The World of the Medieval Shipmaster

April 2009
7 black and white illustrations
270 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843834557
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

The World of the Medieval Shipmaster

Law, Business and the Sea, c.1350-c.1450

Robin Ward

A comprehensive picture of the life and responsibilities of an English medieval shipmaster.
Despite a background of war, piracy, depopulation, bullion shortages, adverse political decisions, legal uncertainties and deteriorating weather conditions, between the mid-fourteenth and the mid-fifteenth centuries the English merchant shipping industry thrived. New markets were developed, voyages became longer, ships and cargoes increased in size and value, and an interest in ship ownership as an investment spread throughout the community.
Using a rich range of examples drawn from court and parliamentary records, contemporary literature and the codifications of maritime law, this book illuminates the evolving management and commercial practices which developed to regulate the relationships between shipowners, shipmasters, crews and shipping merchants. It also brings to life ship performance, navigation, seamanship, and the frequently harsh conditions on board.

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Keywords: Medieval History

Table of Contents

The shipmaster and the law
The shipmaster and the rise and fall of the admirals' courts
The shipmaster as owner, partner and employee
The shipmaster's on-shore responsibilities
The shipmaster's off-shore responsibilities
The shipmaster at sea - navigation and meteorology
The shipmaster at sea - seamanship
Appendix 1 Transcription and translation of the MS Liber Horn copy of the Lex d'Oleron
Appendix 2 Transcription and translation of the Inquest of Queenborough
Appendix 3 A partial transcription and translation of Les Bons Usages et Les Bonnes Costumes et Les Bons Jugemenz de la Commune d'Oleron
Appendix 4 Transcription and translation of a 1323 charter party
Appendix 5 Transcription and translation of the chapter 'de regimen transfretantium' from Gilbertus Anglicus' Compendium Medicine


An extremely welcome review. [...] Well written and referenced, it is a noteworthy contribution. SPECULUM

An invaluable book which will be required reading for all those interested in medieval maritime history and the development of business practice in the medieval world. JOURNAL FOR MARITIME RESEARCH

[B]eschreibt lebensnah die rechtlichen, wirtschaftlichen, organisatorischen und nautischen Anforderungen, die der Kapitaen in der blühenden englischen Handelsschiffahrt zu erfüllen hatte. DEUTSCHES ARCHIV FÜR DIE ERFORSCHUNG DES MITTELALTERS

Will be required reading for all those interested in medieval ships and also the development of business practice in the medieval world. NAUTICAL ARCHAEOLOGY

[A] masterly study. THE RICARDIAN

Ward's expertly researched book provides a full reconstruction of the life of a medieval shipmaster. [...] Very few maritime historians have accepted the challenge of approaching medieval seafaring from a social historian's perspective. Robin Ward has, and has done it admirably. And for that reason, The World of the Medieval Shipmaster should become a classic in its field. NAUTICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL

This entertaining product of detailed scholarship will fascinate readers of early history as it brings to life ship performance, navigation and seamanship. Maritime historians will appreciate Ward's meticulous research, comprehensive appendices, transcriptions, translations and dissections of medieval legal texts. NORTHERN MARINER

A handsome and resourceful study. [...] It delivers a series of rewarding insights that will provide new starting points for future studies. [...] Students coming into the field of medieval maritime history and Chaucerians wishing to refine their readings of the Shipman will benefit tremendously from this book. For all other medievalists [it] will become the best guide to an arcane discipline. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW