Sailing the British Empire : The Voyages of The Clarence, 1858-73


(Splash page image: "'Clipper ship Clarence 1250 Tons', hand-coloured lithograph (n.d.); T.G. Dutton, artist; National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

Ms. Coll 832 at the University of Pennsylvania comprises a ship's log kept by Joseph Watson, master of the Clarence, in 1864-65, and a few other items from Watson's long career at sea (including a painting of another command, the Prince of Wales). The log, which chronicles a voyage from England to India, then Guiana and home, provides a fascinating glimpse of travel - and peril - in the heyday of Britain's global empire. In the telling, it offers vantages on military history, labor and economic history, the history of health and medicine, and environmental history.

Mapping the Clarence

Follow the ship on its travels, via a torque map made using CartoDB (thanks to Hannah Feldman for making the original spreadsheet):

The log of the Clarence illuminates multiple aspects of the working of the Victorian British empire: on the first leg of the voyage, European soldiers are deployed to India to garrison the "jewel in the Crown"; on the second leg, Indian laborers are transported to British Guiana to produce sugar for the metropolitan economy (and dietary). En route master Joseph Watson witnesses two natural disasters: a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal and an epidemic of fever aboard the ship (though, as we shall see, contemporaries debated whether this was in fact a 'natural' occurrence). These and other story lines will be explored in this book.

Story Map: An Overview of the Voyage

Here is a preview of the destinations, passengers and significant events in the 1864-65 journey of the Clarence. These - and other voyages of the ship - will be explored in greater detail within the site.

This project unfolds in three ways:
First, we seek to contextualize and explicate the voyage of the Clarence in 1864-65, using the ship's log kept by Joseph Watson as our starting point.
Second, we seek to trace aspects of the Clarence's subsequent career, in carrying migrants to Australia.
Lastly, the individual projects collected here trace other aspects of maritime history in the second half of the nineteenth century, raising issues that may not have directly affected the Clarence but which are of interest for the larger history of merchant shipping and "the coolie trade".

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