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Bringing forward shipping for government service: the indispensable role of the transport service, 1793 to 1815

Bringing forward shipping for government service: the indispensable role of the transport service, 1793 to 1815

Sutcliffe, Robert Keith (2013) Bringing forward shipping for government service: the indispensable role of the transport service, 1793 to 1815. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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Abstract

The Transport Board’s very significant and effective role in the preparation of all the major military expeditions and in the ultimate defeat of Bonaparte has been largely ignored by historians. The Board has hitherto been perceived as a subsidiary board of the Admiralty. However it was responsible to the Treasury and its main task was to transport and support the army overseas, on the instructions of the Secretary of State for War. The government depended upon the availability of merchant ships for this purpose. Yet less than 10 per cent of the registered merchant ships were suitable to be used as troop ships. At peaks of demand, in 1805, 1808 and 1814, the Transport Board chartered 30 to 39 per cent of this shipping. This had a significant impact international trade, on freight rates and the domestic price of commodities, particularly coal. There is strong evidence that between 1793 and 1805 government contracts sustained the British merchant shipping fleet by replacing the trade, previously conducted with European ports that were then controlled by the enemy. Without this support those ships would have been laid up.

The government’s requirement to reduce the costs of war generally encouraged early termination of transports’ contracts, rather than retaining them for the next big expedition. This occurred particularly between 1807 and 1809. That and the restricted use of naval vessels to convey troops hindered the speedy preparation of exceptionally large expeditions. The study suggests that some of the proposed expeditions were just too big to be managed effectively. Despite the Transport Board’s direct communications with the Secretary of State it was not consulted for advice during the planning of expeditions and consequently the impact of seasonality was ignored and preparation times underestimated. There were inevitably delays in the preparations of expeditions but this thesis demonstrates that the times taken to prepare for major expeditions was between 10 to 16 weeks, not excessive even by today’s standards.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: British naval history, merchant shipping,
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:33
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/11449

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