Progress review two

MarineLives is an innovative academic project for the collaborative transcription, linkage and enrichment of primary manuscripts, which were originated in the High Court of Admiralty, London, 1650-1669. The end product will be a publicly and freely available online academic edition of the 1656-1657 volume (HCA 13/71).


Our volunteer transcribers are back at work after the Christmas break, and we are celebrating the transcription of one thousand pages since the start of the project. That’s around five hundred and fifty thousand words in four and a half months, one third of which  have now been edited.  We are on track to complete the transcription and text editing of HCA 13/71 by the end of March this year.

A huge thank you to all our volunteer transcribers, who committed to the fourteen weeks of Phase One of the project, which finished on December 14th. In alphabetical order our transcribing associates have been Deborah Ashby, Rachel Bates, Katie Broke, Elio Calcagno, Dr Janet Few, Jamie LeAnne Hager Goodall, Karen Gunnell, Dr Liam Haydon, William Kellett, John Miller, David Pashley, Dr Cathryn Pearce, Andrew Richens, Daniel Richards, Laura Seymour, Ida Sjoberg, and Alexis Harasemovitch Truax.

Likewise in alphabetical order, our transcription team facilitators have been Colin Greenstreet, Philip Hnatkovich, Alex Jackson, William Tullett and Jill Wilcox.

Giovanni Colavizza and Patrizia Rebulla have led our semantic markup efforts, with Giovanni creating the technical platform used by the transcribing teams, based upon the open source software package SCRIPTO. Gordon O’Sullivan project managed the establishment of our PhD Forum.

Our project advisors have been Dr Richard Blakemore (Exeter), Dr Catherine Buchanan (Westminster School), Dr Stuart Dunn (King’s College London), Dr Charlene Eska (Virginia Tech), Margaret Schotte (PhD Candidate, Princeton), Jo Pugh (National Archives), and Vikki Corker (National Archives).

We must be doing something right, since half of our team have revolunteered to continue transcribing till the end of March and to finish the volume.

Since Christmas we have reduced our transcription teams from five to two in number.

These are led by two of our team facilitators, William Tullett, a masters student at King’s College, London, and Alex Jackson, a recent masters graduate from the University of Sheffield.

Working with William and Alex are Dr Janet Few, Karen Gunnell, Jamie LeAnne Hager, Dr Liam Haydon, Philip Hnatkovich, Dr Cathryn Pearce, David Pashley, and Laura Seymour.

We are down to the tougher pages, written by two High Court of Admiralty clerks who would have benefited from advanced handwriting lessons.  If you are an experienced and enthusiastic transcriber who likes challenging texts, you would be very welcome to join us for these last two and a half months of transcription. You can get in touch with our transcription teams using this contact form.


Two successful online PhD forum sessions took place in January – the first on geography, trade, commerce and law, convened by Philip Hnatkovich (Penn State) and Dr Richard Blakemore (Exeter); the second on material culture and language, convened by Dr Liam Haydon (Manchester) and Laura Seymour (Birkbeck College, London).

Participating in the two sessions, in addition to the convenors, were Dr Charlene Eska (Virginia Tech), Colin Greenstreet (MarineLives project leader), Jamie LeAnne Hager Goodall (Ohio State), Sue Jones (Birkbeck College, London), Katherine Parker (Pittsburgh), Dr Cathryn Pearce (Greenwich Maritime Institute), (Margaret Schotte (Princeton), Steven Schrum (Washington University, Saint Louis), and Royline Williams-Fontenelle (Oklahoma).

We plan to hold further online forum sessions and are open to new members, both PhD candidates and early career researchers.  You can get in touch with our PhD Forum convenors using this contact form.


Our leadership team is working with our project advisors and our PhD Forum members to develop our goals, project plan and financing for Phase Two of the MarineLives project.

We have identified four potential modules for Phase Two, starting between June and October 2013.

Possible Phase Two Modules

(1) Module: Semantic markup of transcribed text of HCA 13/71

Our aspiration is to develop a TEI-compliant semantically marked up text for HCA 13/71 which will enable us to perform sophisticated searches, and to display data directly as text, and indirectly accessible through a GIS supported environment.  We know broadly what we want to do, and have commenced semantic coding, but we need to partner with a university department with strong TEI expertise to ensure we have a robust conceptual plan, and that this module is successfully delivered.  We believe that this module could form the basis for a small scale academic grant application.

(2) Module: GIS enablement of HCA 13/71

We wish to display HCA 13/71 text and data in a GIS-enabled environment.  This has been mentioned in a recent blog posting, Mapping Marine Lives.

We have taken a look at existing software, and have thought about conceptual frameworks, but we are not GIS experts, and would benefit greatly from partnering with an institution with GIS interests and expertise.

