Dr Jennifer S Kain

Seamen as Prohibited Immigrants: Shore leave, sickness, sanity and syphilis

After completing her PhD at Northumbria University in 2015, Jen held the 2016 -2017 Alan Pearsall Fellowship for her post-doctoral project ‘Seamen as Prohibited Immigrants: Shore leave, sickness, sanity and syphilis’.

This project examines the legal mechanisms used against sailors deemed ‘undesirable’ on physical, mental or moral grounds between approximately 1880 and 1930.  Using archival sources from New Zealand and Britain, Jen’s ongoing research considers how the association of seamen with dysfunctional behaviour, disease and desertion translated to immigration control. She investigates the complex system in which shipping companies both challenged and colluded with border authorities in order to manage their prohibited seamen deemed likely to become public charges. Jen plans to publish her research in a series of articles.  

Jen’s wider research focuses on health-related immigration control in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She is more broadly interested in maritime history, migration mental illness and the colonial histories of New Zealand and Australia. Jen is currently preparing her first monograph entitled Insanity and Immigration Control in New Zealand and Australia 1860-1930. This is under contract with Palgrave MacMillan for their Mental Health in Historical Perspective series.