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    Liquid History: the chequered past of the Port of London, its governance, labour relations, trade, and national and global standing, 1900-1939

    Collender, Guy (2022) Liquid History: the chequered past of the Port of London, its governance, labour relations, trade, and national and global standing, 1900-1939. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The Port of London was in crisis and its future was in jeopardy at the turn of the twentieth century. Dock companies were engaged in ruinous competition, dredging was neglected, and shipowners were choosing to go elsewhere. This thesis explores the responses to these difficulties and other challenges that emerged from 1900 to 1939. It reveals the port’s chequered past in relation to its governance, labour relations, trade, and national and global standing. My assessment analyses the recommendations made in 1902 by the Royal Commission on the Port of London, and follows how this blueprint was modified and enacted. Dock companies were merged in 1909 to form the Port of London Authority – a self-governing public trust with unprecedented, yet still limited, powers. Extensive improvements began, but they were disrupted by industrial unrest and derailed by World War One. The PLA’s subsequent achievements included dredging the Thames, upgrading facilities and building the King George V Dock. From 1900 to the late 1930s, trade nearly trebled in the port. Such successes were celebrated while persistent problems with casual labour and poverty in dockland communities were downplayed. By drawing upon neglected sources, including the writings of dockers, trade unionists, dock administrators, and politicians, I contest much of the historiography associated with the capital’s port. I illustrate the effectiveness of PLA propaganda and challenge the long-standing view, endorsed by many historians, that London was the ‘world’s greatest port’ throughout this period. My research shows the imprecision of such superlative terms, and I explain the growth of other ports, particularly New York. By referring to other disciplines, including geography and public administration, I demonstrate the value of adopting an interdisciplinary approach. I suggest a new appreciation of the PLA’s mixed record and a re-interpretation of the Port of London’s complex history during these eventful years.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2022 17:03
    Last Modified: 21 Nov 2023 09:53


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