Paul Blickle

Paul Blickle
Assistant for European and Global History
Institute for European Global Studies,
University of Basel
Riehenstrasse 154
CH-4058 Basel
Office 01.003

  • Global and maritime history
  • Port cities and seafaring in the 19th century
  • Steam-power, energy regimes, and technological transitions
  • History of commodities and processes of commodification

"The Global History of Ballast in the 19th Century"

In my PhD project I investigate the history ship’s ballast in the long 19th century. Ballast was commercially worthless makeweight, which was loaded onto ships to stabilize them on the high seas. Ballast was produced and sold in port cities around the world, resulting in the development of specialized labour regimes, institutions, regulatory frameworks, and in the application of new technologies. Within this ballast, animals, plants, and microorganisms were spread around the world. Merchants, governments, and bureaucrats negotiated the protean category of ballast, which came to include a number of profitable commodities.

Studying ballast not only adds to our understanding of port economies and ecologies, shipping, and technological change, but also highlights the disruptive, slowing, and disconnective aspects of mobility infrastructure in an age of acceleration.

Since October 2023: Assistant for European and Global History at the Europainstitut Basel

July 2021 – September 2023: Research Assistant at the Chair of Modern History, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich; Acting Managing Editor of the review journal sehepunkte (September 2022– September 2023)

October 2017 – November 2020: M.A. History, University of Heidelberg; Thesis: Research on and Ideology of Caoutchouc Cultivation in the British Empire, 1850–1880

August 2018 – May 2019: Visiting Scholar at Yale University, sponsored by the German-American Fulbright Program and the Baden-Württemberg-Foundation

October 2013– June 2017: B.A. History and Auxiliary Sciences, University of Heidelberg; Thesis: The Reception of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 in Late Victorian Soldiers’ Memoirs

October 2015– June 2016: ERASMUS-scholarship to the University of Durham, United Kingdom

Paul Blickle: Rubbish or Riches? Ship’s ballast, commodities, and global mobility at sea in the 19th century, in: global dis:connect. The podcast, 18.3.24,

Paul Blickle: The wreck of the Highland Fling: tragedy and ballast at sea, in: static. thoughts and research from the global dis:connect, 1.2 (2022), pp. 49–54.