1st Edition

The Levant Voyage of the Blackham Galley (1696 – 1698) The Sea Journal of John Looker, Ship’s Surgeon

Edited By Colin Heywood, Edmond Smith Copyright 2022
    280 Pages 15 Color & 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    280 Pages 15 Color & 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume publishes for the first time, the journal kept by John Looker (?1670—1715) recording his service as ship’s surgeon on the Blackham Galley, a London-built merchantman on its second trading voyage to the Levant, between December 1696 and March 1698. Preserved in the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum, Looker’s ‘Journall’ describes his experiences on the voyage from the point at which he joined the ship at Gravesend, to March 1698, when the journal breaks off abruptly in mid-sentence when the ship was off the Kentish ‘Narrows’. John Looker was a Londoner, brought up in one of the parishes to the east of the City which furnished large numbers of mariners to the English sea-borne trades. He served an apprenticeship to a London barber-surgeon, and became a Freeman of the Company of Barber-Surgeons. His fifteen months of service on board the Blackham Galley appears to have been his only employment at sea, but his ready knowledge of maritime ways and language, which are apparent from the first pages of his ‘Journall’, make it more than likely that he came from a seafaring family. Subsequent to his voyage, he married, raised a family, practiced in London as a surgeon, and acquired land in East Anglia. He died at Bath in 1715.

    Looker’s ‘Journall’ divides naturally into three parts. The Blackham Galley’s outward and homeward voyages were largely without incident. The time spent by the Blackham Galley in Turkish waters, covers its voyage from Smyrna to Constantinople, where the ship stayed for a month, and then returned to Smyrna. Captain Newnam’s ill-advised and disastrous attempt at privateering in Ottoman waters on the return journey to Smyrna, led to the detention of his vessel at Smyrna under a double interdict from the English ambassador at the Porte and from the Ottoman authorities. Looker’s account of the Blackham Galley’s enforced stay in Smyrna furnishes a vigorous and detailed account of social life in the international merchant community, as well as portside life seen ‘from below’, with its taverns and prostitutes, and the activities and frequent ‘debauches’ of an increasingly bored and fractious crew. Looker’s record also provides interesting detail of his professional approach to treatment of the illnesses, accidents and occasional deaths of members of the company of his own and other ships anchored off Smyrna.


    1. The Author and his Manuscrıpt

    a: John Looker: the man behind the ‘Journall’

    b: Looker’s ‘Journall’: an Example of Artisanal Autobiography

    c: Looker’s ‘Journall’: the Provenance of National Maritime Museum MS PHB/6

    2. The Early History of the Blackham Galley

    a: Construction and Purchase

    b. The Blackham Galley’s First Voyage (1694–6)

    3. Looker’s Journey on the Blackham Galley (1696–1698)

    a: The Outward Voyage: Gravesend to Messina, Smyrna and Istanbul: 12th December 1696 to 20th April 1697

    b: Privateering and Detention in Smyrna: 20th April 1697 to 2nd January 1698

    c: The Return Voyage: Smyrna to Messina, Malaga, and the Thames; 2nd January–14th March 1698

    4. Understanding Looker’s ‘Journall’

    a: John Looker as a Tourist

    b: Risks and Dangers of the English Levant Trade

    c: Consuls’ roles and the Ottoman interdict

    d: Social Relations on board the Blackham Galley

    e: Health, Sickness and Death on board

    5. The End of the Blackham Galley

    6. Editorial Conventions Adopted in the Transcription of Looker’s Journal




    1. Lord Paget, the Ottomans, and the Detention of the Blackham Galley.

    2. Identified Members of the Company of the Blackham Galley under Captain Charles Newnam

    3. Wills of Members of the Crew of the Blackham Galley

    4. The Homeward Lading of the Blackham Galley, 13th May–29th December 1697 as Recorded in John Looker’s Journall

    5. Documents on the Appraısal and Sale of the Blackham Galley, London, February 1699

    6. The will, drawn up on 8 Feb. 1714/5 (OS), of John Looker, surgeon, who died at Bath 23 May



    Colin Heywood was born and educated in Hull and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He taught at a number of American universities between 1965 and 1974; subsequently at SOAS, until his retirement in 1999. Since 2002 he has been an Honorary Research Fellow at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull, as well as serving as a Visiting Professor at Princeton (2000), the University of Chicago (2005, 2006) and the University of Cyprus (2006-7). In 2011-12 he played a major part in reactivating the Blaydes House Maritime History Seminar, which has met regularly since then. In addition to maintaining his original interests in Ottoman history in the Early Modern period, he also publishes on aspects of the history of English shipping in the Mediterranean in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

    Edmond Smith completed his doctorate at Cambridge in 2016. Formerly a capital markets research manager, he now specializes in the histories of capitalism and globalism and has conducted research in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, working on topics ranging from the emergence of transnational corporations to the archaeology of colonisation. In 2018 he joined the University of Manchester as a Presidential Fellow in Economic Cultures. His work has been published in numerous academic journals and books. His first book Merchants: The Community that Shaped England’s Trade and Empire has recently been published by Yale University Press.