Vikings and victories: sea stories from ‘The seafarer’ to Skyfall and the future of British maritime culture
Journal for Maritime Research
National Maritime Museum/Taylor and Francis
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal for Maritime Research, May 2015, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/
Reason for embargo
In 2011 Nick Harvey, Communication and Campaigns manager for Seafarers UK, wrote an article for the Maritime Foundation deploring what he called ‘alarming ignorance of our island nation’s dependence on the sea’: ‘Our nationwide survey revealed that general maritime knowledge amongst the public at large is severely lacking, and ‘sea blindness’ is a huge problem’, he stated. Knowledge of Britain’s past and present seafarers appeared patchy and a character from American film was identified by some as Britain’s greatest seaman. But why might Britain have become ‘sea-blind’, as the survey results suggest? Building on Harvey’s claim that the fictional Jack Sparrow has replaced Alfred the Great and Nelson as a national maritime icon, this article seeks to demonstrate the close connection between literary culture, the politics of identity and the fortunes of the British seafaring tradition, especially its navy. The representation of seafarers in a literary trend is seen to be an accurate indicator of the nation’s attitude to maritime activities at any given time. Bringing together interdisciplinary perspectives, the article suggests that the impact of literary and filmic depictions is more important than has been recognised: opinion formers are likely to be influenced by such depictions rather than or alongside overt arguments about hardware or policy.
Vol. 17 (1), pp. 1-15