QUERY: Atlantic World merchant vessel technology--anecdotal evidence

Phillip Reid's picture

Hello--I am beginning a dissertation project with the working title "Merchant Ship Technology and the Development of the British Atlantic, 1600-1800."  Among other types of sources, I'm looking for anecdotal archival or published primary source material in which those engaged in the shipping business in this world--ship owners, masters, ship builders, state officials, merchants, and mariners--mention or discuss vessel technology in their correspondence, journals, logs, and other written documents.  I'm interested in their opinions, judgments, specifications, and instructions regarding design, rig, construction, lading, and equipment.  The goal is to evaluate continuity and change in the technology over the period.

In order to make this component of the project feasible, I have to identify these sources as at least very likely to contain what I need before I make arrangements to visit repositories. 

I am hoping for advice from those who have actually worked with these sources and know what's in them.  Any such help would be greatly appreciated and acknolwedged. 

Thank you.

Phillip Reid

Department of History

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Hi Philip,

The National Maritime Museum in London has a lot of these sources - I've used their archives to do research on the use of self-prescription medicine in the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and I'm sure you'll be able to find things that are useful for your research too. Their archives can be searched well online to get an impression of what's there, but to read the actual sources you'll have to go to London as most isn't digitized. Saying that, they do have yearly graduate student fellowships, so you could apply for one of those.

Best, Marieke



Phil:  You might want to consider the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.  Their collection includes just over 4 million pieces of printed & written Americana, including collections from the Caribbean & Canada.  Dates of the collection start 1640 to 1877.  A great deal has been digitized and is available on_line.

I think you will find plenty of material dealing with the British Atlantic story.


Good luck,

Chuck Arning

Thanks Marieke--I would love to get to the NMM and I applied for a Caird but didn't get it.  I'm still looking for a way.  Nice to have reinforcement that it would be a useful repository--that gives me ammunition! 



Thank you Chuck--I will definitely explore that.  --Phillip