From Sail to Steam: Two Generations of Seafarers and the Maritime Labour Market in Antwerp

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Shipping went through a fundamental change in the second half of the nineteenth century. Systematically, steam navigation made its appearance and eventually supplanted sailing. To date, the literature has focused primarily on infrastructural, institutional, and demographic processes of change in port cities, the economic implications of the spread of steam technology on specific shipping routes, and national fleets' experiences with new innovations and technologies. However, despite such studies having produced important insights, the maritime workforce and the functioning of the maritime labor market have remained largely understudied. By providing an in-depth comparison of two cohorts of seafarers who departed from the port of Antwerp on Belgian sailing (1850s) and steamships (1890s), this study examines the impact of the transition from sail to steam on labor structures, wage dispersion, recruitment processes, seafarers' migration trajectories and maritime careers. The thesis argues that the breakthrough of steam resulted in profound changes, such as a more pronounced segmentation of the labor market, but that there was also continuity in areas such as recruitment practices and migration trajectories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-160
Number of pages2
JournalBelgisch Tijdschrift voor Nieuwste Geschiedenis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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