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Archaeology and History

Photo of Dr Richard Blakemore

Dr Richard Blakemore

Honorary Associate Research Fellow


My main research interest is the social history of early modern seafarers, particularly during the seventeenth century. I am also interested in questions of vocational identity and authority, popular religion and popular politics in the early modern period, the history of navigation, and the interconnected development of maritime trade and imperial authority. You can  follow me on Twitter, at my Wordpress blog, and on

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The primary focus of my research is early modern British seafarers. My interests include the role of these seafarers in various maritime ‘worlds’ (Atlantic, Mediterranean, North Sea, Indian); social aspects of the maritime community, in particular their personal, cultural, and economic connections with society ashore; the relationship between seafaring and state-formation; and the social and cultural aspects of early modern navigation. This is part of my more general fascination with the social and political history of the early modern period.

My Ph.D. dissertation studied London seafarers, maritime tradesmen, and their families during the British civil wars, exploring how, and to what extent, their actions in and experiences of the 1640s were shaped by a shared occupational identity, based upon the cultural stereotype of the ‘seaman’, and what impact the civil wars had upon them as a community. I am now a research associate on the ‘Sailing into Modernity’ project, during which I will continue my work, mostly in the High Court of Admiralty records, on the social and legal status of seafarers during the seventeenth century.

Selected papers (abstracts here):

'Sailors Ashore: Urban Maritime Communities in Seventeenth-Century England', Urban History Workshop, University of Cambridge, 12 November 2013.

'Laws and Customs of the Sea: The Legal World of English Sailors during the Seventeenth Century', Working Lives Between the Deck and the Dock: Comparative Perspectives on Sailors as International Labourers (16th-18th Centuries), University of Exeter, 10-12 September 2013.

'Questions of Consuetude: Practice, Debate, and Participation in the Seventeenth Century High Court of Admiralty', English Legal History Seminar, University of Cambridge, 12 June 2013.

'National Identification in an International Labour Market: English Seafarers during the Seventeenth Century', Department of History Postgraduate Colloquium, University of Reading, 10 June 2013.

Panel discussion with Jennifer Bishop (Cambridge), Dr Mark Hailwood (Cambridge), and Edward Taylor (Exeter), 'Occupational Identity in Early Modern England', Interdisciplinary Early Modern Seminar, University of Cambridge, 6 March 2013.

‘Early Modern Seafarers as Agents of Intercultural Contact: Some Microhistories from the 1640s’, Blaydes House Maritime History Seminar, University of Hull, 6 November 2012.

‘Experiencing the British Civil Wars at Sea, 1642-1646’, British Commission for Maritime History King’s Seminar, King’s College, London, 23 February 2012.

‘Sailing the Revolutionary Ocean: British Seafarers in the Atlantic, 1640-1649’, Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar, University of Cambridge, 2 November 2011.

‘Orality and Mutiny: Authority, Identity, and Speech in the Maritime Community of Early Modern London’, Gossip, Gospel & Governance: Orality in Europe, 1400-1700, British Academy, 15 July 2011.

‘“Soveraignty of the Seas” and the Politics of Maritime Violence, c. 1630-1650’, 3rd European Congress on World and Global History, 16 April 2011.

‘The Contested Covenant: the Ideal of Loyalty in the Second Civil War’, Thirteenth International Conference, Centre for Seventeenth Century Studies, Durham University, 21 July 2010.

Research collaborations

I am a co-producer of the Cambridge PhDcasts, along with Ruth Rushworth and presenter John Gallagher, hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge. John, Ruth and I set up the PhDcasts to showcase the fascinating and important research done by graduate students for a wider audience than would usually read a PhD thesis, in a format which is engaging, educational, and entertaining. We have so far produced two seasons of six episodes each, ranging across ancient archeology, history from the medieval to the modern, criminology, sociology, and literature. Both seasons are listed here.

I am also an advisor on the voluntary project MarineLives, an initiative to use online crowdsourcing to transcribe, annotate, and data-mine records of the High Court of Admiralty. MarineLives have completed a proof-of-concept transcription of one volume, HCA 13/71, which you can view here, and you can keep up-to-date through their project blog, The Shipping News.

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Originally from Kingswinford in the West Midlands, I studied for my first degree in history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, finishing in 2008. After that, I moved to Selwyn College, Cambridge, to undertake postgraduate study: first an M.Phil. in Early Modern History, in 2008-9, and then a Ph.D. in 2009-12. Between these two, in July 2009, I held a summer research internship at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. After submitting my dissertation in September 2012, I joined the ‘Sailing into Modernity’ research project at the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies in Exeter.

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