Dr Sara Caputo

Affiliated Lecturer
Director of Studies in History, History and Politics, and History and Modern Languages, Magdalene College
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Dr Sara Caputo
My general areas of interest are eighteenth- and nineteenth-century transnational maritime history, British and European imperial history, the history of medicine, and the history of mapping. More specifically, my research focuses on maritime mobilities and exchange.
I completed my PhD at Robinson College, Cambridge, under the supervision of Professor Renaud Morieux. My thesis on 'Foreign Seamen and the British Navy, 1793-1815' was selected as joint winner of the University's Prince Consort and Thirlwall Prize and Seeley Medal, and as winner of the British Commission for Maritime History Boydell & Brewer Prize for best doctoral thesis in maritime history completed in the UK.
In the past, I have been an International Visiting Fellow at the Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven, Germany, a W. M. Keck Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and an honorary Caird Fellow at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

From 2019 to 2022 I was Lumley Junior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, and a Senior Research Fellow in 2022-3. I am lucky enough to be still at Magdalene, as Director of Studies, having also joined the Department of History and Philosophy of Science as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. I remain an Affiliated Lecturer at the Faculty of History.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
My first book, entitled Foreign Jack Tars: The British Navy and Transnational Seafarers during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, appeared with Cambridge University Press in autumn 2022. It investigates the economic, legal, social, cultural and diplomatic context of transnational 'encounters' and employment aboard British naval vessels, drawing on primary sources from British, Dutch, Italian, Maltese, and American archives, as well as further material from Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, and Spain. I am interested in combining different historiographical methodologies, qualitative and quantitative.

I am currently working on three new projects:
- A second book, forthcoming with Profile Books in 2024, entitled Tracks on the Ocean, investigating the history of Western cartographical representations of maritime travel. For more background on the origins of this project see here.
- A comparative and transnational history of naval medicine in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British, French, and Spanish Navies, including a perspective 'from below'.
- An edition of letters and journals written by Scottish boys who served in the British Navy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
In 2023-4, I am teaching on the following papers:
- Lecturing for Part IA Outline 6, The Global Eighteenth Century.
- Lecturing for Part IA Outline 5, Europe in the World, ca 1450-1780.
- Lecturing for Part II Specified Subject 24, Rethinking Europe from the Mediterranean Shores, 1796-1914.
- Lecturing for Part II Specified Subject 29, Sites of Knowledge.
- Seminar classes for Part IA, Introduction to Historical Thinking, and Historical Thinking IB.
- Lecturing and supervising for History and Philosophy of Science Part II Paper 1, Early Science and Medicine.
I welcome enquiries from students wishing to research maritime, transnational, or eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British and European history for their Part II Dissertations or MPhil Dissertations.

2016-2020 Outreach widening participation lecturing and mentoring with the Cambridge University Admissions Office (including Experience Cambridge, Sutton Scholars, Insight Explore Summer Mentoring and The Subject Matters programmes) and The Brilliant Club charity. Various talks and sessions on History and on International Relations.

2016-17 Co-convenor of the Cambridge Modern British History Workshop.

Member of the organising committee of the Cambridge AHRC DTP international conference on 'Tradition and Transformation', 18-20 September 2017.

