Proposal preview

Factor Costs in the Unprecedented Expansion of Pre-Modern Ocean Shipping: Labor, Capital, and Knowledge Transfer, 1300-1700

These sessions explore methods of determining factor costs in ocean shipping in the medieval and early modern era when shipping was the most crucial industry in creating the first wave of globalization. The papers aim to address three challenges in particular. One is to identify, categorize, and prioritize exactly which resources were involved in the pre-modern shipping industry, when few ships were above 500 tons, a significant proportion of mariners were not full-time, and long-haul voyages were far less frequent than short coastal hops. What changes occurred from the fourteenth to seventeenth century and were there significant regional differences that should be taken into account? Two is to surmount the paucity of appropriate data in this period by finding relevant sources, devising proxy measures, and establishing ways of using digital methods to exploit what is available, both to assess individual factors of production (such as maritime manpower and investment in shipbuilding) and to calculate the larger productivity of ocean shipping over time. To what extent did developments in this period lay the groundwork for or witness the well-known rise in productivity in ocean shipping from the fifteenth century onwards? The third challenge is to assess the role of social, technological, and political factors—including the organization of seamen, investment strategies in shipbuilding, the transmission of technological improvements in the design and construction of ships, and the impact of government policies—on the efficiency of shipping.
Session I:
Richard W. Unger, University of British Columbia. Factor mobilization in shipbuilding from the high middle ages to 1700
David Igual Luis, Univ of Castilla-La Mancha. Ships in medieval Valencia: between local construction and the acquisition of foreign resources
Jan Bill, University of Oslo. Cost factors as drivers in Scandinavian shipbuilding 1200-1600 – indications in the archaeological evidence
Session II:
Angela Schottenhammer, University of Salzburg. Ocean shipping at the crossroads of Chinese, Japanese and European encounters, 15th to 17th centuries
Amélia Polónia, University of Porto. Shipping and empire building: the naval logistics of Portuguese overseas expansion (15th- 16th centuries)
Catia Antunes, Leiden University. European shipbuilding outside of Europe: problems, questions and curious hypotheses
Session III:
Amélia Aguiar Andrade, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. The impact of royal strategies on the efficiency of shipping. Portugal in the European context(14th-15th)
Wendy Childs, University of Leeds. The usage and efficiency of large trading ships in English ports c. 1300-c. 1500
Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz, University of Amsterdam. Shippers, experience, and access to information in northern Europe, c. 1450-1600
Filipa Ribeiro da Silva, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, and Catia Antunes, Leiden University. Freight costs as a proxy for assessing investment in the Atlantic shipping: a case-study based on the Amsterdam notarial acts, 1580s-1700s
Session IV:
Maryanne Kowaleski, Fordham University. Mariners and labor costs in medieval England
Maria Fusaro, University of Exeter. Sailing into modernity? Seamen wage litigation in the early modern Mediterranean
Jelle van Lottum, Huygens ING, Amsterdam. Labor, skills and the international maritime labor market in late seventeenth-century Europe


  • Maryanne Kowaleski, Fordham University,, USA
  • Richard W. Unger, Univ. of British Columbia,, Canada

Session members

  • Richard W. Unger, University of British Columbia,
  • Jan Bill, University of Oslo,
  • David Igual Luis, Univ. of Castilla-La Mancha,
  • Amélia Polónia, University of Porto,
  • Cátia Antunes, Leiden University,
  • Amélia Aguiar Andrade, Universidade Nova de Lisboa,
  • Filipa Reibero da Silva, International Institute of Social HIstory, Amsterdam,
  • Maryanne Kowaleski, Fordham University,
  • Jelle van Lotum, ING, Amsterdam,

Proposed discussant(s)

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