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Adolescence in the Atlantic: Charity Boys as Seamen in the Spanish Maritime World

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This article examines life at a maritime orphanage and at sea for wards of the Royal School of San Telmo in Seville, which operated between 1681 and 1847. At its heart is a microhistorical analysis of Francisco de Cáceres Martínez, a ward whose life is traced from the time he entered the orphanage as a twelve-year-old in 1788 until he became an assistant pilot in 1802. This examination of the lives of Cáceres and other adolescent wards of the San Telmo orphanage sheds light on the experiences of young sailors and charity wards dispatched to sea, both of which were common in early modern maritime fleets but about whom details are often scarce. It also shows connections between their lives on land and at sea. The case of Cáceres and other San Telmo wards illuminates interactions among these youths, orphanage administrators, and Spanish naval officials, especially in the late eighteenth century. These interactions reveal that the same society and culture that tapped orphaned boys to meet Spanish maritime demands also afforded a measure of maneuverability to at least some of them, as wards used the language and institutions of a patriarchal system to navigate the eighteenth-century maritime world.

Affiliations: 1: DePaul University

10.1163/138537810X12632734396981
/content/journals/10.1163/138537810x12632734396981
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/content/journals/10.1163/138537810x12632734396981
2010-03-01
2016-12-03

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