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More about the Research Programme

Read about the programme's purposes and aims, time periods, structure, Advisory Board and the life cycle perspective. 

Purposes and aims

The purpose of the programme is to use a multidisciplinary research approach to put the ship, wreck or artefact into the focus of the study of the Swedish sailing navy. The programme uses written sources as well as archaeological finds.

The programme has three main aims:

  • To provide new historical and archaeological knowledge about the sailing Swedish navy, based on a unique and unexplored material – the purposely sunken vessels.
  • To carry out multidisciplinary subprojects based on the new material by combining research approaches and methods of history, archaeology and ethnology.
  • To survey how the knowledge of the “Lost Navy” has been used in visualizing and displaying Sweden’s maritime past in – and outside of – the heritage sector.

Life cycle perspective – research with the ship in focus

The programme uses a “life cycle perspective”. This means to use the ship or wreck as a starting point to study all aspects of a ship’s “life”; for example, how and when it was built, what it was used for, and what happened to it after it sank or was otherwise discarded. The subprojects of the programme touch on different parts of the vessels’ “life cycles”, such as building techniques, if they have been sold, how the ships have been presented at modern maritime museums and how material from the wooden wrecks have been salvaged and used in construction and art.

Chronological scope

The Swedish naval vessels examined in the programme were in use during the “Age of Sail”, circa 1450–1850.

During this period, the Swedish kingdom was a maritime state encircling the Baltic Sea. The navy played a key role in the process of state building. War at sea was transformed at the end of the 15th century and this period also captures the conditions which shaped Sweden as a naval power.

The transition from sail to steam and from wood to steel, the end of the “Age of Sail”, motivates the end point of the programme’s focus to the mid-19th century. At this time, Sweden has also lost both Finland and Swedish Pomerania, and is no longer a state encircling the Baltic Sea.

Structure of the programme

The programme contains three modules that relate to the three main purposes of the programme.

  • The Atlas module can be also described as infrastructure part of the programme. The module produces a database of all known ships of Swedish sailing navy, with focusing especially on the ship’s “afterlife”: Where and when it was scuttled, present location and status).
  • The historical and archaeological research module makes up the second part of the programme and will be carried out in a number of subprojects making use of the Atlas module database. Together, the subprojects within this module cover the whole period of 1450–1850 and all the major naval ports of the period and area in focus.
  • The maritime heritage module is the third part of the programme. This module explores how Sweden’s maritime heritage is produced and used, for example in museums or when the wrecks of the sailing navy are used in new ways. The module is organized in three subprojects carried out by researchers in history, archaeology, and ethnology.

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board consists of experts from the heritage sector and from universities. They will give advice on how to adjust and develop the programme over 6 years, provide the staff with international contacts and evaluate the progress of the programme. 

Members of the Advisory Board

Benjamin Asmussen, PhD, Curator, Maritime Museum of Denmark, Denmark

Brita Brenna, Professor, Dep of Cultural Studies and Oriental Languages, Oslo University, Norway

Elaine Murphy, Associate Professor of Maritime History, University of Plymouth, UK

Frederick Hocker, PhD, Head of Research, Vasa Museum

Jakob Seerup, PhD, Curator, Bornholm Museum, Denmark

Johan Rönnby, Professor of Maritime Archaeology, Maritime Archaeological Research Institute (MARIS), Södertörn University

Louis Sicking, Professor of History of public international law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/Leiden University, The Netherlands

Mikko Huhtamies, Docent, Dep of History, Helsinki University, Finland

Steve Murdoch, Visiting Professor, Northern Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands, UK

Page last updated: 2021-07-19