We are currently working with our newly formed PhD Forum to develop a more detailed set of user requirements for GIS capability.

(3) Module: Linkage and annotation

We are interested in linking the data in HCA 13/71 to other primary and secondary sources, both digitally and non-digitally.  We have started this process, but are now exploring how we might do this more systematically, both by theme and by source type. We are also exploring possible annotation software which we might integrate into our digital edition on our planned production server.  There is the potential to develop a module around this activity, involving both a technical partner and one or more content partners.

(4) Module: Integration of HCA 13/71 digital edition with innovative search engines

We have started discussions with the Discovery search engine team at the National Archives about the potential to integrate our future production server and its associated data and software with the new Discovery search engine.

We are also interested in integrating our metadata into federated and other search engines.

We have a number of innovative ideas about historical search and linkage, and would welcome contact with academics and institutions who share our ambitious vision for search and linkage of primary documents and archival metadata.  You can contact us to discuss search and linkage using the following contact form.


Fingers crossed for MarineLives editorial advisor Dr Charlene Eska (Virginia Tech), who has submitted a grant application to the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington D.C.

Dr Eska plans, if successful, to employ a PhD candidate to work on textual and semantic editing connected to the MarineLives project.


We are interested in hearing from academic publishers who take in an integrative approach to seventeenth century marine and social history.

Potential publication projects include a guide to the High Court of Admiralty, in print and electronic formats, linked to a production server supporting the MarineLives project.

You can get in touch with our publication coordinator using this contact form.

“With a stick or Cudgell knockt him on the head”

The MarineLives PhD Forum has now been launched. It has fifteen members across a range of academic disciplines, and consists largely of PhD candidates and early career researchers.  Its members are drawn from a wide range of universities, including the Universities of Cambridge, Exeter, Greenwich, London (Birkbeck, and Queen Marys), Manchester, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oxford, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Princeton, and Washington (Saint Louis).

Forum members have advance access to the MarineLives online project manual, and to HCA 13/71 images and project transcriptions, and will contribute to the shaping of Phase Two of the project. Forum members are currently examining and contributing to material on a range of themes emerging from the transcriptions, prior to participating in two facilitated online discussions about possible applications of HCA material to their own research.

Our next blog entry will provide an overview of these themes, but below is an illustration of one such theme, that of violence in marine life.

The marine life was not for milksops, with the threat of violence ever present, both on board and offshore.

Fear of beating by privateers

Peter de Bart was one of three London merchants who shipped themselves on a Dutch ship registered in Rotterdam, which was travelling from fflushing in Zealand to Roane in France. Catching sight of an Ostend man of war just past Calais, the master of their ship warned them that, “notwithstanding the league made between the King of Spaine and the Lords of the United Provinces,” it was common for men of warr belonging to the King of Spain or his subjects to board Dutch ships. Passengers and crew scrambled to hide their valuables, and feared violence.

“40. The sayd Master hidd his money in his stockings, and this
41. deponent alsoe hidd what money hee had ˹the most of it being Gold˺ in Cranyes or chinkes in
42. the Cabbin and kept only one dollar or two about him, that soe if they
43. did search him hee might escape beateing by them, if being (as the
44. sayd dutch shipps company sayd) a usuall thinge with them when they
45. found noe money about a man to beate and abuse him…”

HCA 13/71 f.562r Case: Goodwin and Company against the goods taken in the shipp of Saint John (whereof derricke Rim was Master) and against Symon and Lewis Rodrigies da Sousa and others comming in for their interest; Deposition: 1. Peter de Bart of London Merchant aged twenty five yeares; Date: 14/01/1656 (1657)

Master striking a crew member

Captain Braining’s ship, the Fortune, was wrecked on rocks on the way to Grand Malaga. William Andersonn , a gunner on the ship, from Stockdon in the Bishoprick of Durham, alleged that Braining’s vicious temper led to a savage attack on the boatswayn on the day of the wreck. This attack, according to Andersonn, incapacitated the boatswayn, and contributed to the loss of the ship.

“16. To the 8th article of the sayd allegation he saith that the morning of the day (whereupon
17. the sayd shipp was lost as aforesayd) the sayd Braining the Master without
18. any provocation given him fell in furious manner upon the Boatswayn
19. of the sayd shipp and with a stick or Cudgell knockt him on the
20. head and wounded him very sore, to the endangereing of his life
21. so as he became unable to give any assistance when the shipp was
22. ˹in˺danger. for lack of whose helpe and the losse of the sayd shipp
23. was in some sort occasioned, which he knoweth to be true being then
24. and there present and seeing the depth and danger of the sayd wound
25. given as aforesayd to the sayd Boatswayn. And otherwise hee cánnot
26. depose.”

