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An oil painting of the island of Barbados by Isaac Sailmaker, 1694
Centre for Imperial and Postcolonial Studies

Current projects – trade

Our research investigates English merchant shipping and trade.

Dr Craig Lambert (PI) 

Dr John McAleer (CI) 

This three-year, AHRC-funded project charts the emergence of England (later Britain) as a global power. By undertaking a systematic investigation of records relating to maritime commercial activity over two centuries, the project sheds new light on the development of merchant shipping, maritime communities, and networks of trade during this crucial period of proto-globalization. 

Traditional narratives of Britain’s maritime history often focus on notable events, prominent organizations, or well-known personalities. From Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe and the defeat of the Spanish Armada at the end of the sixteenth century, to the transatlantic slave trade and the rise of the East India Company in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the actions and activities of specific individuals and institutions has dominated the scholarship. In contrast, this research project focuses on the maritime and coastal communities that helped to spearhead the country’s transition from a relatively insignificant polity on the edge of Europe to a maritime superpower with global reach and ambitions. Using a combination of Digital Humanities technologies and prosopographical approaches, the project has three interlocking research streams – ships, seafarers, and trade. 

Our research aims to redefine our understanding of the socio-cultural world of England’s early modern maritime communities, to create lasting and interactive digital resources, and to map the development of the country’s seaborne trade routes and emerging global presence over the course of two tumultuous centuries.  

Find out more about the team and its work here: 

An oil painting of the island of Barbados by Isaac Sailmaker, 1694
Isaac Sailmaker, c. 1633–1721, Dutch, active in Britain (from the 1640s), The Island of Barbados, c. 1694, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.547.