The Merchant Ship in the British Atlantic, 1600–1800

Continuity and Innovation in a Key Technology


Author: Phillip Reid
In The Merchant Ship in the British Atlantic, 1600—1800, Phillip Reid refutes the long-held assumption that merchant ship technology in the British Atlantic during the two centuries of its development was static for all intents and purposes, and that whatever incremental changes took place in it were inconsequential to the development of the British Empire and its offshoots.

Drawing on a unique combination of evidence from both traditional and unconventional sources, Phillip Reid shows how merchants, shipwrights, and mariners used both proven principles and adaptive innovations in hulls, rigs, and steering systems to manage high physical and financial risks.

Listen also to the podcast where the author is interviewed about the book for New Books Network and the podcast with Liz Covart for Ben Franklin’s World by clicking here.

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Phillip Reid, Ph.D. (2017), Memorial University of Newfoundland, is an independent scholar. He has published articles on the early modern British Atlantic merchant ship in maritime, transport, and material history journals and edited collections.
List of Figures and Tables


1 A Ship’s Atlantic

2 The Ship: a Primer and Field Guide

3 From the Stocks to the Ways: Building a Ship from Contract to Launch

4 The Mysterious Art of the Shipwright: Deciphering Merchant Ship Design

5 Merchant Venturers and Merchant Ships

6 Sailing and Surviving: People and Labor Aboard

7 Working the Ship: the Technology of Operation

Conclusion: The Merchant Ship in the British Atlantic, 1600–1800

Epilogue: Ann & Hope in Canton—Beyond the British Atlantic

Glossary of Terms

Appendix 1: Basic Sails on a Square-Rigged Ship, a Sloop, and a Schooner

Appendix 2: Full Transcription of Winne & Hawksworth Letter to William Jones, 17 January 1733
Students and scholars of oceanic, maritime economic, and technological history; maritime archaeologists and material culture specialists.

Ben Franklin's World

New Books Network

In this podcast for New Books Network, Maritime Historian Phillip Reid discusses his recently published book.