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MarineLives research agenda for 2022


Marine Lives celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2022. To mark reaching the remarkable digital age of ten we are planning several initiatives, which we will be announcing in January 2022. These initiatives will be linked to our research agenda for the year, which is as below:

1. Developing and optimising keyword search algorithms for C17th Secretary Hand in English language English High Court of Admiralty manuscript documents.

2. Completing the next phase of our metadata for the HCA 13/ series. Currently, we have metadata for 22,000 deponents from the years 1570 to 1688, supported by 50,000 digital images held offline.

3. Publishing a hybrid digital edition of three ship account books from the 1620s and 1630s, taken from HCA 30/636.

4. Organising two workshops with the Oldenburg Prize Papers team on (a) Developing a broadly applicable digital C16th and C17th commercial document ontology (b) Forming and developing an online international community to study mariner letters.


Fantasy Early Modern book competition


Announcing a one week FANTASY EARLY MODERN BOOK COMPETITION.

Rules: List the chapter titles of a fantasy book you WISH EXISTED and post to the @Marinelivesorg Twitter account.

Winner(s) will be those book titles/chapters which get MOST LIKES ON THE @Marinelivesorg Twitter account.

Here is my starter:

TITLE: Early Modern Economic Lives

CHAPTER 1: Talking about work: Early Modern workers describing their occupations and work places

CHAPTER 2: The melding of work and home and its implications for participation of men and women in commercial life

CHAPTER 3: Everyone lies: The importance of accurate record keeping

CHAPTER 4: The role of the Early Modern bookkeeper accounting for growth

CHAPTER 5: Service driven functional literacy: How Early Modern international trade drove and was a product of literacy

CHAPTER 6: Risk and probability: How people thought about individual and group risk, and how it affected their commercial decision making

CHAPTER 7: Free will, contract, indentured labour, enslavement: Concepts underpinning the Early Modern labour market

CHAPTER 8: How to make Early Modern money (and keep it)

Here's a possible plan. Assemble a group of authors, recruited through Twitter, who will write and publish the Fantasy EM book as an open source online book. The book would be peer reviewed by its readers, and will go through various iterations as readers comment, suggest and offer to improve.

If we go with Early Modern Economic Lives (and I'm happy to go with a different Fantasy EM book), I (Colin Greenstreet) would be happy to write a draft of chapters three, four and five, but would need collaborators to write the remaining chapters.

What do you think?


New Year's wishes 2022


2022 is the tenth anniversary of the founding of Marine Lives. So here are our New Year's wishes for the next ten years for Marine Lives and for Early Modern studies generally.

New Year's Wish One

Digitisation and open licence publication of the C17th manuscript records of the Mansion House Justice Room and of the Westminster Abbey Muniments.

New Year's Wish Two

Development of AI-enabled search tools for discovery within and synthesis of large scale digitised manuscript collections, bypassing the need for the manual creation of archival metadata.

New Year's Wish Three

Implementation of federated search using AI-enabled search tools across multiple large scale digitised manuscript collections

New Year's Wish Four

Development of Early Modern Material Lives to complement Early Modern Marine Lives, broadening scope from marine to land based occupations, and emphasising the interaction of Early Modern workers with the physical world.

Click here to see our 2018 New Year's wishes.

Please Tweet your comments on our New Year's wishes to @Marinelivesorg and share your own New Year's wishes for technologies to support historical research


New MarineLives project: Researching three ship account books from the 1620s and 1630s: HCA 30/636/


Item: Paid the Ratcatcher: 4s - 4d, Account book of the ship the Diamond: setting out expenses to Mallaga, 1637; HCA 13/635/2
HCA 30/636 in all its glory, just waiting for some collaborative work by volunteers

Are you interested in a startup collaborative online project to look at, partially transcribe and understand three ship account books from the 1620s and 1630s? You have come to the right place. Marine Lives is launching a new project and is seeking volunteer collaborators. This will be a project about co-creation of a public resource, which will be published on the Marine Lives wiki and made available to all - public and academic historians alike (and those just intrigued by our past).

HCA 30/636 is a document category which has been created to cover certain papers generated by the Prize Court jurisdiction of the English High Court of Admiralty papers. It contains nine sub-references. We have imaged all the documents within HCA 30/636 and will be making these available to volunteer collaborators online. Documents include three beautifully leather bound account books of various sizes, further paper bound account books, a letter copy book of letters written from on board ship, and various miscellaneous accounting documents relating to multiple voyages. In all we have over one thousand images.

We are in start up mode. Our current thinking is to make the images available on DropBox or OneDrive and to use this MarineLives wiki as our collaboration platform - to share ideas, to provide support, and to be the vehicle to publish our transcriptions and synthesis. But we are open to your ideas about how to organise this project and nothing will be finalised until we have our team in place. You can get up to speed on our thinking by reading this Twitter Thread.

We have had expressions of interest from people from many places - Mexico, Michigan, Texas, London, Newcastle to list a few - which is perfect given the virtual nature of our project and the broad geographic scope of the papers which include multiple voyages from England to the West Indies, the Mediterranean and to Northern Europe.

We will be sending out an email to everyone who has expressed this interest this weekend (Saturday, October 16th 2021), and will invite people in that email to take a look at some sample images and to tell us about their research interests, skills and ideas for this project.

This is going to be a very relaxed project running through to the middle of 2022 in which people are welcome to dip in and out, and to do as little or as much as they have time and interest for.

If you are interested in learning more, follow Marine Lives on Twitter, tweet your interest and we will get in touch with you by Twitter direct mail.

You can also access our HCA 30/636 account book project home page here, which we are starting to populate. Come join us and help us fill in the blanks.



Women and Early Modern record keeping


In November 2021, MarineLives participated in an online seminar on Women and Early Modern recordkeeping, co-hosted by Caylin Carbonell and Colin Greenstreet. We hope to develop some of the themes of this seminar in 2022

Our contribution to the seminar was to a series of case studies from C17th English High Court of Admiralty depositions, in which women testify about their investment activities and record keeping.



About MarineLives


MarineLives volunteers, past and present, 2015-2018. Read more about them here

MarineLives is a collaborative volunteer driven project. The project started as a spinoff from a National Archives hackathon in early 2012. We are exploring lives touched by the marine world between 1540 and 1690. Commerce, materials, language and correspondence.

At the core of MarineLives is the collaborative transcription, linkage and enrichment of primary manuscripts from the English High Court of Admiralty, together with thematically related manuscripts from international manuscript and printed document collections.

In the past ten years over 250 volunteers have contributed to our transcriptions and to our synthesis of the many themes which constitute lives in the Early Modern marine world. Currently, we have 12,756 text pages and 12,125 images available and nearly six million words of full text transcriptions on the MarineLives wiki.

We have finding aids for themes as varied as Early Modern women in the marine world; Materials handling; The Early Modern River Thames; Commercial record keeping; Mariners letters; and many more.

We have also developed a database of 21,250 depositions drawn from the HCA 13/ series covering the period 1575 to 1684, which provides quantitative and qualitative insights into this important series of Admiralty Court depositions.

Sample our training material to see if this could be for you.


Sample images
This will be a project about co-creation of a public resource, which will be published on the Marine Lives wiki and made available to all - public and academic historians alike (and those just intrigued by our past).
HCA 30/636/3 Andrew Hardey's account book for voyage to Barbados in the ship the Abraham- extract from wages schedules
HCA 30/636/ Handwriting sample
HCA 30/636/ Letter copy book from on board the ship the Abraham