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The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649

The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649

Edited by Cheryl A. Fury
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Social History of English Seamen, 1485-1649
    Book Description:

    Traditionally, the history of English maritime adventures has focused on the great sea captains and swashbucklers. However, over the past few decades, social historians have begun to examine the less well-known seafarers who were on the dangerous voyages of commerce, exploration, privateering and piracy, as well as naval campaigns. This book brings together some of their findings. There is no comparable work that provides such an overview of our knowledge of English seamen during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the tumultuous world in which they lived. Subjects covered include trade, piracy, wives, widows and the wider maritime community, health and medicine at sea, religion and shipboard culture, how Tudor and Stuart ships were manned and provisioned, and what has been learned from the important wreck the Mary Rose. CHERYL A. FURY is an associate professor of history at the University of New Brunswick, and on the editorial board of Northern Mariner [the Canadian journal of maritime history]. Contributors: J.D. ALSOP, JOHN APPLEBY, CHERYL A. FURY, GEOFFREY HUDSON, DAVID LOADES, VINCENT PATARINO JR, ANN STIRLAND.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-213-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    The Tudor–Stuart era was formative and turbulent for its seamen. The stresses of cycles of war and peace and the push for European ‘out thrust’ had an impact of all forms of maritime employment.

    English, and later, British, maritime expansion has been analysed by generations of historians but until relatively recently, the focus has been placed on events and participants ‘at the top’. The adventures of the famous and infamous captains like Drake and Frobisher are only a small part of the story: we must understand the experiences of all the men on those ships if we hope to...

  7. 1 The English Maritime Community, 1500–1650
    (pp. 5-26)
    David Loades

    The maritime community lacked clarity of definition. In one sense it embraced all those merchants who sent a proportion of their goods by sea, either abroad or coastwise, and in another sense all the bargemen and wherrymen who transported commodities inland along the river systems. When we consider that boats of up to fifteen tons burthen (in other words large enough to go to sea) could penetrate inland as far as Bedford, and that something like ten counties were served by the Great Ouse and its tributaries, we realize how flexible the concept of a maritime community could be.¹ Kings...

  8. 2 The Work of G.V. Scammell
    (pp. 27-46)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    Although G.V. Scammell’s publications are wide-ranging, his works on English shipowning, seamanship and seafarers are some of his most important – especially as they relate to this particular volume. With the exception of K.R. Andrews, one would be hard pressed to find another historian who has illuminated as much about Tudor–Stuart maritime life as G.V. Scammell.

    It had been my fervent hope that Geoffrey Scammell would be able to write a chapter for this volume as one could not possibly produce a credible book on Tudor–Stuart seamen without his involvement. Sadly, Dr Scammell passed away while this book was...

  9. 3 The Men of the Mary Rose
    (pp. 47-74)
    Ann Stirland

    The Mary Rose, which sank on the evening of Sunday 19 July 1545, was one of King Henry VIII’s Great Ships. By the time she sank, she was an old ship of 700 tons. Her keel was laid in 1509 and the ship was completed in 1512, in time for the first French war of 1512–1514. According to the Anthony Roll (an inventory of the fleet), at the time of her sinking she had on board a crew of 415 men, including the Vice-Admiral for that engagement and her commander, Sir George Carew. Carew perished on the ship, along...

  10. 4 Tudor Merchant Seafarers in the Early Guinea Trade
    (pp. 75-116)
    J.D. Alsop

    A socio-economic study of the sailors and seafaring traders active in England’s early commerce with equatorial West Africa possesses many advantages. Exceptionally little is known for the participants within early British maritime expansion below the level of commanders. Too often the deep-sea sailor of Tudor and early Stuart England is simply ‘the other’, known to us through the words of their superiors, at sea and on land. He was often portrayed as impulsive, irrational, imprudent and mysterious. He was childlike, or brutish, depending upon the context and the objectives of the commentator. Historians of early modern England are well versed...

