Children in Transit: Steamship mobilities across colonial seas, c. 1869-1950

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Children’s transoceanic transits across the seas which connected the territories and outposts of the British Empire shaped the socialities of travelling, interacted with the state management of mobilities in particular ways, and produced distinctive textual accounts of the on-board experience. Working at the interface between global maritime history and the history of colonial childhoods, this project will explore how children experienced and negotiated on-board environments and the ways in which their journeys were propelled, managed, and discussed by institutional and state forces. Underpinned by a conviction that sea voyages were active historical spaces rather than merely conduits between port cities, the proposed research will shed new light upon children’s bodily and emotional experiences of colonial voyaging in the age of steamship travel, while also considering their interactions with global steamship companies and processes of mobility. Focusing mostly – but not exclusively – on routes between Britain and Asia after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and regional sailings which linked together multiple Asian outposts of the British empire, the project will foreground the positions of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore as key transit points and destinations for child passengers.
    The proposed research will add an important component to the limited number of existing studies of floating social spaces by applying age as a category of analysis which can enhance understanding of the socialities of maritime travelling. By foregrounding the experiences of child passengers, it will demonstrate how children negotiated, contributed to, and understood ship-board hierarchies, procedures, social worlds, and cultural productions. Beyond considering processes of change over time, this research will also consider how children understood the temporal and spatial dimensions of sea voyages in distinctive ways. The PI will compile extensive materials from physical and digital archival repositories and will disseminate the project findings in a monograph. The investigators will facilitate visualisation of the spatialities of childhood mobilities by collating details of childhood sea voyages into a GIS dataset and and a related interactive digital map.
    StatusNot started
    Effective start/end date1/01/2531/12/27


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