MARITIME NATIONS are defined by their possession of a navy and a mercantile marine, the first consisting of their armed ships of war, the second of privately owned vessels that carry cargoes for profit either in the national interest, as imports and exports, or on behalf of others. Such national commercial "fleets" are commonly referred to as a "mercantile marine," but in Britain it is known as the Merchant Navy, as a result of its importance and extraordinary sacrifice in the First World War. — Woodman, p. 1

By the beginning of the nineteenth century the number of British merchantmen exceeded 20,000, making more than 2,000,000 tons in all. In due course, bigger and more seaworthy ships were designed, to carry larger cargoes at cheaper rates. — Hurd, pp. 22-23

As late as 1884 eight out of every ten merchant ships under all flags, as well as many foreign men-of-war, were of British construction. — Hurd, p. 26

Merchant Shipping

Related Material

River Transport


Hurd, Archibald. Britain's Merchant Navy. London: Odhams, n.d. Internet Archive, from a copy in the United Service Institution of India, New Delhi. Web. 12 January 2024.

"The Merchant Navy." The Honourable Company of Master Mariners. Web. 31 December 2023.

Willasey-Wilsey, Tim. “From Scotland to Mesopotamia and Pakistan. The story of a veteran paddle steamer.” IRFCA (Indian Railways Fan Club), 2015.

Woodman, Richard. The Merchant Navy. Botley, Oxford: Shire, 2013.

Created 5 December 2014

Last modified 29 December 2023