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Cutty Sark 150th anniversary conference
Global trade, global lives: the merchant navy since the nineteenth century

6 - 8 February 2020
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

On 22 November 2019, it will be 150 years since Cutty Sark was launched in Dumbarton. Over her long life, the ship has formed part of Britain’s vast merchant fleet, and later provided the setting for training new generations of mariners. Cutty Sark now stands as a memorial to the Merchant Navy and a national museum site, shaping how we understand maritime trade and the human experience of being at sea.

Built for the China tea trade, Cutty Sark would go onto trade in Australian wool before becoming a Portuguese general cargo carrier. More than 600 men from over 30 different nations served on the ship which would also visit nearly every major port in the world. Today, as the sole surviving extreme clipper ship on the globe, she is a representative of international trade, maritime communities, the merchant marine in the age of sail as well as the subject of innumerable cultural interpretations and much more beyond.  

This conference will take the opportunity offered by Cutty Sark’s 150th anniversary to provide a forum for interdisciplinary research and new perspectives on the merchant marine from the nineteenth century to the present day.

We welcome proposals on themes including, but not limited to:

  • Life at sea in the merchant marine
  • The experiences and social lives of maritime communities ashore
  • The imperial and global networks and movement of people, commodities, and ships involved in the merchant service
  • Memory and memorialisation of the merchant marine
  • Cultural representations of the merchant marine
  • Issues facing merchant shipping now and in the future

Please submit proposals of 200 words for individual papers, along with a short CV to

We welcome submissions from academics, local historians, museum professionals and community group projects.

Royal Museums Greenwich 
National Maritime Museum | Cutty Sark  
Royal Observatory  | The Queen's House
+44 (0)208 858 4422

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