Identifying Maritime Women in the Age of Sail – Blog description

Short description:

A research blog on seafaring women and women travelling by sea in the era of global sail shipping ca. 1500-1850 – history, myths, representation in the media

Full description:

This blog is dedicated to the history of seafaring women and women travelling by sea during the early modern period. Broad insight into this topic shall be granted to the reader by means of research and discussion of historical examples of the time, such as letters, diaries, travel reports, logbooks and administrative documents, as well as further research on contemporary depictions of maritime heroes in today’s age, e.g. folksongs, art pieces and poems.

In order to guarantee a general history of women at sea during the golden age of sail shipping that upholds the academic standard of research, it is imperative to not only gather and collect these documents, but also to critically analyse the individual reports and depictions. For this reason, articles discussing the social constructs of the seemingly straightforward/clearly defined categories of “femininity” and “masculinity” on board the ships shall also be included in the blog. For instance, given the fact that many of the female actors involved chose to hide or change their identities on board, the question of the different factors constituting gender identity at sea arises. Thus, an analysis of the different conventions, practices and signs employed at sea to differentiate between what was perceived as classically male and female gender shall aim to offer deeper insight into this regard.

The great variety of female actors in the era of sail shipping, as well as the relevance of masculinity and femininity as contemporary categories in the maritime domain become apparent due to the various articles on the blog. Thus, “Identifying Maritime Women” serves not only as the object of investigation of the blog, but also as its final/eventual goal.

The blog suffers little geographical limitations since it covers actors and happenings “across the seven seas” and their adjoining ports. Admittedly, due to a large part of the sources employed stemming from European regions, the main focus lies on maritime women in German, English, Dutch and French speaking areas; however, readers wishing for more geographic variety shall not be disappointed, since individual cases discussed on the blog also focus on women at sea in other regions across the globe.

The expansion of European sail shipping and the formation of transoceanic colonies towards the end of the fifteenth century serve as a starting point for the time frame examined in the blog; the choice of this period in time is of particular interest due to the increase of sources provided from this point on, especially in comparison to earlier times. The mid-nineteenth century constitutes the ending point due to changes in seafaring that would heavily impact sail shipping in multiple ways. Firstly, the era of sail shipping had come to an end due to steamships rendering them redundant and further calling for a shift in journey time and staff demands. Secondly, the emergence of passenger shipping as a mass phenomenon contributed to female actors being able/allowed to participate in sea travels, as well as the formation of new occupational fields on board for women to be appointed to.

In addition to research articles, discussions on source editions, research literature and mainstream media concerning the topic of women at sea are also provided on the blog. The articles published are mainly written by the author himself, with the blog being further enriched by additional articles written by other researchers and students as guest authors.

Although the blog’s primary language is German, several articles will appear only in English or with English summaries.

Submissions of articles (English or German) are greatly encouraged.
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