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Seafaring Lives in Transition. Mediterranean Maritime Labour and Shipping during Globalization, 1850s-1920s.

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SeaLiT (Seafaring Lives in Transition. Mediterranean Maritime Labour and Shipping during Globalization, 1850s-1920s.)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

Seafaring Lives in Transition, Mediterranean Maritime Labour and Shipping, 1850s-1920s (SeaLiT), explores the transition from sail to steam navigation and its effects on seafaring populations in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea between the 1850s and the 1920s. In the core of the project lie the effects of technological innovation on seafaring people and maritime communities, whose lives were drastically altered by the advent of steam. The project addresses the changes through the actors, seafarers, shipowners and their families, focusing on the adjustment of seafaring lives to a novel socio-economic reality. It investigates the maritime labour market, the evolving relations among shipowner, captain, crew and their local societies, life on board and ashore, as well as the development of new business strategies, trade routes and navigation patterns.

SeaLiT offers a comparative perspective, investigating both collectivities and individuals, on board the ships and on shore in a number of big and small ports across seven maritime regions: it spans from Barcelona and the Spanish Levant coasts, to Marseille and the Provencal ports, to Genoa and the Ligurian littoral communities. Then proceeds east to Trieste and the Dalmatian coasts and further south the Ionian and Aegean islands and coastal mainland up to Odessa, the informal maritime capital port of the Black Sea.

The ultimate goal of this comparative approach is to trace and understand the differences and similarities in the process of transition and integration to the global economy of different Mediterranean and Black Sea areas. Finally investigate how Seafaring Lives affected and reacted to the economic development and social transformation of this major phenomenon of transition from sail to steam on these particular areas.

In the project, along with the IMS/FORTH, participate as partners the University of Barcelona, the University of Genoa and the Centre for Cultural Informatics/ICS/FORTH, in Heraklion, Crete. The research team is composed by seven senior researchers, four post doc researchers, and six PhD students, assisted by the group of experts on cultural informatics from CCI/FORTH. The progress of the project is assisted by an Advisory Committee of three senior academics.
The project since 1.2.2017 has advanced in different stages: research in libraries and archives of Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Ukraine and Russia, from where an enormous amount of unpublished material has been collected. At the same time, the insertion of data is at an advanced stage. A new partner, CCI/ICS/FORTH ( is responsible for the development of the database templates, mappings, semantic networks and the creation of the website ( Already two SeaLiT workshops were successfully organised, a kick off one in Rethymno in October 2017 and another in Barcelona in June 2018.
The dissemination of the project is also advanced through special sessions and papers in international conferences in Ioannina, Heraklion, Paris, Costanza and Boston; an invited Lecture in the Hellenic Studies Program of Yale Macmillan Centre (; an interview to the New York newspaper National Herald ( and another interview to the Odessa local history broadcasting (

Further research and dissemination activities carried out by the PI in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and participation with paper in the Business History Conference of the BHC 2019 Annual Meeting, March 14-16 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Other members of the project, PhD Students and Post Docs carried out research missions in Athens, Istanbul, Trieste, Odessa and St. Petersburgh.

In this phase of the project from 2018 onward, also many internal seminars took place between the SeaLiT members in Rethymno in order to assess the state of progress and future goals as well as educative ones with topics such as History of Maritime Technology in the Modern and Contemporary Period, History of Labor and History of Shipping Business, trade and mechanisms.
In this stage of the project, (Summer 2019) all members are in an advanced stage of insertion of data in the templates created by the CCI/ICS/FORTH and more importantly we are proceeding now to the second phase of the processing of the data with the first step of the instance matching of the entities in the data bases (persons, ships, enterprises, locations). The CCI also has created various maps and types of mapping of the data which are very useful for the identification and corrections of the data.
A collaboration with the CCI/ICS/FORTH has begun since summer 2017, which was not in the initial submission of the proposal as well as of the budget, instead there, there was stated the position of an IT technical assistant. This was dictated by the necessity to have the IT assistance for the creation of the databases and of the website of the project. However, this collaboration so far has proved far more valuable, since the CCI team is able to develop the semantic networks dimension and a series of mappings based on the data of the project, which is not only a novelty for a history project, but also a groundbreaking contribution in the issue of instant matching and of interrelated historical information. So far, the CCI managed to create a flexible and adjustable serie of templates for the insertion of data (named Fast Cat) and the project’s website (
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