The new book by acclaimed author R.W.H. Miller is due to be release shortly entitled One Firm Anchor – The Church and the Merchant Seafarer (ISBN: 9780718892906)
The study of human activity at sea, the history of ships, ship design, maritime economics and trade, nautical history and international maritime law is a rich field of research. Little, however, is known about the religious life of merchant seafarers, a profession of which Samuel Johnson once said: "No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned".
One Firm Anchor uncovers nineteen centuries of contact between the churches and the seafarer. This extensive introductory history goes beyond anything previously written on the subject in scope and detail. R.W. H. Miller examines succeeding periods – Early Church, medieval, Reformation and early modern – before looking at the foundation of today’s Christian societies, such as The Mission to Seafarers, British and International Sailors’ Society, Apostleship of the Sea, Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen and more, tracing their development from small beginnings to global institutions. Academic rigour is leavened with tales of heroic ministry and the occasional erring clergyman. Each period and society is set against the background of economic, technical and social developments at sea. In this way Miller exposes the changing pattern of the maritime apostolate over many centuries.
The book considers British seafarers in particular but not only observes religious life at sea during the rise of the British Empire and the dominance of the British merchant fleet but also emphasises the often overlooked beginnings of the modern Catholic sea apostolate. It thus adds substantial knowledge to the pioneering work of maritime missiologists such as Peter Anson (The Church & The Sailor) and Roald Kverndal (Seamen’s Mission). The book’s expansive bibliography encourages the reader to pursue further research on the topic.
The Church in its various manifestations has long been involved in the lives of those who travel by sea but due to illiteracy among merchant seafarers few were able to describe religious life aboard ship. One Firm Anchor demonstrates that maritime history is more than the study of seas and ships, and that religious practices of the men on board represented an integral part of the life at sea.
Miller is currently a Catholic Priest in the west of England, Robert Miller has been a long-time student of Maritime Social History and member of the Society for Nauthical Research and the International Maritime Economic History Association. He has also worked for the Apostleship of the Sea. He is the author of Priest in Deep Water (2010).