HCA 13/71 f.132r Case: Examined upon an allegation on the behalfe of the sayd Tilley Vanden=Posl and Company; Deposition: 2. William Andersonn of Stockdon within the Bishoprick of Durham late Gunner of the sayd shipp the Fortune aged ninetyene yeares; Date: 02/04/1656

Threat of violence on board ship

The Master of the Vine had fallen out with his Mate, in a strange case of compass envy. The mate possessed an Azimuth compass in his cabin which the Master coveted, it being better than his own. Moreover, the Master, James Barker, considered his Mate incapable of using the compass properly. A row ensued when the mate refused the Master use of the compass. Punishment was threatened by the Master, but the crew gathered handspikes.

* “34. That the sayd James Barker the Master of the sayd shipp the ˹Vine˺
35. being bound upon a voyage with his sayd shipp the Vine to the East Indies
36. while the sayd shipp was in her outward bound voyage thither there
37. happened some differences betwixt the sayd Master and ˹John˺
38. his Mate and saith the sayd mate being discontented did speake to this
39. deponent (hee being ˹being by his turne˺ to goe upon the deck to keepe watch) and desyred him
40. that hee would take part with him the sayd May and goe upon the
41. forecastle of the sayd shipp to take part with him in case the sayd
42. Master should endeavour to inflict any punishment upon him the
43. sayd May touching the differences which had happened betweene them
44. or hee the sayd May spake words to the like effect to this deponent upon or
45. about the sixth of June 1655 whereto the sayd M this deponent answered
46. and sayd to the sayd May that hee would take his part in a Civill XXXX
47. And saith hee this deponent there upon went upon the forecastle
48. where this deponent found divers others of the sayd shipps
49. Company, and some hand spikes lying by them on the forecastle”

HCA 13/71 f.307v Case: Informations given by Captaine James Barker Master of the shipp the Vine of London touching certaine Misdemeanors committed by John May his Mate of the sayd shipp in a voyage therein to the East Indies: Deposition: Edward Carr of Westow in the County of durham, Mariner at first a Common Mariner and afterwards Boatswaines Mate of the sayd shipp the Vine aged twenty one yeares; Date: 10/07/1656

PhD Forum members

Richard Blakemore (University of Exeter)

Research subject: Social history of early modern seafarers, particularly during the seventeenth century. Also interested in questions of vocational identity and authority, popular religion and popular politics in the early modern period, the development of maritime trade, and the history of navigation.

Dr Janet Few (PhD, University of Exeter)

Research subject: C17th and marine history

John Gallagher (University of Cambridge)

Research subject: Interested in histories of language and communication, and in asking how members of different linguistic communities made themselves understood amid the linguistic ferment of the early modern period. John’s work is interdisciplinary, bringing approaches from linguistics and from the social sciences to bear on historical sources. PhD dissertation (in progress) provisionally titled ‘The linguistic encounters of English speakers in the early modern world, c. 1483-1730′

Jamie LeAnne Hager Goodall (Ohio State University)

Research subject: Piracy in the C16th and C17th

Dr Liam Haydon (University of Manchester)

Research subject: Links between commercial and literary production; Milton

Philip Hnatkovich (Pennsylvania State University)

Research subject: Social history of maritime communities in early modern England and France, with particular interests in maritime industry, production of scientific and technical marine knowledge, and alien communities. Ph.D. dissertation (in progress) on the multinational system of maritime trade, religious activism, and migration among English and French Channel ports during the Tudor-Stuart era, and its impact on early English colonial projects in the Americas.

Elin Jones (Queen Marys, University of London)

Research subject: Masculinities and material culture in the Royal Navy, 1758-1815

Sue Jones (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Research subject: Research into early modern literature about pirates, looking in particular at utopian ideas, space and mobility

Jennifer Oliver (University of Oxford)

Research subject: Ships of state and authorship: exploring national and authorial identity in sixteenth-century France

Katherine Parker (University of Pittsburgh)

Research subject: Creation of geographic knowledge about the Pacific in the eighteenth century, centred on the Royal Navy exploratory expeditions

Dr Cathryn Pearce (Greenwich Maritime Institute)

Research subject: Wrecking and plundering shipwrecks; maritime crime including piracy

Margaret Schotte (University of Princeton)

Research subject: Comparative study of navigational instruction between the late C16th and end of the C18th

Steven Schrum (University of Washington, Saint Louis)

Research subject: Regulation and the economic development of England and the Dutch Republic in the 1690s

Laura Seymour (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Research subject: Research deals with the way in which material spaces can contain and convey information, focussing in particular on gesture. See [WWW]Hungry Work, an article on the Marine Live’s project blog – The Shipping News.

Royline Williams-Fontenelle (University of Oklahoma, Norman)

Research subject: Studying how to address the history of West Indian slavery and technology as co-evolved institutions on the island of Antigua