This book would have been impossible without the full co-operation of all the port and conservancy authorities concerned who allowed visits to their installations and in many a friendly interview presented the viewpoint of those responsible for port administration and operation day by day. I am also very sensible of my debt to many writers on special topics. On the other hand, I have tried to maximize a possible advantage of a one-man attack on a wide subject--by instituting comparisons between ports wherever that seemed to throw more light upon them. The references are arranged at the end of each chapter to give a bibliography port by port. No such general bibliography of British ports has hitherto been compiled, and I hope that those who wish to carry some aspect of port study further than has been possible here will find some signposts among the references. It has proved impossible to study at first hand all port books, company minutes, and the MS. sources inherited by port authorities. When these have been thoroughly examined no doubt my tables of 'eras of development' will need amendment. But my principal objective has been to attempt an explanation of the ports as they are today, emphasizing only those events of the past throwing the greatest light upon the present scene.
In order to concentrate on port installations, the material on shipping and port labour has been curtailed. Hitherto the studies of ships and shipping lines have been more numerous than discussions of their terminals. Port labour is a complicated subject. On the goodwill of dock workers all ports depend, but apart from describing some features of the present labour position, there has been space only to direct readers to the specialist literature cited.
As this study was drawing to a close the Minister of Transport announced the setting up of a comprehensive Committee of Inquiry into the Major Ports of Great Britain. This text has been submitted as evidence to that Committee which has the responsibility of making recommendations about the future of British ports. Thus I have felt free in the last chapter to put forward some propositions together with the evidence that seemed to call them into existence. Even if the propositions meet with disagreement, the evidence might be of interest. The proposition that I would most strongly urge is one that the Rochdale Committee might make with diffidence --that such a committee, or a port research organization, should be a permanency.
It is a pleasure to acknowledge much assistance in the preparation of this book. Professor R. Ogilvie Buchanan, M.A.N.Z., B.SC. (ECON.), PH.D., most kindly read through the whole text, and his advice has been of the greatest value. Miss E. M. Horsley . . .