Politics Surrounding Prisoners of War, 1793 to 1815 – Institute of Historical Research Seminar Tomorrow

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, prisoners of war became pawns in the political power struggle between the French and British governments. During this period the traditional custom of regular prisoner exchanges changed into that of retention of prisoners for the duration of the war.  Dr Bob Sutcliffe, graduate of the Greenwich Maritime Institute, will relate the story of the political intrigues behind this development and will consider how the resultant increase in the number of prisoners was managed.

This seminar will take place at the Institute of Historical Research on Tuesday 28 January 2018 at 17:15 in Athlone Room.

International Conference Announcement – Maritime and Naval Power in Two World Wars – 11/12th April 2014

On the centenary of the First World War this conference seeks to promote an international and interdisciplinary dialogue among naval and maritime historians. Drawing upon the latest scholarship the conference aims to highlight a wide array of topics such as naval and maritime communications, logistics, international relations, regional studies, economic issues, the role of ports
and internal transport, morale and grand strategy.

To visit the conference web page please click here: http://tinyurl.com/ovp3luu

Scholars from all over the world will be presenting at the conference on a range of themes and issues. Anyone interested is welcome to attend as a delegate, visit the conference website for details fo how to book your place. The registration fee is just £120 per person for two days and includes a conference pack, refreshments and lunches.

Please click here to view the Draft Programme

Date: 11 – 12 April 2014

Location: University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, UK

Organisers: Greenwich Maritime Institute AND Global War Studies

Courtesy of the US Navy
Courtesy of the US Navy

2014 Alan Villiers Memorial Lecture Essay Competition

The Editors of British Naval History are pleased to announce the 2014 Alan Villiers Memorial Lecture Essay Competition, with the support of the Society for Nautical Research, the Naval Review, and the Britannia Naval Research Association. The AVML Essay Competition is designed with four goals:

1) To encourage the study of maritime and naval history at the Postgraduate level.

2) To provide an opportunity for Postgraduate students to publish a mid-length academic research paper.

3) To provide an opportunity for Postgraduate students to become known to, and involved with, several non-University naval and maritime history research associations.

4) To provide an opportunity for graduate students to communicate, and receive feedback on, the current form of their argument or analysis.

For further details, please go to http://www.britishnavalhistory.com/2014-alan-villiers-memorial-lecture-essay-competition/

Voyages of Separation: Modern Container Ships and Seafarers

A visit to a jetty at the little port of Harwich on England’s east coast, facing the North Sea, is a good place to get a glimpse of the modern global shipping industry’s enormous scale. From this vantage point the much bigger Felixstowe port on the opposite bank of the River Orwell can be seen in panoramic view in all its glory: bustling activity along the waterfront with a long line of huge container ships loading and discharging.

RS Blog 1

Even for maritime professionals well-acquainted with this shipping sector, it is an impressive sight, underlining the vastness of international seaborne trade in containerised goods of all sorts and varieties. But only a small part of the population sees this vital maritime activity at Felixstowe or elsewhere in ports around the world and, among those who do, many will be blissfully unaware of its true significance. Mostly these ships, and indeed other vessel types, and the ports which serve them, are well hidden from public view in remote locations.

That is why a new book by Rose George published last year, entitled ‘Deep Sea and Foreign Going’, provides a valuable contribution to understanding the importance of this obscured-from-view industry. The author’s voyage on a container ship from the UK to Asia is the setting. In particular, the narrative offers a fascinating insight into the working lives of the people who make it happen, the seafarers.

Clearly described is the difficult and, at times, potentially very dangerous environment in which seafarers not only work but totally exist for periods of many months while employed on long-distance voyages. There is no escape from the working environment while a ship is at sea (virtually all the time). These circumstances are not comprehended by most users of the goods which the ships transport. Many consumers have no idea how electrical or electronic devices, for instance, get to the shops from the manufacturers in China, Korea or other origins. Some think it all arrives by air freight. There is even less understanding of what seafarers have to encounter, and their separation indeed isolation from the civilised world, living in a small and sometimes not very sociable closed community, while serving at sea for extended periods.

Despite these features, Rose George acknowledges on page 9 that “seafaring can be a good life”. Another acknowledgement is that “most ship owners operate decent ships that are safe, and pay their crews properly” (page 86). On the other hand, some owners hide behind a flag of the open registry variety and cut corners, which can lead to disasters for both ship and crew. And, disturbingly, in concluding comments on page 265, the author quotes the master of the container ship on which she travelled as saying that the crew are “mere chattels, a human resource, dispensible non-entities”. This opinion is not exactly a ringing endorsement of comfortable relationships between managements and seafarers.

It is a highly readable book, quite gripping in parts, written in an easy-going style. Ignoring some lengthy deviation about a ship rescue in the second world war, and whale preservation in the northeastern USA, it serves a useful purpose. But as an educational exercise, for the general public, presumably the author’s aim as a piece of ‘investigative journalism’, much more could have been said about the global container shipping industry. A few short paragraphs of miscellaneous and not especially helpful industry statistics, as background, are insufficient to provide meaningful context.

One essential fact, which could have been included as contextual information for the aspects identified during the voyage, is that container ships now comprise 13 percent of the world fleet of all cargo vessels, a fleet including many other important ship types. Another is that container ships numbered 5,106 at the end of 2012, with a capacity of 16.2 million teu (twenty foot equivalent units, the standard measurement), based on data from Clarksons Research. Container ship fleet growth over the preceding decade was 168 percent and capacity continues to rise. And increasing ship sizes – 18,000 teu leviathans are joining the fleet, compared with vessels only half that size which were the norm only a few years ago – are a feature of progress, ensuring more economical transportation.

Another storyline emphasis might have been the services these ships provide for global manufacturing industry, how container services are organised and why they are so effective and efficient. World seaborne containerised goods shipments are estimated to total over 1.5 billion tonnes per year currently, after almost doubling during the past decade. Ocean freight cost is generally a low proportion of most products’ value. The impact on, and advantages for, the globalisation process are apparent. Many countries have been integrated into the global trading system when previously they were on the fringes, if participating at all.

None of the foregoing maritime achievements are satisfactorily set out in ‘Deep Sea and Foreign Going’. Arguably, such a preliminary discussion is required for a balanced view to be offered. Nevertheless, the book certainly has great merit in opening eyes to the stark realities of seafarers’ lifestyles and, frequently, the lack of attention paid to this noble profession. Many spectators standing on the remote Essex jetty watching the impressive ships coming and going could gain a useful perspective by reading it.

Richard Scott, Visiting Lecturer, Greenwich Maritime Institute and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis