Medieval ship graffiti from the church of Blakeney, Norfolk / A gold coin called a ‘noble’, of the reign of Edward III (1344) / Sirens (mermaids) putting sailors to sleep by their songs. Credit: Bodleian Library, Bodley MS 764, fo. 74v.

The Making of Maritime England, 1200-1500

Tutor: Tom Johnson

Module type: Explorations

Module Code: HIS00095I

The sea played a vital role in the economy, culture and politics of medieval England. As a defensive barrier, a source of livelihoods, and a means of economic and cultural connectivity, it was an integral part of everyday life in this period. Students who take this interdisciplinary course will explore all aspects of maritime society in medieval England, from the day-to-day rhythms of fishing and trade, to the exploits of pirates and the politics of shipwreck. We will engage both with documentary sources created for government and taxation, as well as archaeological, literary, and visual evidence that can help us to understand the importance of the sea for individual and collective identity. Overall, this survey course will not only introduce students to a new and exciting area of research in medieval studies, it will help them to understand the long-term processes by which England became a maritime culture over the course of the Middle Ages.

Seminars will likely cover the following areas:

  • Gender and Life-cycle in the Maritime Household
  • Peasants or Sailors? Fishing Villages
  • Above Board: Shipmasters, Crews, and Local Governance
  • Port Towns and the Mercantile Economy
  • Ruling the Waves I: The Growth of the Navy
  • Ruling the Waves II: Politicizing the Sea at Home and Abroad
  • Imagining the Sea in Word and Image
  • Transformations: The Development of a Maritime Culture?

Group project work will consist of a short piece of written work, analysing a primary source (or group of related sources) chosen in consultation with the tuto

For more information, please visit the module catalogue