Speaker (s): David Gange (University of Birmingham)

IHR Seminar Series: London Group of Historical Geographers 

This talk asked how we can recover the histories of North Atlantic communities, from Ireland to Nunavut, that depended on small boats. Though decked sailing ships never made up more than 1% of the vessels at sea, they account for the vast majority of the archive because of their direct integration in commercial, rather than subsistence, economies. Just before lockdown I began a project that experiments with possible approaches to small-boat histories, working with boat builders, and taking traditional rowed and paddled craft on long coastal journeys. This mixes archives and rereading of familiar encounter narratives, with indigenous epistemologies, oral histories and embodied approaches to boats, coasts, water and mobilities. Enforced downtime is an opportunity to reflect on method and politics in attempting to approach localised, subsistence-based, and water-borne histories on their own terms.

David Gange is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Birmingham. His current research is on coasts, oceans, and the communities and species that occupy them.