Maritime Masculinities Conference 2016

playersThe Maritime Masculinities Conference took place at St Anne’s College, Oxford on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 December 2016. It was part-funded by Port Towns and Urban Cultures and Oxford Brookes University.


About the conference:

Whilst much has been written about masculinity in the maritime sphere in the eighteenth century, rather less work has been carried out on this domain of research in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century; a period that saw significant changes in both areas.

The period from 1815 – 1940 saw the demise of the sail ship, and the rise of the machine-driven steam, and then oil-powered ships. It began as a period of both naval and maritime supremacy for Britain, which was subsequently eroded during two world wars. After a century of frequent naval warfare, there was the advent of the Pax Britannica, and the phenomenon of navies which barely fought. Moreover, popular navalism emerged in advertising, pageantry, and popular literature, and was the subject of photography and then film.

Cultural ideals of masculinities also underwent considerable shifts in a period that in civilian life advocated differing styles of manliness including Christian manliness, muscular Christianity, and the domestic man, and in the armed forces deployed tropes of masculinity such as bravery, stoicism, and endurance to the extent that military and maritime models of manliness were held up as aspirational models for all men.

Such an immense array of changes shaped perceptions and representations of masculinity within maritime spheres and beyond. This conference seeks to analyse how such changes influenced change and continuity in popular understandings of masculine identity, manliness, and the seafarer.

The conference included over thirty papers on the themes of visual culture; bravery, honour and heroism; material culture and technology; gender; race and empire; sexualities; seafarers and domesticity; and public spectacle and feelings. For more information see the Maritime Masculinities Programme

The conference featured three keynotes:

  • Dr Mary Conley, College of the Holy Cross, USA – Mary ’s research areas include the intersection between empire, navy, and manhood in British society; imperialism and post-colonialism; maritime history; and the history of gender, family and childhood. She is particularly interested in issues relating to boys’ culture and sodomy.
  • Professor Joanne Begiato,  Oxford Brookes University – Joanne has worked on the role that representations of military and maritime masculinity played in the formation of masculine identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is particularly interested in the part played by material culture and emotions in disseminating and fixing ideas about manliness. See her keynote presentation in the video below.
  • Dr Isaac Land, Indiana State University, USA – Isaac has written about masculinity and the Royal Navy in a variety of contexts, including patriotism, popular politics, spectacle, empire, nostalgia, autobiography, domestic violence, and religion. See his keynote presentation in the video below.


Videos from the conference

Joanne Begiato’s keynote, ‘The Jack Tar and Manliness’

Isaac Land’s keynote, ‘Dibdin’s Ghost in the Age of Ironclads’