Research team


Maritime history - Stadsgeschiedenis - History of Atlantic port cities - History of migration - Social history - University history - History of the Flemish movement

Rethinking 'sailortown': Comparing the socioeconomic dynamics of harbour districts in Antwerp and Boston, 1850-1930. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2024


During the nineteenth century, port cities in Europe and the United States changed significantly as a result of increasing migration levels, rapid urban expansion and increasing transport connections, which created diverse neighbourhoods near the port or so-called 'sailortowns'. This project will study how increasing global interconnectedness impacted on these harbour districts. By applying a mixed method approach that combines prosopographical research with life course and critical discourse analysis, this research will explore the identities of transients and residents, and their interactions with each other and different layers and dimensions of the evolving urban and global landscape. Comparative research on Antwerp and Boston aims to reveal that issues, such as migration and urbanization, fostered community life, rather than destroying it. An in-depth social analysis of sailortowns as dynamic neighbourhoods is highly relevant, because these districts are all too often branded as distinct and dangerous areas by contemporaries, which contributes to the more negative representation of sailortowns in the exiting literature. This research will also transcend the maritime sector as it will provide much needed insights into the impact of migration, urbanization and increasing mobility on present-day diverse neighbourhoods that are negatively stereotyped because of their international character.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project