June "People of Small Boats" (Dr David Gange)


Formed around a kayak journey from Shetland to Cornwall, my last book, The Frayed Atlantic Edge, tried to interpret Irish and British pasts from the perspective of Atlantic coasts. Rather than seeing coasts as disconnected edges, it saw this island group as the edge of an interconnected Atlantic world. My new project, Afloat: Small Boats at Sea in the North Atlantic World means I should now be in Newfoundland, researching through travel in traditional craft. This talk discusses the framework which underlies both projects, and which I’ll be trying to develop while marooned inland.

The framework begins from the view that market-oriented, urban, growth-based society can’t provide routes out of our current crises, and that lifeways which that society attempted to stamp out are crucial to thinking differently. History, in this model, isn’t about rationally reconstructing long-dead pasts but about imaginative exploration of unrealised past potentials: how do subsistence societies that relied on small boats look if not judged by the standards of the metropolitan capitalism that disrupted them? Atlantic coastlines, since the eighteenth century, have been united by their unique and complex relationship to globalising markets: to see from the edge of land and ocean is therefore to see from the edge of a worldview that survives by claiming to be universal and inevitable.

Dr David Gange, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Birmingham

Broadhaven, David Gange