Navigating culture: navigational instruments as cultural artefacts, c. 1550-1650
Blakemore, Richard J.
Journal for Maritime Research
Taylor & Francis
This research note explores the possibility of approaching navigational instruments not as evidence of the progress of scientific knowledge, but of the experiences of early modern seafarers. These instruments formed an important part of the material culture of seafaring, existing as physical elements of the mental framework through which mariners understood both the natural and the human world around them. Some of these cultural contexts can be reconstructed through evidence such as navigational literature, ships’ journals, maritime court records, and seafarers’ wills. Instruments and navigation were associated explicitly with the wider activity of shipping, with all its economic and political potential, as well as with the new developments in early modern science, and the perception of the natural world as a site of divine providential intervention. While basic navigational skills contributed to a shared culture amongst seafarers, instruments were also status symbols, conferring authority, signifying competence at sea and representing not only expertise but the sorts of behaviour considered appropriate for a shipmaster.
Post-print.This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the Journal for Maritime Research, 2012 [copyright Taylor & Francis], available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/21533369.2012.672801
Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp. 31 - 44