The Most Important Book in Maritime History? Lloyd’s Register

February 2021

Dr Sam Willis speaks with Charlotte Ward to explore the remarkable history of Lloyd’s Register, perhaps the most influential boo

k for the maritime world ever to be published. It all begins in a coffee house run by Edward Lloyd, and a book, called the Register of Ships, first published in 1764, to give underwriters and merchants an idea of the condition of the vessels they insured and chartered. Maritime history from that moment on was funda

mentally changed, particularly in relation to safety at sea. The Lloyd’s Register Foundation now curates an immense archive of material relating to global maritime history.

But we begin this episode as ever by catching up on our sailors on the whaleship swan of Hull, trapped in the ice off the west coast of Greenland in the new year of 1837. Each week we have been reading a little from their logbook – which is now kept in the archives of the national maritime Museum in London. They have been trapped now for almost four months. Life has been terrifying and they are entering a period of intense cold. Even the most minor of events is a major occurrence for these men perched on the cliff edge of their existence.

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