Key publications

Foreign Jack Tars: The British Navy and Transnational Seafarers during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (Cambridge University Press, 2023).
Tracks on the Ocean: A History of Trailblazing, Maps and Maritime Travel (Profile Books and The University of Chicago Press, in press).
Scottish Young Gentlemen in the British Royal Navy, 1791-1818 (Boydell & Brewer for the Scottish History Society, under contract).
Journal articles
‘From Surveying to Surveillance: Maritime Cartography and Naval (Self-)Tracking in the Long Nineteenth Century’, Past & Present (Advance article 2024).
‘Human Tales on the Pathless Sea?: Imperial Subjectivities and Exploration Ship Tracks in European Maritime Mapping, c.1500-c.1800’, The English Historical Review (forthcoming).
‘Trailblazers’ Wakes: Ship Tracks in Western Imperial Mapping’, Imago Mundi 75:2 (2023), 288-93.
‘Treating, Preventing, Feigning, Concealing: Sickness, Agency, and the Medical Culture of the British Naval Seaman at the End of the Long Eighteenth Century’, Social History of Medicine 35:3 (2022 [advance access December 2021]), 749-69.
‘Mercenary Gentlemen? The Transnational Service of Foreign Quarterdeck Officers in the Royal Navy of the American and French Wars, 1775-1815’, Historical Research 94:266 (2021), 806-26.
'Exploration and Mortification: Fragile Infrastructures, Imperial Narratives, and the Self-Sufficiency of British Naval “Discovery” Vessels, 1760-1815', History of Science 61:1 (2023 [OnlineFirst 2020]), 40-59.
'Alien Seamen in the British Navy, British Law, and the British State, c.1793 - c.1815', The Historical Journal 62:3 (2019), 685-707.
'Towards a Transnational History of the Eighteenth-Century British Navy / Vers une histoire transnationale de la marine britannique au XVIIIème siècle’, Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française 397 – 'Perspectives Transnationales, 1780s-1820' (2019), 13-32.
‘Scotland, Scottishness, British Integration and the Royal Navy, 1793-1815’, The Scottish Historical Review 97:1 (2018), 85-118.
Chapters in edited volumes

‘Military Movements’, in David Lambert and Callie Wilkinson (eds),  A Cultural History of Transport and Mobility – Volume 3: A Cultural History of Transport and Mobility in the Age of Global Exploration and Empires (1450-1800) (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2025).

'“Contriving to Pick Up Some Sailors”: The Royal Navy and Foreign Manpower, 1815-1865' in Thomas Dodman and Aurélien Lignereux (eds), From the Napoleonic Empire to the Age of Empire: Empire after the Emperor (Cham: Springer Nature Switzerland AG, 2023), 205-26.


Other publications

Book reviews

- David Wilson, Suppressing Piracy in the Early Eighteenth Century: Pirates, Merchants and British Imperial Authority in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2021), Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 46:1 (2023), 177-9.

- Naomi Lloyd-Jones and Margaret Scull (eds), Four Nations Approaches to Modern ‘British’ History: A (Dis)united Kingdom? (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), Reviews in History (2022).

- Paul Ashton and Alex Trapeznik (eds), What Is Public History Globally?: Working with the Past in the Present (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), Rethinking History 24:2 (2020), pp. 255-7.

- Lenora Warren, Fire on the Water: Sailors, Slaves, and Insurrection in Early American Literature, 1789-1886 (Lewisburg PA: Bucknell University Press, 2019), H-War (June 2020).

- John Morrow, British Flag Officers in the French Wars, 1793-1815: Admirals’ Lives (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), History: Reviews of New Books 47:1 (2019), pp. 14-15.

- Margarette Lincoln, Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018), The London Journal 44:1 (2019), pp. 87-8.

- Helen Watt and Anne Hawkins (eds), Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France 1793-1815 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016), Archives 52:1 (2018), pp. 81-3.

Public history and radio

- ‘Ships and History’, BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking (13 April 2022), with Dr Jake Subryan Richards and Tom Nancollas, chaired by Professor Rana Mitter.

- ‘Foreign Jack Tars’, Preble Hall, podcast of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum (20 June 2022), interviewed by Professor Claude Berube.

- ‘The Medical Culture of the British Seaman’, Sea Control, podcast of the Center for International Maritime Security (12 June 2022), interviewed by Jared Samuelson.

- ‘When Subjecthood and Citizenship Did not Matter: the Royal Navy and Foreign Seamen in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars’, Cambridge Core Blog, Cambridge University Press (7 November 2018).


Textbook chapters

- ‘Recruiting Seamen in the Atlantic World’, in Life at Sea: Seafaring in the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1600-1900 (Adam Matthew, 2022).