Collecting Leviathan: The British Southern Whale Fishery and Global Knowledge Production 1775-1860

Rachael Utting

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis considers the history and significance of the British Southern Whale Fishery (BSWF) and its role in transporting artefacts and specimens around the globe. It focusses on the period from the fishery’s commencement in 1775 to its eventual demise in 1860. Exploring the role of the whaling vessel as a site of cross-cultural collection, the networks of exchange involving whaleship owners, and the biographies of specific objects collected by whalemen, the thesis seeks to understand the nature of whaler collecting and to evaluate the contribution made to knowledge production by the crews of British whaling ships. Through examination of museum collections and primary sources including ship’s logs and personal journals the thesis considers the specific forms and processes of whaler collecting in the wider context of maritime collecting and how this shaped whalers' contributions to the creation and dissemination of new knowledge. For various reasons, the collecting practices of the South Seas whalemen of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century have received relatively little attention to date. This thesis aims to shed light on the role of whalers as collectors, discoverers and creators of new knowledge during a period of expanding global connectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Driver, Felix, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Dec 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022


  • whaling, collecting, artefacts, natural history, specimen, global knowledge, discovery

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