Dr Elaine Murphy

Dr Elaine Murphy

Associate Professor In History

School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)

Dr Elaine Murphy can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Maritime history
  • Naval history
  • British Civil Wars
  • Women in the Royal Navy
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Sir Francis Drake
  • Modern Irish history


Associate Professor of Maritime and Naval History
Associate Head of School for Education and Student Experience (March 2023-present)
I have worked at the University of Plymouth since 2013. I was Associate Head of School for History and Art History from 2017-2020. In that time I have developed a number of exciting new maritime history modules in the University: HIS5002 Royal Navy in the Age of Sail and HIS6006MX Piracy and Privateering, 1560-1816. I am currently the Programme Lead for MA Maritime History and have helped to develop new modules such as MAHI728 Maritime Explorations and Encounters for this programme. 
I lead field trips with a maritime flavour to the Historical Dockyard in Portsmouth and Royal Museums at Greenwich each year. I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations on a range of maritime history topics. 
I am a member of the Marine Institute Steering Group at the University of Plymouth.
My research interests include early modern maritime history, the British Civil Wars of the 1640s and 1650s, the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell. In 2018 Dr Richard Blakemore and I co-authored The British Civil Wars at Sea, 1638-53(Boydell, 2018). This was nominated for the Military History Matters Book of the Year award in 2019 and received a Certificate of Merit from the Society for Nautical Research in 2019
My current research focuses on the experiences of women with the Royal Navy in the 17th Century. It examines women who traveled on naval vessels and their experiences, women who did business with the navy such as contractors, the wives and widows of sailors. This project sheds light on the roles and opportunities available to women in early modern British society. To date I have held a Caird Short term fellowship at the Royal Museums in Greenwich and a Edith and Richard French Fellowship at the Beinecke Library to undertake research for this project. From February 2022-January 2023 I was a Leverhulme Research Fellow undertaking research on this project.
I'm happy to discuss potential PhD supervision in early modern history and maritime history with a focus on the British Civil Wars; Oliver Cromwell; 17th and 18th Century naval/maritime history; pirate history.
I'm also on Twittter: @PlymPrivateer


Ph.D 2008 Trinity College Dublin
Dissertation: 'No affair before us of greater concern: the war at sea in Ireland, 1641-49'
M.Litt 2000 University College Dublin
Dissertation: ‘God’s Providence’: Inchiquin and the survival of Protestant Munster, 1641-1649
B.A. 1996 University College Dublin
History and Archaeology
Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (Plymouth, 2014)

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS)
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
Member of the Military History Society of Ireland
Member of the Cromwell Association
Member of the Navy Records Society
Council Member of the Hakluyt Society
Trustee British Commission for Maritime History

Roles on external bodies

Bibliography of British and Irish History: Section Editor - Ireland 1640-1800
Since 2013 I have been a section editor for the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) project at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR).
Hakluyt Society, Council Member, 2022 (elected)- 
British Commission for Maritime History, Trustee, 2022-
2017-20 I was a member of the judging panel for the Pearsall Fellowship in Naval and Maritime History at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR)
2017-21 I was a member of the judging panel for the Sir Julian Corbett Prize in Modern Naval History at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR)
2016-19 I was a Council Member of the Navy Records Society


Teaching interests

I teach extensively in the first year and offer specialist maritime history modules in second and third yearFirst Year:
HIS4001: What is History
HIS4002: America, from settlement to empire, 1607-1900
HIS4004: Culture, Society and Politics in Britain, 1640-1990
HIS4005: Fighting for Survival: Living and Dying in Early Modern Europe
Second Year:
HIS5002: Royal Navy in the Age of Sail, 1545-1815
Third Year:
HIS6006MX: Piracy and Privateering, 1560-1816
Postgraduate Teaching:
MAHI704: Piracy and Privateering, 1560-1816
MAHI728: Maritime Explorations and Encounters
Areas of expertise for postgraduate supervision:
  • Maritime and Naval History especially piracy and women and the navy
  • Early modern Ireland and Britain: especially the Civil War period
  • Wars of the Three Kingdoms/British Civil Wars
  • Oliver Cromwell
  • Military Revolution


Research interests

Maritime and naval history
Early modern Ireland and Britain
The Wars of the Three Kings/British Civil Wars
Oliver Cromwell

Research groups

Other research

Women and the Navy in the 17th CenturyMy new research focuses on the experience and interactions of women with the Royal Navy in the Stuart period. In the academic year 2016/7 I held fellowships at the Beinecke Library at Yale University,  National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, and Bodleian Library Oxford to work on this project. I also received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship grant to undertake this research
New Critical Edition of the Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell
From 2011 to 2013 I was a research associate on a project based in the University of Cambridge to edit a new five volume critical edition of the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell  published by Oxford University Press in November 2022. I am co-editor of volume 2 (with Micheál Ó Siochrú of Trinity College Dublin and Jason Peacey of University College London). This volume covers the period from 1649 to 1653.