  11. 5 The Elizabethan Maritime Community
    (pp. 117-140)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    The Elizabethan maritime community was experiencing great stresses and strains but so too was it flourishing. The age of European commercial and geographic expansion defined much about English seamen’s circumstances in the late sixteenth century as did the naval and privateering war with Spain. Even in the face of these new demands and opportunities, for the most part, seamen and the state tried to preserve the status quo. In some ways, these ‘craftsmen of the sea’ were typical of early modern labourers:¹ they fought tenaciously to protect their customs and traditional practices whether or not change was in their best...

  12. 6 The Religious Shipboard Culture of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century English Sailors
    (pp. 141-192)
    Vincent V. Patarino Jr

    In the mid-1590s when Sir Henry Percy, the ninth Earl of Northumberland, decided to pass on several decades of his wisdom and experience, he suggested, as did many aristocrats, that his eldest son consider a career in the military. In regards to soldiers, he remarked that they ‘are of two sorts, either landsmen, or seamen (as they call them), and their persuasions will be built upon one of these two bases, Honour or Wealth’.¹ On first inspection, Northumberland’s advice seems rather unremarkable. Obviously, he was referring to the two main branches of the military. However, on closer inspection, his wording...

  13. 7 Health and Health Care at Sea
    (pp. 193-228)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    As English ships sailed farther and farther from home waters, Tudor seamen dealt with an increased problem of shipboard morbidity and mortality. These men typically did a risk versus remuneration assessment of their intended voyages, calculating whether a high probability of sickness, injury or death on a voyage which might last years was worthwhile financially. This is true for all seamen except those impressed into the navy; those forced to serve the monarch were denied their customary freedom to assess the hazards inherent in any given voyage. Certainly merchant companies that had to compete for manpower, particularly during wartime, were...

  14. 8 The Relief of English Disabled Ex-Sailors, c. 1590–1680
    (pp. 229-252)
    Geoffrey L. Hudson

    In the late sixteenth century England created Europe’s first national systems of benefits for rank-and-file disabled sailors and soldiers, an important development which until quite recently has not been given any systematic attention by scholars.² This chapter will provide an analysis of the provision made for disabled ex-sailors in the period.

    The first national system for ex-sailors was the Chatham Chest, founded in 1590. Subsequently, in 1593, an act created a county-based pension scheme for ex-sailors and soldiers that lasted, with changes, until 1679.³ During the 1640s and 1650s Parliament ran a central fund that provided 350 hospital places at...

  15. 9 Seamen’s Wives and Widows
    (pp. 253-276)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    Tudor–Stuart women seldom had an ‘easy go’ in life: this is particularly true of women who came from less affluent circumstances – that is to say, the vast majority. The Tudor era was rather unusual in that there was a considerable cluster of females who ruled England and Scotland during the mid to late sixteenth century. Although we have ample images and information on the exceptional women of the day, there is a paucity of records for their less illustrious counterparts. While we are managing to reconfigure the lives of common seamen during the period, there are even greater challenges...

  16. 10 Jacobean Piracy: English Maritime Depredation in Transition, 1603–1625
    (pp. 277-300)
    John C. Appleby

    By 1603 piracy and other forms of irregular depredation were well established seafaring activities throughout the British Isles. At various times in the past robbery at sea flourished with widespread community support and the occasional approval of rulers and their officials. During the early seventeenth century, however, English piracy reached new levels of intensity, as demonstrated by its range and impact. In the aftermath of the long sea war against Spain, pirates and sea rovers terrorized shipping lanes in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Pirate captains, such as John Ward, acquired international notoriety not only for the damage they inflicted...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 301-304)
    Cheryl A. Fury

    What images emerge from the mists of time of Tudor–Stuart seamen? Clearly, they were youthful and robust if the doomed men of the Mary Rose are in any way typical. Anecdotal evidence supports this. Crew composition may have been more diverse than we are inclined to believe, especially in times of war when seamen were in short supply and non-Englishmen filled out the thinning ranks. The evidence of Dr Stirland’s study suggests that they would closely resemble the modern population. Much about their lives are etched into their skeletons: they suffered periods of malnutrition and the various stresses and...

  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-346)
  19. Index
    (pp. 347-352)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-353)