CALL FOR PAPERS: Connecting The Oceans: The Impact of Global Steam in the Nineteenth Century

January 2019


A conference under the joint auspices of the SS Great Britain and the Society for Nautical Research, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the rescue of the Great Britain and her return to Bristol

Dates: 6 and 7 September 2019 

Venue: SS Great Britain, Bristol

The nineteenth century was a period of astonishing change in the maritime world. The advent of steam technology ended the age-old dependence on wind and tide, shortened voyages, ended some trades and enabled others, destroyed or made entire professions, caused the demise of many ports and contributed to the rise of others, and brought prosperity to individuals, cities, and entire regions. The SS Great Britain, and the variety of roles she played in her long life – ocean liner, troopship, emigrant ship, collier – epitomises these remarkable developments, and will provide an iconic venue for a major conference to discuss these themes. The involvement of the Society for Nautical Research marks and remembers the major contribution of the society, and individual members of it, to the campaign to save and bring home this unique ship.

The conference will bring together key contributors from within the broad field of maritime history, as well as those who write on maritime themes, but do not consider themselves maritime historians; contributions from a wide variety of disciplines are welcome, and, indeed, actively encouraged. The conference organisers will aim to achieve a balance between papers from established authorities and from new or early career researchers. Papers and key discussion points may be published in hard copy and/or online by the Society for Nautical Research.

Proposals are invited for papers on any of the following aspects, or on other related and relevant themes. The principal criterion for acceptance will be the extent to which a paper focuses on the impact of the introduction and development of steam at sea in the 19th century, in any of the following areas:

  1. Trade, communication and migration.
  2. Politics, diplomacy and war (and other conflicts).
  3. Economic & Social aspects – e.g. the experiences of crew and passengers; the impact on maritime and other communities; ship-building, engineering, ports and regions.

A huge range of possible subjects could be embraced within these themes: for example, mercantile inventions leading the way within an industrial and communications ‘revolution’, the use of auxiliary steam power on sailing ships, the Crimean War as the first ‘modern’ war, the tactical use of new technology by the world’s navies, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876, safety at sea, the roles of women and BAME seafarers in the steam era, the importance of coal (e.g. the rise of Cardiff and the South Wales coalfield) and coaling stations, the emergence of shipping companies carrying passengers on scheduled routes, the construction of task-specific ships (oil tankers, cable layers, whale factories, etc), the ‘era’ of the Merchant Schooner, the experiences of migrants, and many others.

Proposals of 500 words, together with a short biography of no more than 150 words, should be submitted by 1 May 2019 to James Boyd, History Fellow in the Brunel Institute, SS Great Britain:

NB: There will be a nominal fee for the conference of £30 (£20 for students). Please book via Eventbrite; registration will open on 1 June 2019.


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