1641 Depositions:
From 2007-2010 I was a research fellow on the 1641 Depositions Project based in Trinity College Dublin. I was part of the team who transcribed over 10,000 original depositions from the 1641 rebellion. I have published a number of essays and articles on this period. More information about the project can be found at: http://1641.tcd.ie/

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

I have supervised ResM and PhD students on topics ranging from the Caribbean in the 17th century to submarine development in the Royal Navy in the 20th centuryI am always happy to talk to potential students about research in the following areas
  • British Civil Wars and Oliver Cromwell
  • 17th century British and Irish history
  • Maritime/naval history before 1815 especially topics such as piracy/privateering
  • Women and the sea

Grants & contracts

  • 2021 Leverhulme Research Fellowship 2021: Women and the Stuart Navy Project. Value £55,434 
  • 2020/21 Bodleian Library, Oxford David Walker Memorial Fellow in Early Modern History for 1 month
  • 2016/7 Caird Library Short Term Fellowship, National Maritime Museum Greenwich for 3 months
  • 2016 Edith and Richard French Fellowship,Beinecke Library, Yale University 


  • ‘Backsliders from the Protestant Religion: Conversion in the 1641 Depositions’ article with Annaleigh Margey (Archivium Hibernicum, Dublin, 2012)
  • ‘The Cromwellian Navy in Ireland, 1649-1653’, Journal for Maritime Research (May 2012)
    [A version of this article has also been published in Cromwelliana: The Journal of the Cromwell Association, 2014, pp. 36-49].
  • ‘Atrocities at sea and the treatment of prisoners of war by the parliamentary navy in Ireland, 1641-1649’, Historical Journal, 53 (March 2010), pp 21-37.
  • ‘Pirates in our Channel: The Cromwellian Navy in Ireland, 1649-1653’, History Ireland (July 2011).

The British Civil Wars at Sea, 1638-1653, Richard J. Blakemore and Elaine Murphy (Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer, 2018)

[short listed for Military History Matters book of the year, 2019; received the Certificate of Merit for the Society for Nautical Research Anderson Medal, 2018]

Ireland and the War at Sea, 1641-1653(Royal Historical Society Studies in History Series, Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer, 2012)

The 1641 Depositions and the Irish Rebellionedited by Eamon Darcy, Annaleigh Margey and Elaine Murphy (London, Pickering and Chatto, 2011)

A calendar of material relating to Ireland from the High Court of Admiralty, 1641-1660(Dublin, Irish Manuscripts Commission, 2011)

The 1641 Depositions, Volumes I-XII [Ulster] (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2014-2021)

I am an associate editor for these volumes under the general editorship of Professor Aidan Clarke.


  • ‘A water bawdy house’: women and the navy in the British Civil Wars’ in Richard J. Blakemore and James Davey (eds), The Maritime World of Early Modern Britain (Amsterdam University Press, 2020), ch. 7.
  • ‘Piracy and Privateering’, in Craig Lambert, Steven Mentz and Claire Jowitt (eds), Routledge Companion to Marine and Maritime Worlds (Routledge, 2020)
  • 'The British Civil Wars', in James Davey (ed.), Tudor and Stuart Seafarers: The Emergence of a Maritime Nation (London, Bloomsbury, 2018), Chapter 8
  • 'The 1641 Depositions: a window on life and society in seventeenth-century Ulster' in Brendan Scott and John Dooher (eds), Plantation: aspects of seventeenth-century Ulster society (Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 2013), pp 69-88.
  • 'Intelligence, the English navy and Ireland during the 1640s' in Eunan O’Halpin, Robert Armstrong and Jane Ohlmeyer (eds), Intelligence, statecraft and international power: papers read before the 27th Irish Conference of Historians held at Trinity College, Dublin, 19-21 May 2005 (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 2006).

Scholarly Editions
A calendar of material relating to Ireland from the High Court of Admiralty, 1641-1660(Dublin, Irish Manuscripts Commission, 2011)
1641 Depositions

I am an associate editor for these volumes under the general editorship of Professor Aidan Clarke.

  • The 1641 Depositions, Volumes I-III [Ulster] (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2014)
  • The 1641 Depositions, Volume IV [Dublin] (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2017)
  • The 1641 Depositions, Volume IV [Kildare and Meath] (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2019)

Internet Publications
The 1641 Depositions, October 2010, Digital edition at http://1641.tcd.ie.



Reports & invited lectures

·         June 2024 Keynote Lecture ‘Come my fellow sufferers: the experiences of women on Stuart Warships’, Wrecks Resting in Peace Conference, Helsinki, Finland
·         November 2023 Public Lecture ‘Samuel Pepys, the Stuart Navy and the Role of Women’, Friends of Pepys Library Lecture, Magdalene College, Cambridge
·         November 2023, Keynote Lecture ‘Women and the Navy in Southern Port Towns’, Southern History Society Annual Conference, Winchester

Conferences organised

Women and the Sea in the Early Modern World (Plymouth, 2023)

Other academic activities

  • September 2023 Public Lecture ‘Forward and Courageous: Female Pirates and the Experiences of Women and the Sea’, National Maritime Museum Cornwall
  • Local History Talks: East Prawle History Society (May 2023); Wembury History Society (October 2023) 

Additional information

I'm always delighted to speak about my research to local history societies (in person or on zoom)