Case Studies

Rescued Lives PhD

Grant Awarded: £20,000 

Time Frame: 2023-2026  



Rescued Lives is an interdisciplinary doctoral project that seeks to recover the oral history stories of the world’s surviving shipwrecked mariners during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Combining oral and maritime history, creative writing and theatre it aims to understand the ordeal and experiences of those men and women who encountered near perilous danger at sea.  

At the heart of the PhD study is the formation of a pilot oral history archive that will ensure the essential preservation of the memories of the experiences of shipwrecked survivors from across the globe, voices that otherwise will soon be lost, as a generation passes. The project will lay the foundation for a much larger scale oral history project on shipwrecked survivors.  

Once first-hand testimonies are recorded, they will be transcribed for research purposes and then will be examined in order further to understand the lived experience of shipwrecks from the unique perspectives of those that survived.  

The oral history archive and analysis of survivor stories will provide research for the creative response in the form of short stories which will in turn will translate into public performance in the form of a play which will be produced with the University of Plymouth’s conservatoire programme in collaboration with the Theatre Royal Plymouth.  

The PhD is funded by both Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the Philip Nicholas Trust and the University of Plymouth and began in April 2023.  



  • A new oral history archive will be created of the experiences of shipwrecked seafarers in their own words, which will aid understanding of the experiences and ordeals of those individuals who had near-death experiences. 
  • The project will establish a new network that will be nurtured between this far-flung group of survivors who have shared similar experiences.  
  • The PhD will innovatively explore how fiction and performance can promote greater understanding and public awareness of what it feels like to be shipwrecked.