Back in March, I flagged the call for papers for the first conference to be organised under the direct auspices of the Society for Nautical Research, which has traditionally only provided financial support for conferences organised by others. Organised jointly with the Greenwich Maritime Centre, this will be held at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, on Saturday 9 September, its title being ‘The State of Maritime Historical Research’. This will be a wide-ranging event looking at the health of many different aspects of the discipline, and will be a glorious opportunity for practitioners to get together and discuss the issues of immediate concern in the field. The programme is now essentially finalised, and features a combination of distinguished scholars and younger academics. The four sessions will look at:

Additionally, there will be three keynote sessions, and we’re lucky to have been able to recruit what I described on Twitter as a real ‘dream team’ of speakers. I’ve been fortunate enough to know them all very well for thirty years or more, and can vouch for their ‘star quality’! Professor Eric Grove will probably need no introduction, thanks to his many TV appearances. If this was, say, Glastonbury, he’d be one of those acts of whom it’s said they alone are worth the price of admission – Eric is always both hugely insightful and hugely entertaining, and his presence alone ensures that the conference’s Q and A sessions will be memorable. Professor Richard Harding has an equally impressive CV, and has published extensively on the era of sailing navies, where his grasp of global contexts is second to none; his knowledge of the current state of the UK university sector will also provide the conference with important perspectives. Finally, Professor John Hattendorf, of the US Naval War College, Rhode Island, is, quite simply, one of the most eminent maritime historians of this or any other age. As well as publishing extensively, he has edited many collaborative volumes, and was the instigator of the long-running series of ‘state of naval history’ conferences at Annapolis – one of the inspirations for this conference at Greenwich. It’s entirely fitting that, during the event, John will be presented with the Society for Nautical Research’s first ever Anderson award for lifetime achievement. Commemorating Dr R C Anderson, one of the great figures in the society’s history, this supplements the long-running annual Anderson awards for the best book on maritime history published in a given year. There could be no better first recipient, and no better occasion to present the award!

If you’re interested in coming to the conference, tickets can be bought here. £25 is exceptionally reasonable for this sort of event in this day and age, and what’s not to like about the prospect of a September Saturday in a glorious World Heritage site?

And what of me, you may ask? (Or not. But I’ll tell you anyway.) Well, I’m not giving a talk myself – unless someone drops out, in which case I’ll be the proverbial ‘last minute sub’ – but I’ll be chairing sessions in my new capacity as a vice-president of the SNR, and I expect to have to show those unfamiliar with Greenwich the way to the pub following the conference. Yes, it’s a tough job, but somebody will have to do it.


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