Dogger Bank and Heligoland: Conflict and Exchange in the North Sea

Sweers, Britta (26 July 2022). Dogger Bank and Heligoland: Conflict and Exchange in the North Sea (Unpublished). In: 46th ICTM World Conference Lisbon. Lisbon University. 23.-27.07.2022.

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The North Sea, a north-eastern arm of the Atlantic Ocean, has long been a major hub of geopolitical conflict, exchange, and collaboration in Europe – beyond national boundaries, partly also defying the latter. This is very clearly reflected in music on multiple levels. Not only was the North Sea, from a historical perspective, central for a continental exchange of performers and repertoires. Furthermore, related locations, be it islands, coastal areas, sea towns or even sea areas, such as the shallow area of the Dogger Bank, have become recurring points of reference in various music repertories.
Despite this prominent role in European social-political-cultural history, research on the North Sea in a musical context is still comparably scarce. Exploring two case studies, this presentation aims at illustrating potential perspectives of studying related conflicts, but also shared experiences beyond geographic and national differences. The first case study focuses on selected samples of fishermen songs and sea shanties that can be perceived as transnational repertoires. Exchange is, for instance, reflected in language (as is evident with songs of mixed English, German, Low-German, and Scandinavian languages). It is also evident in common geographical reference points related to nautical challenges, fishing resources, or economic hubs. The second case study addresses a specific location, the Frisian island of Heligoland in the German Bight that has been a historical point of multiple conflicts between Denmark, Britain, and Germany – which has likewise been addressed in music. At the same time, the ocean-related, yet also transnational repertoire of sea shanty singing still plays a central role of cultural-musical life on this island itself. As these examples illustrate, many of these political and sociocultural undercurrents and their long-term impacts can still be discovered through folk song until present day.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for Global Studies (CGS)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

UniBE Contributor:

Sweers, Britta


700 Arts > 780 Music
900 History > 940 History of Europe




Britta Sweers

Date Deposited:

11 Aug 2023 09:16

Last Modified:

11 Aug 2023 09:18


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