The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Ships, innovation and social change: Aspects of carvel shipbuilding in Northern Europe 1450-1850.

Adams, J. R. (2003) Ships, innovation and social change: Aspects of carvel shipbuilding in Northern Europe 1450-1850., Stockholm, University of Stockholm, 248pp. (Stockholm studies in archaeology 24 and Stockholm marine archaeology reports 3).

Record type: Book


Change is a central concern of archaeology, imprinted on and variously visible in the surviving material culture of the past - the archaeological record. As changes in material culture imply changes in the society that produced it, the technologies used in its production provide one of the primary means of analysing the nature of those changes and their trajectories. In other words an archaeological study of technology is, or should be, a study of change. Among the myriad forms that material culture may take, boats and ships were often the most sophisticated expressions of technology that societies achieved. The production, use and disposal of watercraft involved complex patterns of behaviour and communication, within and between communities. Hence the material culture of water transport offers one of the best means of interrogating changes within past societies, especially considering the ‘fine-grained’ nature of the remains preserved in marine, riverine and lacustrine environments. Until recently it is debatable how far research has tried to capitalise on this advantage. We have tended to focus on ships as technological phenomena ‘per se’ rather than relating them to the contexts of their production. This has produced a database of increasing richness, heavily augmented in recent years by material discovered under water. But while the database constitutes an eloquent record of change having happened it does not explain it. In fact technologically orientated research, especially when entrapped in simplistic, linear, evolutionist frameworks, has generated a series of problems that have repeatedly defied solution. Might these technological puzzles be more easily solved when investigated within the social contexts in which they were conceived and created? This work focuses on a series of late medieval and postmedieval ships from north west Europe and the southern Baltic area. They are linked by their common ‘carvel’ construction and represent three major episodes of technological change (chapters 4, 5, & 6). Re-examination of these ships in the contexts both of their carvel building tradition and of the wider societies in which they were generated, reveals new causal factors and explanatory relationships. At the same time this approach to understanding ships provides new perspectives on the societies themselves, highlighting aspects that otherwise remain opaque. The relationship between social change and its manifestation in shipping not only reaffirms the role of ships in the most significant developments of the postmedieval world but suggests the archaeological boat record is one of the most potent but as yet, under-exploited ways of investigating prehistory.

Full text not available from this repository.

More information

Published date: 2003
Additional Information: Ph.D. Dissertation. Partial Contents: Ships & boats as archaeological source material. Reading Ships. Ships as Society. From Medieval to Modern-Ships of State. Hull Structures. Spars & Rigging. Fittings. Ordnance. Guns or Barricas? Shipwrights-status & power. Carvel Building in retrospect. Maritime Material Culture. References. Glossary. Appendices.
Keywords: Baltic, Carvel, Clinker, Europe, Innovation, Medieval, Postmedieval, Power, Scandinavia, Ship, Social change, Status, Symbol, Tradition, Technology


Local EPrints ID: 11970
ISBN: 9172656859
PURE UUID: 36b831b3-0816-44f6-95d0-7e9f045de0fd

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Nov 2004
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 17:04

Export record

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton:

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.