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Publication launch: Maritime Kent Through the Ages

Maritime Kent cover


The eagerly awaited volume dedicated to the history of Kent’s coastline will be launched on September 30th and Kent Archaeological Society Members receive a huge 35% discount to reflect the support given by the KAS to its creation.


KAS Communications Manager Fred Birkbeck talked to Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, one of the book’s editors, to explain why the book is so important, how it came about and how instrumental the support from the Kent Archaeological Society was in producing it.


FB:        Why was it so important that the KAS supported a study of the coastline of Kent?


SS:        The Kentish coastline, one of the longest in the country, forms three sides of a very diverse peninsula, close to both the European mainland and London, but there has never been a composite study of its maritime history. This ambitious project brings together leading experts in the field of maritime geomorphology, archaeology, history and literature focusing on the many facets of the long maritime history of the county. It will appeal to a readership beyond academia and also provide a useful companion to recent studies of other maritime counties.


FB:        How long did the project take from conception to publication?


SS:        The initial idea came from Stuart Bligh, then at the Royal Museums Greenwich, in early 2017 having seen a volume on Devon’s maritime history. After some preliminary meetings the project leaders became Stuart, Elizabeth Edwards and Sheila Sweetinburgh. To test whether there was an appetite for such a volume, a joint conference between KAS and the Centre for Kent History and Heritage at CCCU was held at Canterbury in June 2018. The enthusiasm of the audience showed there was indeed an appetite for such a volume and the search for contributors began. Boydell was approached as a good academic publisher and an agreement was reached. The book is due out on 30 September 2021.



FB:        How does this study differ from those of other counties?


SS:        The initial idea was to follow the format of other maritime county studies using thematic surveys over time. However, it was decided to improve on this idea by having a fourth section on more detailed case studies that bring in new research and allowed the volume to cross far more disciplinary boundaries. Thus, there are contributors from literature, as well as history and archaeology. The chapter by David Killingray and Ben Marsh in the ‘Coastal Communities’ section offers a new history on the roles of Black people in the county’s maritime history from early modern times. Moreover, to provide a geographical context for the county’s maritime history, the chapter by Chris Young takes readers from the last Ice Age to the present day to explore the twin actions of erosion and deposition that have shaped Kent’s coastline.


FB:        It sounds like a truly collaborative venture, who were the contributors?


SS:        The volume has over twenty contributors, including internationally renowned experts in the field of medieval maritime studies, such as Professor Maryanne Kowaleski, and in modern naval history, Professor Andrew Lambert. Many contributors will be known to KAS members such as Elizabeth Blanning, Keith Parfitt, Elizabeth Edwards and Andrew Richardson, and we have other well-known historians of Kent, including Gillian Draper, Chris Ware and Sandra Dunster. Among the literary experts, Claire Bartram is an expert on early modern Kentish book culture and Carolyn Oulton is an expert on Victorian literature, especially Dickens.


FB:        Will we get an opportunity to hear more from the contributors?


SW:      Yes, there is a CCCU Maritime Kent Conference planned for November 6th. 2021 Booking will be available once we’ve finalised the programme and there will be a link on the KAS website


FB:        And finally, how did the KAS and its members contribute to the books publication?


SS:        Apart from co-hosting the conference to gauge the appetite for the publication, in total the KAS provided £4000 towards Maritime Kent through the Ages. This came under the Publication Committee’s proactive research and publication support fund from Council to produce thematic volumes about the county’s history. The budget for the all the KAS operations, including the Publications Committee, comes from membership fees, bequests and donations. This is why the membership is so important in enabling the KAS to continue its work promoting the history and archaeology of our great county.


FB:        Thank you Sheila and good luck with the book. I have already pre-ordered my copy.



Email the Membership Secretary Rachael Hills quoting your membership number to receive your discount code . Copies can be ordered through the publisher’s website where you will be asked to enter your promotional code just before you confirm your order.