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Jo Stanley

Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory

Welcome to my website

I'm a creative historian who works with museums, universities and in the community. Women who went to sea - whose travel transformed their lives forever - are my special area of expertise.

Jo StanleyMy especial interest is in the stories of people who have led marginalised lives in the past - and sought adventure, freedom and the space to be all they are, and might become.

In particular this means recording people, or helping them write their stories. They tend to be people who've taken jobs at sea despite the odds - like women, black and minority ethnic (BAME) and LGBTQI people - for whom seagoing meant sometimes liberation and sometimes injustice.

Cut LassShips are hypersexualised spaces for those confined in them. As a cultural historian, that's fascinating to me. They're heterotopias (meaning other places, like Wonderland) and liminal zones, which means they explain a lot about our societies on land.)

I live in Marsden in the Pennines, and work a lot in London and abroad. At Liverpool John Moores University I am Visiting Senior Research Fellow. At the University of Hull's Maritime Historical Studies Centre I am an Honorary Research Fellow.

Breaking news

Women and the Royal Navy cover

My new book, Women and the Royal Navy, (IB Tauris/ National Museum of the Royal Navy) is just starting its first reviews.

The LadyIt was Book of the Week in The Lady on January 5 2018. Reviewer Lyndsy Spence wrote:'Extraordinary information is revealed...the book strikes a balance between the romantic notion of the naval life as one of freedom, and a more realistic view of the responsibilities and dangers that women were taking on...This is a timely and inspiring book.'

The Spectator in Jan 2018 carried a review by Alan Judd.

The Spectator'This book is a thoroughly researched account of the parts played by women in the service of the Royal Navy from the Middle Ages to the present. What it lacks in anecdotes and personal accounts it makes up for in its comprehensive documentation of official attitudes and measures.'

Order the book for £14 instead of £20 RRP. Enter the discount code AN2 when prompted.

What they say about me

'Jo Stanley has for many years now fearlessly explored the depths of maritime history. She has discovered so many treasures that she herself has become a treasure. Read From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains and find out why.'
Marcus Rediker, author of Outlaws of the Atlantic, Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh.
'Your articles are concise, revealing, heartfelt, funny, and very necessary.'
(Dr Ray Walsh, John Moores University)
'You've written probably the most innovative essay ever in the historiography of mobilities.'
(Dr Peter Norton, Editor, T2M Yearbook, University of Virginia)
'I've been a fan of your work for a long time, as it really opens new and fun horizons for maritime history.'
(Henry Trotter, author and Yale University/University of Cape Town).

Forthcoming articles

'Questing for Cuba Cornwallis', an article tracing the history of the black 'doctoress' who 'saved Nelson's life' in Jamaica in 1780.

It's published in the new, women's history, issue of Trafalgar Chronicle. This latest issue is being launched on Pickle Night at the National Liberal Club, London, on 7 Nov at 6pm. See

Catch this!

RMG logoNov 9 2018, Friday at 4pm. London. National Maritime Museum. Conference:The First World War at Sea: Conflict, Culture and Commemoration, 8-10 Nov 2018.


My paper is: "They also serve who only stand at sinks: seafaring laundresses in WW1"

Latest article

Marine Quarterly'Homeward Bound', in Marine Quarterly, Autumn 2018, pp86-90. This literary article is about two white women's experience of what became a very special voyage from the Caribbean in 1948.

Read to the end and you'll find out the secret of the ship's identity. Here's the clue: I had originally entitled it 'Mixed cargo, no frills and calypso kings'.

Look out for forthcoming reviews

Black Salt

Black Salt exhibition, Merseyside Maritime Museum, in International Journal of Maritime History, Autumn 2018.