Valerie Burton

Valerie BurtonPosition

Chair of the Maritime Studies Research Unit
Recipient of the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2017
Memorial University Undergraduate Student's Union (MUNSU) Award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Life, 2016-17
Dean of Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2011
MUNSU Excellence in Teaching Award, 2010


  • Ph.D. London School of Economics
  • Cert. Ed. University of Sussex
  • M.A. Lancaster University
  • B.A (Hons.) Lancaster University


Department of History
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's, NL A1C 5S7
Email: vburton[at]
Room: HH-1006
Phone: (709) 864-8433

Research Interests

Valerie Burton's main interest is the ports, merchant shipping and seafarers of the British Isles and the British empire between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Her core research uses the Crew Agreements and Official Logbooks held at Memorial These records provide her with clues to what is historically important about the social, cultural and economic worlds of merchant seafarers, both at sea and on shore. Burton is interested in class and gender formation and in ethnicity and race in major British ports. In this connection she has explored the potential for cross-linking other nominal records, notably the manuscript censuses, with the records of crew and of voyages identified above. Her work draws upon the practices of labour and business historians, of class and gender theorists, and she is receptive to insights from the new cultural critique so far as they advance historical understandings of 'ordinary people's' agency and contingency in maritime locations. Her SSHRC-funded website aims to encourage a critically informed use of these rich sources by family history researchers and professional alike. Its design encourages discussions of theory and method in maritime history. A team of researchers, archivists and a graphic artist worked with her on this project.


Valerie Burton enjoys teaching on both graduate and undergraduate programs at Memorial. She introduces students to primary source materials and wherever possible has undertaken the digitization of documents complete with ‘pop-up’ guides which are available to students through the university’s website. A video introduction to one of the Archives on campus can be viewed at

Her teaching areas are geographically British, European and Atlantic, and thematically seafaring, gender, labour and aspects of public history, this includes an undergraduate seminar on ‘History and Memory’.