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The Life of a Mariner in Eighteenth-Century Bristol: A Case Study of Higher-Value Probate Inventories


  • Yoshihiko Okabe

    () (Faculty of Economics, Kobe Gakuin University)


Anyone studying the eighteenth-century probate inventories of Bristol soon notices that the largest occupation group was mariner. However, as an occupation, mariner is exceedingly difficult to define and understand. The purpose of this paper is to reveal what the job of a mariner was by examining the real lives of wealthy mariners and the people who supported the maritime economy of Bristol in the eighteenth century. There were many ewage due f inventories in which the deceased or their family described themselves as mariners. Even though there were 1,486 of these inventories in the BRO for the eighteenth century, there are only 25 mariners f inventories in the higher-value range of more than ’50. Because there were no other names of higher- status marine occupations, except captain, the word emariner f was used not only by sailors, but also by people with significant personal property, meaning master mariners. Thus, the word emariner f covered a very wide of range of social statuses. From the four case studies of these mariners from probate inventories in Ecclesiastical Cause Papers, we can see their real lives. They all had many goods and chattels, as well as money owing. All the mariners selected in this paper spent their everyday lives surrounded by many consumer goods. Although one was more enthusiastic than the others, all of them were interested in improving their quality of life through consumer items such as tea and kitchenware. Two inventories included navigation equipment, proof and symbols of a master mariner. The credits show that James Owens had wide range of business, and also Thomas Smith fs inventory shows commercial relationships with business partners, indicating that they were not wage workers but wealthy traders.

Suggested Citation

  • Yoshihiko Okabe, 2013. "The Life of a Mariner in Eighteenth-Century Bristol: A Case Study of Higher-Value Probate Inventories," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 13-18, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
  • Handle: RePEc:osk:wpaper:1318

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    Probate inventories; Bristol; mariner; eighteenth century; economic history;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N63 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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