Friday, October 18th, 2019 “We have borrowed also from the French, and they I think from the Spaniards": National Lessons from Navigation History

Friday, October 18, 20193:00PM - 5:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
M5S 3K7


Seminaire conjoint d'histoire de la France / Joint French History Seminar


Early modern Europeans were preoccupied with the problem of safely crossing
the oceans. Such trips—for trade, war, and colonial expansion—could end in
disaster if the navigator fell ill or relied on outdated maps and
instruments on the treacherous seas. Each polity felt that their neighbours
were more successful in creating new navigators. In this talk, Margaret
Schotte will examine French, British, and Dutch records about training
mariners, arguing that they shared a common set of strategies, which had
originated in Iberia. And yet, in spite of this pan-European educational
model, her analysis reveals unexpected variation in how mariners from
different states approached particular tasks—from assessing the speed of
their vessels to estimating their position. Where the Dutch chose
logarithmic tables, the French turned to instruments. What effects did
these choices have? At a time when maritime knowledge had significant
geopolitical ramifications, we find that nautical science and practice, had
distinct national characteristics.

Margaret E. Schotte is an associate professor of history at York
University. Her new monograph, Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2019), is a comparative study of the development and
dissemination of Dutch, English, and French sailors’ navigational
practices—in the classroom, on board ship, and across international
borders. Schotte traces the impact of print culture on navigational
instruction, and reconsiders the rise of mathematics in European
intellectual and artisanal cultures. She has worked on French travel
narratives and hydrography lessons in New France. Her next project examines
the unexpected mathematical lessons that took place aboard a Dutch East
India Co. ship during the Seven Years’ War. or:


Margaret Schotte
York University

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of France and the Francophone World (CEFMF)


Glendon College, York University

Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

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