Liverpool shipowners: 1820-1914

Clarke, David J. (2005) Liverpool shipowners: 1820-1914. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

For many years Britain was the most important maritime nation on Earth. Of its many significant ports Liverpool, with its world-wide connections, was among the most important. One significant element in Liverpool's maritime success were those persons who invested in tonnage at the port - the Liverpool shipowners. -- Although such did not guarantee success in any endeavour, it seems that most of the more prosperous Liverpool shipowners had something of a "leg up," or a comparative advantage, that fostered their commercial success. Most Liverpool shipowners came from the local area, where they also registered their tonnage, and were likely to buy their vessels in the local (or at least a regional) market. Barring this, tonnage purchases were often made based on commercial linkages, like the timber trade between Liverpool and British North America. In terms of the investors themselves, most would have had some form of seaward connections through careers such as mariners, or merchants. William Wheelwright, for example, grew up in a thriving port, the son of merchant shipowners. From an early age Wheelwright went to sea, eventually founding South America's first Pacific steamship service - a venture intimately connected with Liverpool which had long-standing links to South America. -- Of perhaps coequal importance to comparative advantage in shipowning was the ability to adapt to changing conditions. This was especially important in the nineteenth century, which witnessed the most profound commercial, social and technological shifts then seen. Certain firms like Wheelwright's Pacific Steam Navigation Company (PSNC) were on the very cusp of change and could be considered innovators from the start. Other shipowners, like Thos. & Jno. Brocklebank, timed adaptations much more conservatively, but were nonetheless equally adept at sensing and responding to a need for change, based on the requirements of their chosen trades. -- Neither the possession of comparative advantage, nor an ability to adapt with the times (even when such were allied to formidable business intellects), could guarantee a shipowners' success. However, the track record of Liverpool-based firms such as Brocklebanks and PSNC will demonstrate that they were at the very least powerful building blocks for the prosecution of seaward enterprise.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10309
Item ID: 10309
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 519-569.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2005
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Harbors--England--Liverpool--History; Shipowners--England--Liverpool--History; Shipping--England--Liverpool--History.

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