James Taylor (British author and historian)

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Dr James Taylor MA (Hons), FRSA (born 1963) is a British author, expert on maritime art, and former curator of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, east London.


A school trip in the 1970s to Captain James Cook’s Birthplace Museum started a lifelong interest in maritime art and history for James Taylor.[citation needed]

Taylor was educated at the Universities of St Andrews and Manchester. Early in his career, Taylor spent time as an auctioneer with Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers, where he was Head of Victorian paintings. From 1989, he was a curator of paintings, drawings and prints, exhibition organiser and Corporate Membership Manager at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.[1] He began to publish on marine art in the mid 1990s.

Taylor has since written several books, including illustrated histories on maritime and yachting art, and, in 2008, The Voyage of the Beagle, charting the story of the ship made famous by Charles Darwin. In March 2009, John Van Wyhe, of BBC History Magazine, wrote that The Voyage of the Beagle ‘brings together a wonderful mixture of old and new illustrations and information about the voyage from wildly scattered sources.’[2] He has also produced a study on the popular English 20th century cartoonist and Punch magazine editor, Fougasse, who created the anti-rumour and gossip posters during World War II. His publication 'Your Country Needs You - The Secret History of the Propaganda Poster' (Saraband, August 2013) was timed to coincide with the start of the World War I commemorations in 2014. 'Dazzle - Disguise & Disruption in War & Art' and 'Pack Up Your Troubles - How Humorous Postcards Helped to Win World War One' will be published in September and October 2016 by The Pool of London Press and Bloomsbury respectively.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Among Taylor’s professional achievements are several Sir James Caird Award for writing, and the Sir Geoffrey Callender Award for outstanding achievement in supporting the public lecture programme and developing the corporate membership scheme of the National Maritime Museum. Since 1999, he has worked as a freelance writer and lecturer. In 2001, he was appointed an official lecturer for the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). According to the Mere Literary Festival, Taylor ‘lectures regularly to a wide range of societies, including NADFAS around the world.’[3]

In June 2015 Taylor was awarded a PhD from the University of Sussex for his thesis on William Westall (1781-1850) the 'landscape and figure draughtsman' who sailed with Matthew Flinders on the voyage of HMS Investigator (1801-3) – the first recorded circumnavigation of Australia.[citation needed]

His publication 'The Voyage of the Beagle...' was short-listed for the Mountbatten Maritime Prize in 2016.[4]

Taylor is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.[citation needed]