• Most likely Surinamese seamen at the Amsterdam Zeemanshuis c. 1915-1916, Beeldbank Amsterdam
    Sailors on 19th and 20th-c Dutch merchant marine,  Shipping companies’ records,  VOC pay ledgers

    A collection of sailor’s biographies

    We’ve added something new to this website: a collection of sailor’s lives. In a number of short biographies, we explore the lives of some individuals and small groups in the data sets we work with, such as the VOC pay ledgers and records of 19th and 20th-century shipping companies. Our aim with this collection is simply to learn a bit more about the background of the seafarers in our research data. Our quantitative data are a very good starting point for analyzing where sailors came from, how their origin influenced their chances of gaining a promotion to a higher rank on board, and how these things changed over time. But…

  • Grants

    Grant for research on seamen and their international contacts

    Great news: DutchCulture has awarded us a grant to document and present shared cultural heritage of merchant seamen who sailed on Dutch ships, 1600-2000. Before the age of cheap flights, the vast majority of Dutch who traveled to such faraway countries as Japan, India and Sri Lanka were sailors. Moreover, these seamen had often already come into contact with other cultures on the way to their destination, as the ships they manned usually employed many foreigners—initially mainly Germans and Scandinavians, later many Chinese, Indonesians and Philippines. With the DutchCulture grant, we are going to investigate the international contacts of merchant seamen who sailed on Dutch ships, 1600-2000: how and to…

  • Seafarer's origins 18th & 20th centuries
    Maps,  Prize Papers,  Sailors on 19th and 20th-c Dutch merchant marine,  Shipping companies’ records

    First results from our project on the recent history of merchant marine sailors

    We can show some first results from our recently started project on sailors aboard Dutch merchant marine ships in the 19th and 20th centuries. Researcher Daniël Tuik has been working on a sample of personnel records from the archives of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Stoomboot-Maatschappij (KNSM), a shipping company that was based in Amsterdam. He tells more about his work in another blog post. The map on the right in Jelle’s tweet shows the birthplaces of KNSM crew members in the 20th century, mainly sailing on trans-Atlantic routes, while the one on the left shows where the sailors came from who appear in the Prize Paper dataset, which also mainly contains…

  • VOC Data Experience | impression
    Featured,  Grants,  Visualizations,  VOC pay ledgers

    Our research soon visible in augmented reality

    Together with Dirk Bertels / Studio Louter we have been awarded a subsidy from the Creative Industries Fund NL under the Digital Heritage x Public scheme to build the VOC Data Experience. Visitors to the experience can explore three existing online data sets about the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in augmented reality (AR). In the VOC Data Experience we will unlock three digitized VOC sources for a broad audience in a stimulating way. Visitors will be able to literally ask questions to the crew members of the VOC on an iPad: Where did you come from? What was your chance of survival? Did you participate in the slave trade? To find…

  • Maps,  VOC pay ledgers

    Women sailors in the ranks of the Dutch East India Company

    Last week, Jelle tweeted about the women who dressed up as men to land a job with the VOC and were fired when subsequently their ‘real’ gender became known. Several people have asked for more information, in particular about the origins of the women involved. Below is a spreadsheet that lists their (for obvious reasons fake) names, and their place of origin – all other information available about the individuals are also listed. As you can see in the ‘remarks’ column, there are some really interesting cases: a woman going by the name of ‘Hendrik Huijsloop’ married a fellow sailor on board the Petronella Alida, and the ‘Joannes Burghart’ case…

  • General,  Sailors on 19th and 20th-c Dutch merchant marine

    Grant awarded for new research into maritime careers

    Samenwerkende Maritieme Fondsen (SMF), a body of six historical maritime foundations, have kindly awarded us a grant to do new research into the life and careers of Dutch sailors. We will use this money to broaden our focus to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, allowing us to tell new stories about sailors (on this blog, but also in a book on sailors of the Dutch merchant marine), make some more cool maps, and draw lines through history. Watch this blog and Jelle’s Twitter feed for updates on the project (2019-2023).

  • Methodology,  Visualizations

    Visualizing networks and careers

    We mostly post map visualizations of our historical data on sailors, but we’re working on other visualizations to gain insight into our data as well. Markov models We’ve teamed up with DHLab and Marijn Koolen (@marijnkoolen) of the KNAW-Humanities Cluster to do a thorough analysis of sailor’s careers. As a first step, Marijn produced Markov model visualization of all steps in the career data we reconstructed from the digitized VOC pay ledgers. These visualizations give very good insight into the data. The one pictured below, for example, shows the various ranks from which crew members were promoted to ‘skipper or master’ and the most frequent career steps after having served…

  • Maps,  Methodology,  Prize Papers,  VOC pay ledgers

    Daniel Engel: a maritime career reconstructed

    Daniel Engel was a young man from ‘Dantsig’ (modern-day Gdańsk in Poland) who travelled to the Dutch Republic in the mid-18th century to apply for a job with the Dutch East India Company (VOC). We’ve written about him before (in this blog post, where we introduced the Company’s pay ledgers, one of our main data sources) and now come back to him once more. Not that Engel is so special–on the contrary, there were thousands of men like him in the ranks of the VOC–but because his story is a good case in point for illustrating our work on reconstructing maritime careers. 1766: first journey to the East Indies A…

  • Presentations

    Presentation at the 2018 World Economic History Congress

    Today we presented the paper ‘Maritime careers in the Dutch Republic: some preliminary findings’ at the 2018 World Economic History Congress (WEHC) in Boston MA. It was great to show our findings to an international audience at the session ‘Factor Costs in the Expansion of Pre-Modern Ocean Shipping: Labor, Capital, and Knowledge Transfer, 1300-1700’, organized by Maryanne Kowaleski (Fordham University). Good career opportunities for migrant sailors Based on quantitative analysis of our Dutch East India Company’s sailors’ careers database, we argued that the tightening native labor supply in the 18th-century Dutch Republic necessitated an influx of skilled migrant workers, and that these migrant workers were given equal opportunities compared to…

  • Conferences,  Methodology,  Papers

    How do we reconstruct sailors’ careers?

    We published a paper on our methodology of reconstructing sailors’ careers in the HUMIGEC project. It’s called ‘Small Lives, Big Meanings. Expanding the Scope of Biographical Data through Entity Linkage and Disambiguation’ and was co-authored by Lodewijk Petram, Jelle van Lottum, Rutger van Koert, and Sebastiaan Derks. The paper was originally presented at the 2017 edition of the Biographical Data in a Digital World conference, held in Linz, Austria. The maritime dataset and career reconstruction methodology serve as a use case to introduce the Huygens ING digital biographical data policy.