During my DPhil research into child labour during the industrial revolution I became interested in young boys who were placed as apprentices at sea, rather than in the mines and mills of industrializing Britain. Poor Law authorities and charities engaged in this practice throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and my research aims to shine the spotlight on this untold aspect of child labour and the sea.
As the Caird Senior Research Fellow at the National Maritime Museum, I researched one aspect of this, the boys of the charity the Marine Society who were placed onto merchant ships as apprentices. The Society’s role in the labour recruitment for the Royal Navy is well known, but its parallel supply of merchant ships has been neglected.
My research examines themes such as apprentice premiums and wages, trade routes for merchant ships, the supply of and demand for boys aboard ships, the ages boys were sent to sea, ports participating, apprenticeship outcomes, destinations and social mobility. See Publications page for my journal article in the Journal of Maritime Research published in 2020, and I am currently writing a book based on this research, working title The Forgotten Boys of the Sea.
University of Oxford, DPhil Economic & Social History, 2010-2015, Thesis: ‘Shipped out? Pauper apprentices of port towns during the industrial revolution, 1750-1870’. Supervised by Professor Jane Humphries: https://www.asc.ox.ac.uk/person/29.
The thesis challenged popular generalisations about the trades, occupations and locations to which pauper apprentices were consigned, shining the spotlight away from the familiar narrative of factory children, onto the fate of their destitute peers in port towns. The most significant finding of the thesis is the survival and endurance of pauper apprenticeship as an institution involving both Poor Law and charity children. Poor children were still being apprenticed late into the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Pauper apprenticeship is shown to have been a robust, resilient and resurgent institution. The evidence from port towns offers significant revision to the existing historiography of pauper apprenticeship.
National Museums Liverpool – 2011 – I developed an exhibit about child labour in Liverpool during Victorian times. The Museum of Liverpool opened in July 2011, and the exhibit is part of The People’s Republic gallery. As a result of this voluntary project, NML contracted me to produce schools learning resources on the subject of child labour, used both on site, and by teachers in the classroom.
University of Oxford, MSc English Local History, 2007-2009, Thesis: ‘The fate of the child worker in Liverpool during the industrial revolution, 1770-1870’.
University of Cambridge, BA History, 1994-1997 – Dissertation: ‘Young working-class attitudes towards leisure on Merseyside during the Sixties’.