(HIST024) Steaming Ahead: British Merchant Shipping c.1810-1914

Steam Ship SS Great Western


Course start date: Monday 26th September 2022
Course end date: Friday 2nd December 2022
Early Bird Price £135:

Tutor: Dr Helen Doe
Course Code: HIST024
Level: Non-accredited, non-credit bearing
Assessments/Exams: None. Throughout the course you will be given ideas and questions to respond to in the online discussion area. Participation in online discussion is encouraged, but not compulsory. There will be an opportunity to undertake an an optional assignment. If you choose to do this you will not receive a mark or grade, but you will receive feedback from the tutor on your work.
Duration: 10 weeks
Estimated Student Study Time: 2 – 4 hours per week are recommended, but time spent is flexible and at your discretion.
Fee: £150.00
Pre-Requisite Course(s): None
Delivery: Online Distance Learning
Late Entrants: If this course is not full by the start date then late entrants will be accepted for up to two weeks after the start of the course. As a late entrant you can choose to catch up on the material you have missed or you can skip the missed weeks and concentrate on the material at the point where you join the course, but unfortunately we cannot offer fee reductions or course extensions for late entrants.

Recommended Reading**:

This list provides an indication of some reading materials appropriate to the module. It may be worth getting these from your local library as background but it is recommended that students consult the course tutor before purchasing books.

  • R. Angus Buchanan, Brunel: The Life and Times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (Hambledon, 2002).
  • R. Gardiner (ed) The Advent of Steam: The Merchant Steamship before 1900 (Conway, 1993)
  • G. Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports, (Tadworth, 1983)
  • Glen O’Hara, Britain and the Sea since 1600 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
  • R. Hope, A New History of British Shipping, (John Murray, 1990).

Required Reading**: None

**Please note: All courses are subject to sufficient numbers of students registering before they are confirmed as running. Therefore, after booking your place you are advised not to purchase any texts until you have received confirmation that the course is running.

This course was previously taught by Dr Helen Doe when it was offered by the University of Exeter*. If you studied it with the University of Exeter* you might not wish to study it again with Learn for Pleasure as although we have revised and updated our courses where necessary, it will likely be substantively the same.


Steam and iron were the great technological game-changers for nineteenth-century shipping, they had a profound impact on all aspects of the industry and by 1914 British shipping dominated world trade.

This was a new era of fast Atlantic travel, the dawn of the luxury liner and the beginning for well-known companies such as P&O and Cunard. It was also the time of great engineers such as Brunel and Scott Russell and of famous ships, from the CometGreat Britain and Great Eastern – to the Titanic.

On this course you will explore the impact of new technology and trade, and the benefits and challenges these created for ports, shipbuilders, shipowners, investors, mariners and passengers.

Syllabus Plan

Unit 01 – Early Steamships
Unit 02 – The Rise of the Great Port
Unit 03 – Shipbuilders and Engineers
Unit 04 – Ownership Challenges
Unit 05 – The International Labour Force
Unit 06 – The Rise of the Shipping Corporation
Unit 07 – Global Communications
Unit 08 – The Passenger Trade
Unit 09 – The Last Days of Sail?
Unit 10 – Competition or Co-operation by 1914