British Port Cities

Tony Webster

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
British Port Cities

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
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  • Regional and National History


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There has been much recent academic interest in the development of port cities generally, arising principally from growing awareness of the processes of globalization of the world economy, in which the great trading ports of the world played a vital role. But academic work on British ports predates this recent concern for several reasons. First, as a series of islands off the European mainland, Britain has always enjoyed substantial international trade, in which ports have played an important part; thus, as early as the period of Roman rule, the port that eventually became London rapidly assumed political and economic significance. Second, with the expansion of European commerce with the non-European world from the 15th century, Britain was well placed to benefit hugely from commerce with the Americas, Africa, and Asia, particularly the trades in spices, sugar, tobacco, and slaves. The latter grim line of commerce has of course attracted enormous academic and popular interest; and the pivotal role of some British ports in the slave trade has generated a huge volume of publications, too many to include even in such an extensive bibliography as this. With the increased growth of British imperial power in the 19th century and its continuance into the 20th, the country’s ports increased in national importance and global significance. Third, Britain’s emergence in the 18th and 19th centuries as the first industrial nation ensured that its ports would become instrumental in the country’s process of industrialization and its rise as a global supplier of manufactured goods. This role involved not only the import and export of substantial quantities of raw materials and finished manufactures, it also entailed a massive increase in food imports to meet the demands of a growing and increasingly prosperous population. As such, the port cities of Britain became the center of a global hub of trade, commercial networks, and population migrations. This defined not only the commercial and business profiles of these cities but also their prevailing population trends, ethnic mixes, and political cultures, which in many cases set them apart from the other industrial and non-maritime conurbations of Britain. Consequently, much of the literature on British port cities reflects these trends. The bibliography will consider each of the major ports and highlight the most important texts on each of these key areas.

Article.  7573 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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