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Prosecuting Piracy in Peacetime: Crime, Empire, and the High Court of Admiralty, 1607-1618

About This PhD Project

Project Description

PhD Studentship in History in Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with The National Archives

By studying the criminal branch of the High Court of Admiralty, this project will explore the relationship between law, crime, and empire in the early modern maritime world. The project will focus on the early seventeenth century, when England, Scotland, and Ireland were first united under one monarch in James VI and I, while British commercial and colonial activities expanded, establishing both exchange and conflict with a greater range of communities and cultures around the world. While James also made peace with other imperial powers, his government struggled to control its seafaring subjects, many of whom did not abandon the plundering habits they had previously adopted in wartime.

The High Court of Admiralty offers a unique opportunity to examine this important moment in British imperial and maritime history. The project will combine history from above and from below, examining both the state policy implemented by the court and the experiences of the diverse range of people who appeared before it. Witnesses and litigants in the court included pirates, merchants, and sailors, their families, members of other maritime trades, and people from beyond Britain – such as seafarers from Islamic North Africa who were accused of piracy. The project will therefore integrate institutional, political, and social history to investigate this court as both an instrument of empire and a site for imperial confrontations (whether between Britain and its own subjects or involving other communities).

Within the scope of the project’s stated objectives, the student will be encouraged to develop the research agenda and questions to follow their own interests, and (under the guidance of the supervisors) will design and implement the research programme. The student will also receive extensive training in both archival practice and historical scholarship, as well as being introduced to newly developed techniques from digital humanities.


• Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification, or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting. Suitable disciplines are flexible, but might include Archaeology, Archives, History, Literature, and Law.
• Due to restrictions on the funding this studentship is open to UK/EU students.

Funding Details:

• Starts 1 October 2020.
• 3.75 year award, on a full-time basis or part-time equivalent
• Tuition fees paid up to the value of the full-time home/EU UKRI rate for PhD degrees.
• £15,285pa stipend, plus a CDP maintenance payment of £600pa and a partial London weighting of £1,000pa. The student is also eligible for travel and related expenses worth up to £1,000pa.

How to apply and further enquiries:

For full details and application guidance, see If you have questions or would like to discuss your application, you are encouraged to contact Dr Blakemore () and Dr Gosling () in advance.

Application Deadline: 5pm, 21 June 2020

Please note that, where a candidate is successful in being awarded funding, this will be confirmed via a formal studentship award letter; this will be provided separately from any Offer of Admission and will be subject to standard checks for eligibility and other criteria.

Related Subjects

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