Book Review-‘Steam Titans: Cunard, Collins and the epic battle for commerce on the North Atlantic’ by W. M. Fowler

By Frances Steel, published December 2020


To judge by its cover, one might pick up this book expecting a history of the early years of steam in transatlantic shipping. Steam Titans traverses this ground. But it is also does much more. It can be usefully read as an ocean-centred history of the making of modern America, refracted through disputes between the United States and British North America that would soon unfold to endeavours to bridge the North Atlantic by steam. The narrative starts not with steam, which makes an appearance in chapter 6, but the maritime fortunes of the American Republic in the wake of the Revolutionary War and the 1812–15 war with Britain. Across 16 energetic, easily-digested chapters, William M. Fowler crafts an engaging and richly textured narrative of the manoeuvrings between commercial and political leaders, illuminating the intricacies, uncertainties and challenges, and not least the enormous expense, of running a reliable transatlantic steamship service in the mid-nineteenth century…

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Filed under: Atlantic
Subjects include: Biography | Ocean Liners & Passenger Craft

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