Iron Shipbuilding on the Thames, 1832-1915: An Economic and Business History

Article excerpt

A. J. Arnold, Iron Shipbuilding on the Thames, 1832-1915: an economic and business history, Ashgate, Aldershot (2000), 198 pp., L49.95.

This slim volume tells the story of the rise and fall of iron shipbuilding on the river Thames. The enterprise is examined both from an industry-wide viewpoint and from the standpoint of the individual firm. Arnold divides the whole period into six sub-periods and devotes a chapter to each. The first part of each chapter traces and explains the fortunes of the industry as a whole, and this is followed by a review of activities in each of the major firms that were involved in the trade in the period. The book is pioneering in as much as no whole book has been devoted to this topic; previously there was only Banbury's volume of 1971, which devoted a few pages to iron ships.

Arnold contends that the traditional view of the causes of the decline and demise of iron shipbuilding on the Thames centres on dubious company flotations, pushed by shady promoters in the boom of the 1860s; the fall of Overend & Gurney in 1866 brought these companies down. The view propounded by Arnold differs in three respects. Firstly, some of the failures occurred well before 1866 and were caused by the rapid inflation associated with the Crimean War. …