Maritime Clothing of 1680-1740 Project Update: September 2018

The Front of the National Archives in Kew, London, UK

While it has been a long time since my last update, I have finally reached another milestone in my efforts to convert my thesis into a published book.  Roughly a year and a half after my research trip to London, I have reached the end of the phase of my project which involved adding in all my new data and resources into my original work.  This allows for the project to finally progress into the general editing phase, with the intention of concentrating on examining grammar, formatting, and other issues that are not necessarily related to the subject matter of the text itself.  After editing both the main volume and the second volume, which consists of primary sources transcripts, submission to publishers should follow soon afterwards.

The amount of work and difficulties to reach this point in the process is noteworthy.  After conducting research to obtain more sources to use in the thesis, there were many months of transcribing the digital photos of manuscript documents obtained from the various archives in London.  The ships books that recorded deductions for the crews of the Duke and Dutchess, the two ships used in Woodes Rogers privateering expedition to the Pacific between 1708 and 1711, required the most work.  After a period of analyzing all the new information, I finally started editing new content into the body of the thesis.  I also added in the many suggestions, ideas, and discoveries that I frequently recorded into one large Word document I started not long after my thesis defense.  The mass amount of new content and data resulted in turning my first large chapter, which discussed what specific clothing items sailors wore, into a series of five smaller and more manageable chapters.  This in turn resulted in breaking the contents of the main volume into two parts (not two volumes, all this content is still one volume), with the first part being the previously mentioned five chapters of clothing dissection and the second part consisting of the four chapters which analyses what significant insights maritime clothing of this era provide.

After experiencing this process, I have significant sympathy for those historians who take their theses from their graduate degrees and convert them to publications. After examining numerous theses, which are now frequently available for digital download, I noticed that those works that eventually became published books often required many years to become publication (though there are a number which are published not long after their theses defenses).  One of the first and most obvious obstacles to bringing a book to publication is time.  As we get older, many of us have less time due to other projects we work on, employment, and our lives outside the pursuit of history take up more of our time.  Another issue is what some would call “burnout.” Consistently working on the same subject for extended periods of time can eventually wear people down.  In a way, I have studied maritime clothing in some form or manner for over ten years now.  My first research attempts at this subject roughly date back to the period of 2007-2008.  However, work with the subject for my thesis started in 2012 and I defended my thesis in May 2015.  I had a notable break from the subject after I defended the thesis, during which I only occasionally recorded the previously mentioned notes and ideas to add to my thesis.  During that break, I established my Colonies, Ships, and Pirates site where I researched and wrote several posts regarding history which I was interested in or had previously researched.  My work on maritime clothing resumed in late 2016 with the establishment of the fundraiser for the London research trip.  Because of the amount of time I used to work on my maritime clothing project, there were many times where mental “burnout” started to take effect.

To anyone engaging in a large academic-level works resembling my maritime book project, I would propose three pieces of advice. First, have another project or hobby to help keep your mind stronger and sharper.  Second, take significant breaks from your main project – sometimes said breaks helps with the thinking process once work is resumed.  Finally, investing in good computer technology can save you time.  I recently had to retire my old computer.  I updated my desktop tower and switched to a dual monitor display.  Ever since I upgraded my computer and reorganized my file system, my work speed has significantly increased because I now have more room to see multiple documents at the same time on my desktop display and have increased computer speed while having several documents and programs open at the same time.

I look forward to making more progress on this project and hope that the day I can submit my book to a publisher is not terribly far in the future.

Update of Success: The Anglo-American Maritime Clothing of 1680-1740 Project

The Front of the National Archives in Kew, London, UK

The crowdfunding project for my research expedition to London was a great success, with 46 people helping me raise 91.58% of the trip’s costs (although, there are at least 4 other people I would include in that number that made contributions that are harder to quantify in money, but were significant nonetheless).  From February 2-27, I flew to London and engaged in 18 days of work on photographing historical documents for my work on maritime clothing.  Most of this time, I explored the resources available at the National Archives.  I am now using what free time I have to process the images of the documents I took while on this trip.  Upon my return from the UK, I found that I had over 8,000 images, taking up a combined 50 GB on my hard drive.  While it took three weeks, I now have a reasonable grasp on the documents I have that concern my studies of maritime clothing.  I have, generalized notes on what kind of information they contain, which documents I should fully or partially transcribe, and other pieces of useful information that will assist me in my upcoming endeavors.

The next step for the work needed to expand and transform my thesis on Anglo-American maritime clothing in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries into a book for publication requires a number of transcriptions and collecting of statistics from my research. While I will be working on accomplishing this, at the same time I will be writing as well.  I plan writing the following:

  • The Post Trip Report: As I stated on my crowdfunding project page at Gofundme, people who donated $20 or more to the project will receive a report regarding what I achieved through my work at the archives in London.  I will be working on writing this first.  The report will detail more statistics on the documents I obtained, obstacles I encountered in my work, noteworthy discoveries I made, and other observations I have from conducting this research.
  • A Brief Guide on Archive Research in London in 2017: At some point, I will also be using my experiences from this trip to create new posts for this blog.  One post I will definitely write, after I complete the “Post Trip Report,” is a guide to help assist others who wish to conduct research at the archives I visited in London.  While I have found out that the archives do occasionally change the way they operate, I can at least offer a perspective as of 2017 that should be relevant for at least a few years.  Hopefully, this will encourage (or at least assist) others who wish to engage in historical research at what I often describe as the “front lines” of history studies.
  • Other Possible Blog Posts – Conducting Crowdfunding Campaigns and Primary Source Studies: Beyond the research guide mentioned above, I wish to write other posts for my blog that concern my greater experiences from this project and from the documents I found in my research. One possible post I could write would be about using Crowdfunding to raise money for historical projects. The other possibility are posts about either individual documents or types of documents I encountered at the archives in London.

While I’ve said it in other places several times, I cannot say thank you enough to the people who supported me throughout this project.  Based on what I discovered while digging through thousands of pages of centuries old documents, I am confident in saying that my work with maritime clothing will bring a whole new light to a subject in great need of illumination.  Also, I foresee my work helping bring about several more publications beyond this current one concerning maritime clothing. Finally, this trip was an amazing experience from a personal perspective.  Up until this trip, I had never been outside the continental United States.  Being able to see another country in another hemisphere was remarkable.  In addition to that, I was able to engross myself in the history I love to study in a way not possible in my home country.  Simply put, the trip was one of the best things I have ever done in my life, and I have so many people to thank who made it possible.