Joanna Mathers-Thomas



College: College of Humanities
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Maritime Historical Studies

I am a third year PhD student in the History Department at the University of Exeter. I have been awarded a +3 studentship by the Economic and Social Research Council to carry out research on men and women who went to sea as crew on board British vessels in the second half of the 19th century.

My research interest is in exploring the people who made up the maritime labour force in an increasingly fast paced and internationally connected 19th-century world. I am interested in the social and economic backgrounds of seafarers, their experiences on board ship and at sea, their career paths, the impact of the change from sail to steam, and the social and economic changes occurring in the maritime communities which provided the base on shore for seafarers. I am also researching the role of women in maritime communities and possible careers for women at sea in the 19th century.

I received a First Class BA(Hons) in History and Social Anthropology from the University of Basel, Switzerland in 2008, before completing my MA in Maritime History at the University of Exeter in 2009. In 2010 I joined the ss Great Britain Trust in Bristol as Trainee Curator with my training funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. I also studied part time to receive an MA in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester in 2012. I was made Maritime Curator at the ss Great Britain Trust in 2012 and since then have been responsible for collections care and management, including the conservation of the 19th-century steamship 'ss Great Britain', and applying best practice to an accredited and designated collection with recognised national and international importance. In 2015 I returned to the University of Exeter to study for my PhD, whilst continuing to work in the museum sector on a part-time basis.