Hunting Whales, Maritime Knowledge and the Transformation of Dundee

Welcome to our new PhD student: Matt Ylitalo. Matt came to St Andrews in 2013 to do an MLitt in Reformation History. Over the year he developed interests in the question of what constitutes knowledge and facts, leading to a dissertation the linked travel, the transfer of knowledge, and the Royal Society in the seventeenth century.

From the dissertation emerged fascinating discussions around transnational and global history, the history of knowledge and knowledge transfers. And here we are with a new project:

Matt’s project assesses how whaling in Dundee contributed to the history of maritime science, and to the city’s ‘global’ status, during the long nineteenth century.

Sperm whale at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, 1913

Sperm whale at Leith Harbour, South Georgia, 1913

The project will investigate whalers’ networks and processes of knowledge accumulation and transference; the project will then examine the impact that this epistemic migration had on Dundee in comparison to other transatlantic whaling ports.

Many towns throughout coastal Scotland engaged in whaling in the nineteenth century. On a transatlantic scale, ports such a New Bedford, Massachusetts and Sandefjord, Norway far outstripped Dundee in the magnitude of their whaling operations. Yet Dundee distinctly stands apart from other Scottish and transatlantic whaling communities. Most whaling communities followed an ephemeral pattern of existence, which consisted of hunting whales intensively for several decades, falling into decline and then realigning to more locally- or regionally-oriented commercial orbits. Dundee, however, defied this model both in duration and commercial scope. (…) Read more here.


People on the Move I: Sending PhDs @tshts

Doing the Alps in the Alps 

Part of the joy of being a PhD student is to be on the move, isn’t it?  To see different places, to experience archives, to be stimulated by different institutional and intellectual cultures.

Jordan Girardin presenting at ENIUGH 2014 conference at ENS, Paris

Jordan Girardin presenting at ENIUGH 2014 conference at ENS, Paris

One of our PhD researchers, Jordan Giardin, who came from Sciences Po to St Andrews in 2012 for an MLitt in Modern History, stayed on for a research project on the Alps with a transnational twist: “The Alps from Natural Border to Transnational Space” investigates the Alps as a space – an espace vécu, to speak with Henri Lefebvre – through the lens of networks, travel, encounters around 1800.

In his second year, it was time to move and experience the Alps first hand and to dig into archives between Basel, Bern and Zurich. We are grateful that our GRAINES partners at the University of Basel and Professor Martin Lengwiler in particular for hosting and welcoming Jordan this semester.

Between Habsburg and St Andrews

One of the key ideas behind GRAINES (Graduate Interdisciplinary Network in European Studies) is that it allows us to put European and transnational history into practice with a flexible and informal way of exchanges of both staff and students between the partner institutions. Martin Schaller one of the current PhD students based at St Andrews will be spending part of his project time in Vienna. While focussing mainly on the perception of the Habsburg Empire from outsiders’ perspectives, the view from ‘within’ as well as working with specialists in the region will certainly be beneficial for the development of the project.

We are grateful that Markian Prokopovych and Philipp Ther have agreed to informally supervise Martin during his time in Vienna. In order to facilitate exchanges between the partner institutions and to support our students financially, ERASMUS agreements between St Andrews and Vienna, as well as between St Andrews and Basel will be set up soon.

PhD success: Dr Andrew Dodd

Our warmest congratulations to Andrew Dodd, now Dr Dodd. Andrew came from Canada to St Andrews in 2007 for an MLitt in modern history. He soon developed a strong interest in twentieth-century German history though always with a broader mindset and a general interest in European history, which also brought him to the Centre for Transnational History where he actively supported a number of our activities such as the GRAINES network in its early stages or the postgraduate forums. Andrew successfully defended his thesis end of July 2013 on West German Editorial Journalists. Between Division and Reunification, 1987-1991 under the supervision of Riccardo Bavaj.