1802”
  • James Davey (University of Exeter)
    “Runaways: Naval Desertion and the Voice of the Sailor”
  • Isaac Land (Indiana State University)
    “‘Whatever the sea-farer does, he does largely’: Continuity and Change in British Sailors’ Autobiographies, 1775-1925”

12:30 p.m. | Lunch

1:30 p.m. | Session 5: New Approaches to History from Below

  • Mary Conley (College of the Holy Cross)
    “The Opportunities for Digital Humanities to Get Below Deck: Visualizing and Nuancing Same Sex Disciplinary Charges across the Royal Navy”
  • Jason Kelly (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis)
    “Looking at History from Below: Oceanic Networks and Anthropocenic Processes”

3:30 p.m. | Break

3:45 p.m. | Session 6: Roundtable: The Future of Maritime History from Below

  • Chaired by James Davey (University of Exeter) and Kevin Dawson (University of California, Merced)

Image: "Figure 90. Un nègre fugitif" in Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage à Surinam; description des possessions néerlandaises dans la Guyane (Bruxelles: Société des Beaux-Arts de Wasme et Laurent, 1839). Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library.