"A very good sailor": merchant ship technology and the development of the British Atlantic empire 1600-1800

Reid, Phillip Frank (2017) "A very good sailor": merchant ship technology and the development of the British Atlantic empire 1600-1800. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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To understand the technology that helped create the British Atlantic in the early 1600s and expand it to the end of the next century, this study investigates Atlantic World history, maritime economic history, nautical archaeology, material culture studies, the history of technology, and the technical history of the ship. In addition to archival research in merchants’ and shipbuilders’ papers, the study relies on the technical analysis and modeling of extant vessel remains by ship archaeologists, and incorporates the study of replica vessels and the experiences of those who operate them, with an experimental-archaeology approach. The insights gained make it difficult to remain comfortable with inherited assumptions without further investigation, while making it easier to understand how a technology traditionally considered static served a new and rapidly expanding colonial-imperial enterprise so well. Experiments suggested by the processing and analysis of the source material present opportunities for the study of the period merchant ship to make a more significant contribution to Atlantic, maritime, and technological history. The approach presented here can help free Atlantic World historians with no technical background from having to take the received wisdom of ship history at face value, and offer new avenues of inquiry into problems in maritime economic history going back to Ralph Davis’s work in the 1960s. It demonstrates that strong elements of continuity and important changes were both responses to the evolving needs and high risks of the British Atlantic. Understanding those needs and risks is the goal; asking questions about ships is asking questions about people, and how they were similar to and different from us, and in what ways, and why, so that we can better understand ourselves and our own world.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/12577
Item ID: 12577
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 302-331).
Keywords: ship, maritime, shipbuilding, technology, archaeology, history
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: February 2017
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Marine engineering -- Great Britain -- History -- 17th century; Marine engineering -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century; Navigation -- Great Britain -- History -- 17th century; Navigation -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century; Great Britain -- Colonies -- North America -- History

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