Sailor art, maritime making in the long nineteenth century

PhD position, deadline: 5 May 2017


AHRC CDP and National Maritime Museum - funded PhD in English Literature and Cultural Studies

Cardiff University - Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy

Start date: October 2017

Duration: 3 years

This project will situate objects produced by sailors at the heart of current scholarly debates about gendered work and creativity, military masculinity, and citizenship.

It will be the first consideration of the National Maritime Museum’s rich holdings of sailor craft, including boxes and other small ornaments decorated with nautical motifs, marquetry made by ship’s carpenters, strawwork, carvings on coconut shells, scrimshaw, bonework made by late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century French Prisoners of War, woolwork pictures and ropework. Work produced by Navy personnel will be compared with that of civilian sailors, and contextualised alongside soldier making, to explore servicemen’s distinctive skills, creativity and experience in the context of shifting attitudes to masculinity, empire and patriotism through the long nineteenth century. This interdisciplinary PhD is informed by the supervisors’ specialisms in decorative arts, curating, military and cultural history, and masculinity studies to offer a new approach to this unique body of creative work. The appointed student will have the opportunity to enhance the Museum’s cataloguing and interpretation of these objects and to contribute to museum programming, such as public talks, educational outreach and, potentially, an exhibition co-curated with the projects’ supervisors.

The research will draw out the previously hidden histories of military making, challenging assumptions about gendered work and crafting, and uncovering the personal and political significance of previously under-explored and diverse NMM collection items. While the appointed student will shape their own research pathways in line with their interests and expertise, we envisage that the following research questions will be at the heart of the project:

  • How, why and for whom did sailors produce art?
  • How does this work challenge preconceptions of gendered labour and what does it tell us about the history of masculinity, art and craft?
  • What kinds of narratives have been passed on with these objects? How have they been kept, collected and curated?
  • What do these objects contribute to discussions about military experience and skills, and to reassessments of the relationship between military and civilian spheres? How might such works intervene in debates about the incommunicability of combatant experience?
  • What is distinctive about art produced by sailors, and by soldiers, and by Prisoners of War, and what are the differences - material, practical, political, personal? How does sailor art reflect distinctive experiences of life on ship, port and at sea? How do objects produced by sailors and soldiers speak to wider shifting attitudes about the navy and army?
  • What are the key developments in the making of military art from Waterloo to WW1? How does this history relate to broader military and art histories? And how do these historical objects relate to the work being made now by military personnel?

Eligibility criteria

For further information on eligibility criteria, please visit:,-maritime-making-in-the-long-nineteenth-century

How to apply:

For further information on how to apply, please visit:,-maritime-making-in-the-long-nineteenth-century

We reserve the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Funding details

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees.

Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

Additional funding offered: The National Maritime Museum will also provide up to £1,000 per year for three years (subject to agreement) to support the student’s research-related expenses such as travel costs. An additional stipend payment of £550 for Collaborative Doctoral Students is also available (to be confirmed).