Melanie's thesis, 'Their Allotted Place: social conditions, survival strategies, and comparative respectability among naval wives in mid-nineteenth century Portsea Island', focused on working-class wives and mothers who stayed home while their men were at sea - a female community hitherto neglected by maritime and social historians. Using data extracted from Admiralty records, Melanie constructed a cohort of nearly 1600 individuals, all dependants of lower-deck Royal Navy seamen. The material enabled her to establish the women's nuptial and migration patterns, mutual support networks, and involvement in paid work and criminal activity; she also identified household structures rarely found in English society, and constructed microhistories of individuals.
The BCMH prize will be presented at the Commission's New Researchers in Maritime History conference in Chatham later this year. Meanwhile, publishers Boydell & Brewer have contracted Melanie to turn her thesis into a book, Naval Seamen's Women in Nineteenth-Century Britain.