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Dr Elin Jones

Lecturer in Maritime History

I am a social historian of maritime space, focusing primarily on British vessels, coasts and waterways during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My doctoral research examined shipboard society between the 1750s and 1810s, exploring the ways in which built and natural environments shaped the lives of those who went to sea. Using the records of courts martial, I reconstructed the quotidian experiences and expectations of naval shipboard residents and came to conclusions about understandings of work, labour, fraternity and domesticitiy, with far reaching implications for the history of masculinity on ship as well as on shore. I am currently preparing a monograph based on my doctoral work. Research from this project has already been published in the Journal of Historical Geography and will form part of the 2023 Special Issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies which I am co-editing and contributing to. 

One of the strands of my doctoral research focused on how maritime knowledge was formed and communicated on board British naval ships at the turn of the nineteenth century. Since joining Exeter, I have expanded on this initial focus to investigate the shifting meanings ascribed to seamanship in Britain during this period more widely. The results of this research were recently published in the British Journal for the History of Science.

My new project continues to uncover the multivalent meanings of maritime knowledge, but seeks to understand what men and women engaged in diverse forms of maritime work knew about ecological change along Britain's waterways during the long ninteenth century. This project defines local ecological knowledge as produced through sensory experience and repeated observation as well as the active monitoring of local advocacy groups, and investigates how knowledge was shaped by a range of social categories such as gender, ethnicity, age and social class. Key research questions will be: how did men and women interpret and describe ecological change along Britain’s rivers?; how was the production and communication of knowledge shaped by social class, ethnicity, age, occupation and gender?; what methods and strategies of communicating this change existed, both within communities and to national authorities, and how did these change over time?; how does the history of industrial Britain look different when told from the riverbank? 

I am a member of the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies and the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities at Exeter, and contribute to the development of seminar programmes and research activities which cross disciplinary boundaries.  

As of 2021 I am PGR Pastoral Tutor, and as of 2022, I am the Director of Postgraduate Taught Programmes. Please get in touch if you have any queries about studying for a History MA at Exeter.

Office Hours

My office hours this term are by appointment. Please get in touch by email if you would like to arrange a meeting.

Research interests

My research interests lie within the fields of social, environmental and maritime history, as well as the histories of labour, technology and technological change. I am interested in how studying maritime history can elucidate connections as well as divisions, and in how modern identities were formed through imagined and physical relationships with the sea. 



External impact and engagement

My doctoral research was conducted in partnership with the National Maritime Museum. Since completing my PhD in 2016, I have worked across various forms of public history with heritage organisations and museums, as well as on arts and history television programming. I was employed at University of Edinburgh as the public history co-ordinator of a Heritage Lottery Funded project on geographies of social housing, and have worked in research and production for BBC 1 and BBC 2 arts and history programming.

Between 2021 and 2022, I worked with History & Policy and Lloyd's Register, developing a series of reports which reflect on risk and techological change at sea. The first of these will be published as 'Local Knowledge, Global Change: A Study of Lloyd's Register Surveyors, 1834 - 1860' in September 2022. 

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