A message from IMHA president, Ingo Heidbrink

Dear Colleagues:

It’s already a while since the most successful International Congress of Maritime History in Porto and while we are all back to our regular jobs and are dealing with various day-to-day obligations, the new Executive Committee of IMHA has also started work.

The new Executive, which will serve only for a two-year period up to our next congress to be held in 2024 in Busan, South Korea, instead of the regular four year period, has decided on the following points as its top priorities:

  • Preparation of the 2024 Congress, which will be the first International Congress of Maritime History ever to be held in an Asian country. Right now, the Executive is developing together with the local organizers headed by June Kim the basic framework for the congress. As always, preparing an international congress is the work of many colleagues and while the local organizers and the Executive are prepared to carry out most of the work, there will be a need for volunteers from the membership to staff the program committee, to help with identifying the best keynote speakers, to spread the word about the congress and much more. Please be prepared considering serving in one of these functions. More details will be published on the IMHA webpage.

  • 2024 Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history. During its most recent meeting the Executive has decided to announce again a Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history to be awarded at the 2024 congress in Busan. The full announcement of the award including details on eligibility, the selection committee for the award, instructions for submission etc. will become available in Spring 2023. Nevertheless, please start spreading the word already now and most important, please inform your PhD students that there will be a new round of the Frank Broeze Award for the best PhD thesis in maritime history.

  • Realizing that we are in the 21st century and thus in the era of digital communications and social media, the Executive has decided to discontinue the traditional IMHA newsletter. Instead of publishing a quarterly newsletter, IMHA will use the news-section of the IMHA webpage as well as the IMHA Facebook page to continue with the dissemination of all kinds of news related to the association, news on maritime history conferences, CfPs, CfAs, news from national maritime history umbrella organizations etc. We are hoping that this new format of communication will allow for a timelier distribution of news.
    If there are any pieces of information you would like the Executive to consider for distribution via the IMHA webpage, please submit either to Constantin as Secretary of the Executive or directly to me.
    Please note, the quality of any newsletter or news-section on the web-page of an association like IMHA directly depends on the information available for distribution. If we don’t receive information from our members and partnering institutions, there is only little we can share. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are not sure if something might be a good fit for the news section of the IMHA webpage.

Finally, please allow me a brief remark on the future of IMHA: Having been member of IMHA association and its two predecessors, the International Maritime Economic History Association (IMEHA) and the International Congress of Maritime History (ICMH) for more than two decades, I think the main strength of IMHA is being a network and such a network is depending on all members of the network. Way too often our area of research is understood as somewhat exotic or even marginal at many of our home institutions and colleagues at the office next door to yours will often have no idea at all about your research or about what are cutting-edge research topics in maritime history. While we might not be able to change this situation, we are able to build up an international network of colleagues (and often professional friends) that are sharing the same research interests and understand the needs of each other. Let us use this network to design new international research cooperation, to organize guest professorships and research stays, to bring together colleagues working on comparable subjects, and much more.

Doing so will require all members becoming active and in addition to convince our young colleagues that there is a benefit in joining an international association like IMHA. Even if some of our younger colleagues might be somewhat reluctant when they are hearing the term maritime history as they are wrongly associating the term with an outdated antiquarian approach to maritime history and old salts telling sea-stories, many of them are doing fascinating research that deals with various aspects of the interaction of humans and the ocean throughout all historical periods. Thus, let us not focus too much on the term of maritime history but on the subject itself regardless whatsoever term we are using for it. Ask those young colleagues to publish their research in the International Journal of Maritime History as our flagship project, ask them to apply for the next Frank Broeze Award if they are recent PhDs or are working on completing a PhD thesis, ask them to propose a paper for our upcoming congress in Busan, and finally offer to them the whole network of IMHA as a resource they can utilize. Be prepared to guide them to a colleague that might reside and work in a different country or continent but might be the highly familiar with their research topic. In short, try to make them part of our network – not by simply asking them to join IMHA, but by explaining to them why this network might be of help to them and their research.

Allow me to conclude with a note that is not directly related to maritime history. Many of us grew up professionally at a time when we were thinking that major international conflicts and wars were to a certain degree just a thing of the past. The Cold War had come to an end at nearly every place of the globe and despite hundreds of smaller conflicts continuing or breaking out, we were convinced that international cooperation of scholars was more or less always possible, regardless of the nationality of the colleagues involved. In the recent past we needed to learn that this was at least to a certain degree a naïve take on the world around us.

What does this mean for us as a community of international maritime historians, or you might say scholars or intellectuals? Shall we give up continuing all cooperation with certain colleagues just because they are working in certain countries, regardless if they are close to the respective regime or not? In my opinion the answer to this question is a clear No. Not all members of IMHA might agree with this and not necessarily even all members of the Executive Committee, so this is a strict personal opinion: Cooperation between scholars might not be able to change the world for the better in the immediate, but in the long run, working together in our quest to analyzing the past for understanding the today will help to create a better future for all and IMHA and our network might be a very minor part when it comes to achieving this goal, but a part that is equally important than all the other very minor parts. Maritime history is international by its very nature and let’s not forget this simple fact right now, but embrace it and bring it to live, even if only with the limited means available to us as a global network and umbrella organization of maritime historians.

Ingo Heidbrink


International Maritime History Association (IMHA)