Fish and Ships continues: new project about the international trade of Orkney and Shetland in the early modern period
Natascha Mehler, 27 March 2020
Over the past years, our research on the German trade with the North Atlantic islands has mainly focused on the exchange with Iceland. In the case of Shetland, however, much written and archaeological material exists which is of great potential to help uns understand the operation of international trade on the North Atlantic island. We therefore, we applied for a new grant in order to continue our work with Shetland. The project also addresses the question whether Orkney, which shares many characteristics with the other islands but hardly ever appears in the written sources, was also visited by German merchants in search of dried fish and if they did, to what extent and how this trade was organised. Finally, we will broaden our view to include other international (English, Dutch, Norwegian) traders in the area.
We are happy to announce that our team, together with other archaeologists and historians from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and the University of Lincoln have been awarded a grant of c. 900.000 Euros from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) to do this. Over the next three years, the members of the project “Looking in from the edge (LIFTE)” will look at a number of early modern documents, objects from archaeological excavations and also conduct fieldwork in Orkney and Shetland. This also means that we will continue blogging on Fish and Ships for more stories and short research reports about pre-modern trade in the North Atlantic. Stay tuned!
Here are the links to our announcements in English and in German, with further information.
Hans Christian Küchelmann, 20 March 2019
During excavations in 2011 in the former defense ditch of the city of Bremen huge amounts of animal bones have been found. The material has been analysed in the course of the Hanse Project since it contained a large amount of cod (Gadus morhua) bones. But there were also other interesting finds pointing to a trade connection with the North Atlantic. Of particular interest is a bone of a razor bill or lesser auk (Alca torda) with cut marks. This bird does not live on the North Sea coast and must have been brought to Bremen from North Atlantic regions e.g. from Shetland, Iceland, the Faroes or Northern Norway, probably as a by-product of the Bremen North Atlantic trade for stockfish.
Julia Schmidt, public relations officer of the Landesarchäologie Bremen, has written a blog about this find (in German) that can be accessed on the Facebook page of the Landesarchäologie.
Natascha Mehler, 19 October 2016
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the North Atlantic islands of Iceland, Shetland, and to some extent also Faroe, were closely tied to the cities of Bremen and Hamburg. Merchants from these hanseatic cities regularly travelled North to exchange goods such as grain / flour, beer, timber and tools for stockfish and sulphur. In the second half of the 16th century about 500 to 750 merchants, sailors, craftsmen, priests and others from Hamburg and Bremen spent their summers in Iceland. On the other hand, a considerable number of Icelanders used Hamburg and Bremen ships to travel to the continent, e.g. to be educated in jurisprudence or theology at the universities in Copenhagen, Rostock and Wittenberg. They brought back new knowledge that changed the insular societies.
The German presence on the islands and the stay of islanders in Northern Germany had a profound impact on the North Atlantic insular societies. Tracing this impact will be the main aim of an interdisciplinary research seminar that takes place from 26 to 28 October 2016 at the museum Schwedenspeicher in Stade near Hamburg. It is organized in cooperation with the archive Stade and the museum Schwedenspeicher Stade.
The main aim of this seminar is to trace and disentangle the forms of impact. The topics and questions we want to discuss during the seminar include:
- What role did the German connections play in the assertion of the reformation in Iceland, Shetland and Faroe? What was the position of the Danish and Scottish crown? How did religious life change on the island?
- What was the cultural effect of the reformation and how did the new scholarship change the insular societies? How did knowledge transfer happen?
- What role did hanseatic measurements (e.g. the Hamburg ell) and coinage (e.g. Reichsthaler) play on the islands and how were their values converted into the Icelandic, Faroese and Shetland value system? Did the different value systems effect the economic connections?
For more information on the seminar click here to download the flyer for the cultural-impact-research-seminar.
Posted in: Announcements
Natascha Mehler, 14 October 2015
On Wednesday, 4 November 2015, Dr. Guðbjörg Ásta Ólafsdóttir and Dr. Ragnar Edvardsson, University of Iceland, will speak about their new research project on the history of cod fishing in the North Atlantic. The lecture takes place at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven, starting 14:00, and is open to anyone interested. Here is a short summary about the content of the lecture.
Posted in: Announcements
Natascha Mehler, 5 October 2015
The first workshop of the project takes place at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven from 2-4 November 2015.
The “Travel-Workshop” is the first workshop of the interdisciplinary research project “Between the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea: Interdisciplinary Studies of the Hanse” funded by the Leibniz Association (Leibniz-Gemeinschaft) (2015-2018). The project focuses on the cultural and social links between the German cities of Bremen and Hamburg with the North Atlantic islands Faroe, Shetland and Iceland in the period c. 1400-1700.
The aim of this workshop is to bring together specialists from different disciplines and countries to shed light on several aspects of the process of travelling, and the stay of the Germans in their destination ports. The workshop is organized in two parts. The first session concentrates on the journeys: which ships were used for these journeys, what do we know about the crews, how did navigation work and which sea routes were used at that time? What were the climatic conditions and how did this affect sailing and navigation? The second session addresses questions regarding daily life on board. How was the provisioning on board and what happened when sailors fell ill? How was space on board organized? What do we know about religious life on board an on land?
Download the workshop flyer here: Flyer Travel Workshop DSM