Symposium: Navies, States and Ideologies, 1500-1815

August 2019

Early modern navies were not just real entities, with ships, dockyards, officers, sailors and bureaucracies, but also cultural constructs. Because navies were manifestations of the state, and required the permanent investment of a significant percentage of the nation’s fiscal resources, it was only natural that the composition, financing and organisation of the fleet, and the strategies underlying its operations, were ideologized for political and commercial purposes. Regimes used art, architecture, monuments, printed news and magnificent ships to associate themselves with sea power, emphasizing how a strong fleet served the nation’s interests. Individual politicians, as well as officers, used similar propagandistic tools to underline their own social-political relevance. Painters, engravers, poets and writers eagerly catered for these political agendas, while at the same time feeding the public’s appetite for naval stories. Thus, sea power was constantly ideologized within the overarching context of national identities. These ideologies created a shared sense of purpose, which explains why nations were prepared to sacrifice so much to sustain their naval capacity.

This politico-cultural approach of sea power is new, at least in the Netherlands. For this reason, the Netherlands Institute of Military History and Museum Vlaardingen have decided to jointly organise a symposium. Four distinguished historians will explain how these naval ideologies came to be, what their socio-political functions were, and how they tied in with national identities. Alan James (King’s College London) is a specialist on the fleet of the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV. David Davies (Vice-President, Society for Nautical Research) is a leading authority on the Royal Navy in the second half of the seventeenth century. Gijs Rommelse (University of Leicester) focuses on Dutch naval ideology. These three authors are co-editors of the new book Ideologies of Western Naval Power, c.1500-1815 (Routledge). Professor Andrew Lambert (King’s College London) has been called ‘one of the most eminent naval historians of our age’. Drawing from his latest book, he will lecture on his fascinating concept of ‘seapower states’.


When: 27 September 2019, 13.30-17.30

Where: Museum Vlaardingen, Westhavenkade 54, 3131 AG Vlaardingen (The Netherlands)

Cost: € 7,50



13.30: Welcome

14.00: Léanne Selles (director Museum Vlaardingen) – Welcome

14.10: Professor Michiel van Groesen (Leiden) – Introduction

14.20: Dr. David Davies, ‘Myths and broadsides in the naval ideology of the Later Stuart Age: or, how to make Christopher Columbus an Englishman’

14.55: Dr. Alan James, ‘Imagining a Royal Navy in France: the imperial ambitions of Louis XIV’.

15.30: Dr. Gijs Rommelse, ‘National flags as key components in Dutch naval ideology, 1600-1800’

16.05: Coffee / tea

16.20: Professor Andrew Lambert, ‘Seapower states as culture and identity’

17.00: Discussion

17.30: Drinks (and further discussion)

Registation via ‘the registration form’. You will then receive an email requesting payment of € 7,50 into the museum’s bank account. This sum is used to cover coffee, tea and final drinks. Payment secures a place on the guest list.

The symposium is kindly sponsored by the Delta Hotel in Vlaardingen. The hotel offers a special lunch deal, prior to the symposium (from 12.00 o’clock, Maasboulevard 15, 3133 AK Vlaardingen). Registration via the same form.

Questions or comments? Please contact Gijs Rommelse, via

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