Our free talks cover a range of fascinating subjects, from maritime art and naval strategy to Black History and museum exhibitions. 

Everyone is welcome at our Maritime History and Culture Seminars and there is no need to book. 

Seminars typically include a 45-minute talk followed by a short Q&A session. They provide an opportunity to hear from experts, find out about new research and meet people working in exciting fields.

Please note

Currently all seminars are taking place online via Zoom webinars. Please check the event listings for links and information on how to join.

Upcoming Maritime History and Culture Seminars

What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?: The Role of Temperance Periodicals in Shaping the Identity of British Sailors in the Nineteenth Century

Tuesday 16 April 2024 | 5.15pm - 6.30pm


The well-known nineteenth-century sea shanty ‘What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?’ reveals the common perception of seamen in British popular culture during this time. The Jolly Jack Tar had long been caricatured as a drinker, often portrayed as being ‘three sheets to the wind’ (i.e. drunk). A campaign by Christian temperance activists to sober up the Royal Navy began in earnest in the 1870s but decades earlier temperance periodicals had already begun to re-construct the sailor image.

Committing to a temperance lifestyle in the Royal Navy was a challenging undertaking not least because sailors were entitled to a daily allowance of rum and beer. Yet the need for a sober naval force was seen as increasingly important as Britain sought to maintain and expand its colonial interests.

Join Deborah Canavan for a free online talk on the changing profile of the sailor during the nineteenth century, illustrating how early temperance magazines (around 1820 to 1860) played a critical role in transforming the British sailor’s identity from the boozy bluejacket to a respected representative of heroic manhood.

What role did the temperance movement play in professionalising the Royal Navy in the nineteenth century? Why was the Royal Navy initially ambivalent towards the aims of temperance? Why were temperance magazines so important to the temperance movement? What made the ‘Band of Hope Review’ and the ‘British Workman’ temperance magazines so popular amongst men who worked at sea?

Learn more and join online

Previous seminars in this series also include:

  • Shakespeare and the sea (Anjna Chouhan, 2020-21)
  • An early Dutch account of Aboriginal Australia (Liam Benison, 2020-21)
  • Archival disputes between Britain, India and Pakistan (Rakesh Ankit, 2020-21)
  • Diversity aboard the Mary Rose (Alex Hildred, 2019-20)
  • Boredom and the British Empire (Jeffrey Auerbach, 2019-20)
  • Mental health at sea (Catherine Beck, 2018-19)
  • Tea drinking in British culture (Markman Ellis, 2018-19)
  • Finnish seamen and domesticity (Laika Nevalainen, 2017-18)
  • Benjamin Lay and abolition (Marcus Rediker, 2017-18)
  • Seafaring in the Mediterranean and Atlantic from prehistory to AD 1500 (Barry Cunliffe, 2017-18)

Main image: Cullercoats, Northumberland (G2417, © National Maritime Museum)