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The University of Southampton
Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture

The Maritime World: CMRC Study Day and Reuter Lecture - 2 December 2020 Seminar

10:00 - 15:40
2 December 2020
An Online Event

Event details

CMRC Study daywith the collaboration of the SMMI

10:00 - Opening remarks

Panel 1 – The early medieval maritime world


Inside the Whale: Thoughts and Voices of Marine Life in Early Medieval England (Abstracts below)
Merel Veldhuizen, PhD Candidate


A digital view of an early-medieval maritime world: Reconstructing the Sutton Hoo Ship

Dr Julian Whitewright

11:20-11:40 – tea/coffee break

Panel 2 – Mercantile trade and maritime networks 11:40-12:10:

Shipping, tariffs and trade at Dover: the impact of a medieval port
Dr Nick Karn 12:10-12:40:

Understanding the Coastal Trading Community: A case study of network prosopography
Dr Leanna Brinkley

12:40-13:40 - lunch break

Panel 3 – Women in the maritime world 13:40-14:10:

Motherhood at Sea in Medieval Romance
Kirsty Bolton, PhD Candidate 14:10-14:40:

‘She gave creditt when others would not’:  Women, Work and the Stuart Navy
Dr Elaine Murphy, University of Plymouth

*Registration for this event is required, by 26 November, 12PM. Details on how to join the online event will be sent to registered participants soon afterwards. Follow this link to register to the study day.

The study day is followed by the Reuter lecture (16:00-17:45):  ‘An Ocean of Laws: Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean and Global History’, by Professor Maria Fusaro, University of Exeter. Registration for the lecture is separate. Follow this link to read more about it and to register to it.


'Inside the Whale: Thoughts and Voices of Marine Life in Early Medieval England’, by Merel Veldhuizen, PhD Candidate

Early medieval English culture is rich in textual and material examples that inform us of concepts of mind that do not necessarily inhabit human bodies, or that are not even human in origin at all. In this paper I will look at descriptions of the mental activity of two whales. One of them is alive and thriving in the Old English poem the Whale, and the second died to become the whalebone Franks Casket, which tells us how the whale felt when it was stranded. Why are we informed of these whales’ thoughts and emotions? I will question scholarly notions stating that these descriptions are simply conventions, or allegories, and argue that instead, such animal ‘voices’ can deliver a meaningful constructed expression of selfhood or identification, as well as insight into people’s real and conceptual relationships with life in the sea.

‘A digital view of an early-medieval maritime world: Reconstructing the Sutton Hoo Ship’, by Dr Julian Whitewright

The early seventh century Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk is one of the most enduringly evocative archaeological sites in the UK. The ‘treasures’ from burial-mound 1, linked to King Raedwald of East Anglia, have captivated academics and the wider public alike since their excavation in 1939. The ship that originally housed the burial is equally striking – measuring nearly 27m in length, but preserved only through the ghost-like impression of the hull left behind in the acidic soil of the site. In 2015 a project to undertake a full-scale reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo ship was initiated in the town of Woodbridge, across the River Deben from Sutton Hoo. The first phase of this work, led by the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, sought to undertake the 3D digital reconstruction of the original ship from which to better understand its form, construction, capacity and general use. In doing so establishing the foundations on which phase two of the project – the actual physical construction of the ship – could proceed. This paper presents the findings of this work, which allows us to revise our understanding of the Sutton Hoo ship from the perspective of its use and utility within early-saxon East Anglia. This sheds new light on the maritime connections of the time, and the capabilities of the early Saxons as a seafaring maritime culture.

‘Shipping, tariffs and trade at Dover: the impact of a medieval port’, by Dr Nick Karn

This paper will introduce the recently discovered thirteenth-century list of tariffs from Dover. It gives a detailed picture of trade passing through the port, and shows the networks of exchange and contacts that underpinned it. It shows how Dover was then, as now, a vital trade node for short- and long-distance trade, so that trade in bulk commodities between parts of northern Europe was matched by long-distance trade in luxury goods from the Mediterranean and Asia. Few early thirteenth-century ports can be understood to this extent, and the records of tariffs of Dover allow its place in the European ‘commercial revolution’ of the thirteenth century to be understood in particular depth.

‘Understanding the Coastal Trading Community: A case study of network prosopography’, by Dr Leanna Brinkley

While a vibrant historiography surrounds early modern English seafaring, the vast majority of work has focused on the mercantile and maritime elite. Indeed, low-level seafarers, whose work significantly contributed to the maritime industry on which the English economy was so dependent, have been largely overlooked. In particular, a lack of insight into the lives and careers of English coastal traders has led to a skewed perspective of maritime logistics and of the socio-economic make-up of Tudor society. This omission can be partially credited to a lack of qualitative sources pertaining to the lives and careers of low-level seafarers. Although there is a rich seam of quantitative data available through the national customs, few have looked to these sources to understand the social and economic dynamics of the coastal trading community.

This paper explores the possibility that a combined approach, utilising prosopography and Social Network Analysis, can reveal the ways in which small- and medium-scale merchants and shipmasters forged connections and established lasting businesses in the face of political and economic instability. Acting as a test case for future study, this paper will propose a methodological approach for the examination of a social and economic group which is often overlooked in the broad historiography, but for whom a large body of valuable quantitative data survives. By combining traditional historical methodologies with Social Network Analysis, this paper offers a new perspective on English maritime history.

‘Motherhood at Sea in Medieval Romance’, by Kirsty Bolton, PhD Candidate

The sea in medieval romance is a space of peril, emergence, transition, and reinvention.  Motherhood in romance is characterised as existing in liminal spaces – in the birthing room, poised between life and death; in the forest, where fearful mothers attempt to shelter their sons from the machinations of courtly life; and at sea.  Motherhood is performed at sea in romance by mothers on the brink of annihilation, mothers who have been cast from their homes and forced to create a new existence for themselves and their children when it is assumed by their persecutors that the ordeal will kill them.  This paper will explore the enactment of motherhood of those calumniated queens in romance who are cast into the ocean with their infants, drawing upon Emaré, Torrent of Portyngale, Sir Eglamour of Artois, and Octavian.  I will analyse the challenges of motherhood in this liminal environment, and the possibilities for reinvention and social mobility that it presents.  I will analyse how motherhood at sea disrupts and reconnects the lineages at the heart of these romances, and whether, through the trials of keeping their children safe on the waters, the romance texts depict these women as the pinnacle of maternal resilience.  I will explore how enacting motherhood at sea affects these characters’ identities as mothers and as women, and whether, in displaced lands and under assumed names, they remain their original selves or whether their experience at sea changes them forever.

‘She gave creditt when others would not’: Women, Work and the Stuart Navy, by Dr Elaine Murphy, University of Plymouth

This paper examines the community of women who engaged with the Stuart navy in a variety of business capacities. In the seventeenth century the navy and its dockyards became the largest employer in the county. Some women, like Hester Leverland were substantial contractors who undertook large scale work in naval dockyards and extended credit to the admiralty when others refused to. But many others did business on a much smaller but vital scale with the navy ranging from flag makers to weed pickers to rat poisoners. This paper will explore some of the ways in which these women interacted with the bureaucracy of the admiralty and how they succeeded (and sometimes failed) in these undertakings.

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