2020/21 Winner Announced!
The annual Boydell & Brewer Prize for the best doctoral thesis in maritime history was established by BCMH in 2010.
Subjects eligible for consideration reflect the Commission’s view of maritime history as a wide-ranging discipline.
Nominations may be submitted by the candidate, or by their supervisor. All doctorates must have been awarded by a UK university during the academic year preceding the prize (for example, to be eligible for submission in 2021, the PhD must have been awarded in the academic year 2019-20).
Judging is by a Prize Committee, whose decision is final. The prize winner receives a cheque for £200, which is normally presented by the representative of Boydell & Brewer at the annual ‘New Researchers in Maritime History’ conference. The prize winner also has the option of having their thesis considered for publication in a revised form by Boydell & Brewer.
Nominations should include in the first instance the following:
- The name of the prize candidate, the title of the thesis, the awarding university, and the date of the award;
- The Abstract of the thesis;
- A chapter from the thesis;
- A covering letter from the supervisor of no more than 500 words, stating why the thesis is so outstanding that it should be considered for a prize;
- Contact details for the prize candidate and their supervisor.
If the Prize Committee deems that the thesis merits serious consideration, a copy may be requested. Please note that we will be unable to return this.
The revised closing date for nominations for the 2019-20 session prize was 17 January 2021 (previously 1 January).
To make a nomination please complete the Doctoral Prize Form and upload supporting documents here.
Doctoral thesis prize winner, 2020/21
Dr Sara Caputo, Foreign Seamen and the British Navy, 1793-1815, University of Cambridge
This thesis focuses on the foreign seamen who served in the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815). It is a transnational social history of eighteenth-century state power, warfare, and migration, examining the legal terms of ‘foreigners’’ naval employment, the political and diplomatic background, cultural and social integration, and the demographic characteristics of these men.
The conclusions are as follows. First, studying these aspects transforms our conception of the Navy. Simply taking for granted the Navy’s ‘Britishness’, and failing to explore its position in an international maritime labour marketplace, can leave our understanding of its social history incomplete. Second, the power of the eighteenth-century state had to make important compromises, when it came to the cross-border movement of certain individuals, because of its need for resources. In times pre-dating the rise of the modern anti-mercenary norm, cosmopolitanism was disciplined and accommodated in ingenious and flexible ways within the Navy – a military institution which, albeit part of a transnational maritime world, was by definition a heavily ‘nationalised’ space. Third, this thesis shows the methodological value of deconstructing the term ‘foreigner’, as it developed in late eighteenth-century Europe and America, using the Navy as a case study.
To avoid essentialising the concept of ‘foreigner’, each chapter tackles a different meaning of the word, questioning how far the characteristics attached to it would have affected someone’s situation in the Navy. Chapter 1 shows that recruits with birthplace in other countries were not radically dissimilar to their British colleagues in age, skill, or rating in the Navy. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 argue that legal and cultural ‘foreignness’ (defined in terms of language, religion, and racialised physical difference) was easily ignored, bypassed or even put to use by the Navy, interested in maximising its efficient use of manpower. Chapters 5 and 6 are case studies on the integration of southern and northern European seamen respectively. Chapter 7 demonstrates that ‘foreignness’ defined in contingent terms, the lived social experience of immigration, travel, and displacement, was a crucial respect in which ‘foreign’ sailors may have been unlike their colleagues, dealing with different options, needs, motivations, and opportunity costs.
For further information please contact the Hon Secretary.