Mediterranean maritime history has been underrepresented in the publications and congresses of the International Maritime Economic History Association (IMEHA) during the 1990s. In August 2000, during the Third International Congress of Maritime History in Esbjerg, Denmark, and the Nineteenth Congress of Historical Sciences in Oslo, Norway, a number of discussions were held about the need to widen the base of support for the IMEHA in the Mediterranean. An informal meeting attended by Ruthy Gertwagen (Israel), Molly Greene (USA), Gelina Harlaftis (Greece), Ernesto López (Spain), Elisabetta Tonizzi (Italy) and Carmel Vassallo (Malta) agreed to establish a Mediterranean Maritime History Network (MMHN) to promote the objectives of the IMEHA in the region. An action committee was established and a draft document explaining the Network's purpose was circulated; as the months went by the number of people expressing interest in the MMHN increased. It was at that point that the “founders” decided to organize a first meeting. After an abortive attempt to hold it in Tunisia to facilitate attendance by historians from the southern shores of the Mediterranean, Malta was chosen as the site for an initial conference.
The MMHN Malta conference in April 2002, which brought together more than thirty researchers from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Tunisia and Malta, was particularly useful as a meeting place for researchers from the French- and English-speaking worlds. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the meeting turned into an informal, regional pre-conference for the Fourth International Congress of Maritime History, which was held in Corfu in 2004. A special issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies (XII, No. 2 ) emerged from the Malta conference, containing papers by Alain Blondy, Salvatore Bottari, Sadok Boubaker, Michela D'Angelo, Michel Fonteney, Thomas Freller, Henry Frendo, Ruthy Gertwagen, Simon Mercieca, Gerassimos Pagratis and Daniel Panzac, and the scholars gathered there decided to prepare a Directory of Mediterranean Maritime Historians to facilitate exchanges between scholars.
To a considerable extent, the present volume of Research in Maritime History is the culmination of the measures taken after the decision in Esbjerg in 2000 to organize and give more prominence to the Mediterranean and its maritime historians.