The Legacy of HMS Brazen, 1800-2023: from navy and nation to a local narrative of place

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter examines the construction, transmission and legacy of British naval shipwreck narratives, using the case study of HMS Brazen, lost in 1800 under the chalk cliffs of the Sussex coast, west of Newhaven. It is an interdisciplinary study, drawing on archaeology, literary criticism, history and geomorphology to develop a nuanced understanding of the tragedy. By analysing the textual and material culture relating to Brazen’s loss, I argue that the conventional linear narrative established in the Georgian and Victorian eras, imparting tropes of navy and nation, remains the interpretation told in the present day. However, the narrative privileges the national and erases the local experiences of shipwreck, thus divorcing Brazen from its historical context and the wreck’s interconnections with coastal people and place. By employing an overlapping coastal history approach and maritime cultural landscape framework, I interpret shipwrecks not only as an event, but an event that constructs place. I show how Brazen’s loss acts as a nexus to reveal entangled experiences of coastal defence and shipwreck during the French Revolutionary Wars. This case study reveals the centrality of the Brighton and Newhaven Sea Fencibles to the wreck’s aftermath. Brazen’s loss was their story, too. Brazen's legacy thus becomes a means of revealing deeper local historical connections that can contribute to a coastal sense of place for current inhabitants and visitors to Sussex’s cliff-rimmed chalk coast.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShipwrecks in the Intertidal Zone: Archaeological and Historical Approaches
Place of PublicationHamburg
PublisherWachholtz Verlag
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 12 Jan 2024

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