Britain and the Sea: Since 1600

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United Kingdom

Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. These tensions relaxed somewhat during the late 20th century, when devolved assemblies were introduced in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom has made significant contributions to the world economy, especially in technology and industry. The United Kingdom retains links with parts of its former empire through the Commonwealth.

Moreover, the United Kingdom became a member of the European Union in But we have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed. That set the stage for the U. The United Kingdom contains most of the area and population of the British Isles—the geographic term for the group of islands that includes Great Britain, Ireland, and many smaller islands.

Together England, Wales, and Scotland constitute Great Britain, the larger of the two principal islands, while Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland constitute the second largest island, Ireland. England, occupying most of southern Great Britain, includes the Isles of Scilly off the southwest coast and the Isle of Wight off the southern coast. Scotland, occupying northern Great Britain, includes the Orkney and Shetland islands off the northern coast and the Hebrides off the northwestern coast.

Wales lies west of England and includes the island of Anglesey to the northwest. Apart from the land border with the Irish republic, the United Kingdom is surrounded by sea. The North Sea lies to the east. At its widest the United Kingdom is miles km across. From the northern tip of Scotland to the southern coast of England, it is about miles 1, km. No part is more than 75 miles km from the sea. The capital, London, is situated on the tidal River Thames in southeastern England.

The archipelago formed by Great Britain and the numerous smaller islands is as irregular in shape as it is diverse in geology and landscape. This diversity stems largely from the nature and disposition of the underlying rocks, which are westward extensions of European structures, with the shallow waters of the Strait of Dover and the North Sea concealing former land links. Northern Ireland contains a westward extension of the rock structures of Scotland.

These common rock structures are breached by the narrow North Channel. On a global scale, this natural endowment covers a small area—approximating that of the U.


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The peoples who, over the centuries, have hewed an existence from this Atlantic extremity of Eurasia have put their own imprint on the environment , and the ancient and distinctive palimpsest of their field patterns and settlements complements the natural diversity. Great Britain is traditionally divided into a highland and a lowland zone.

The young fellow was right in assuming that this country had a big and powerful navy, but the chances of war decrease with the preparations made to meet it. Besides, the interests that would be put to hazard grow constantly larger and nations avoid fighting as long as possible.

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This is a hopeful consideration, and if England had nothing to be afraid of beyond the danger of being attacked from abroad, we might sleep in peace. But there is an enemy against which neither army nor navy is of any avail It defies the gunboats in the Channel and the redcoats on the shore, and kills more people than are ever likely to fall in battle. If we could stop the ravages of this foe we should soon be able to surprise our distant colonies with the arrival among them of a splendid class of our surplus population.

We allude, of course, to disease. Not to epidemics of cholera or influenza, but to diseases which are at work year in and year out, in every season, carrying off rich and poor alike. Unquestionably the worst of these is the one that attacks the digestive system, the one from which- springs the majority of ailments, which go under various names, as, for example, rheumatism gout, bronchitis, consumption, the several fevers, and others which were formerly, erroneously, supposed to have distinct character, and to require distinct treatment.

Now, however, the best medical authorities recognise these ailments as symptoms and outgrowths of indigestion and dyspepsia, and treat them accordingly.

Britain and the Sea since , by Glen O'Hara | The English Historical Review | Oxford Academic

In illustration of what can be done, we cite a single case. A man named Edward Kelly, who resides at 27, St. Vincent Street, London Road, Liverpool, having previously had perfect health, experienced a dull pain in the right side, and a bad taste in the mouth, furred tongue, loss of appetite, discolored akin, unnatural languor and fatigue, and what he describes as a "sinking feeling," as though the supporting power were exhausted beneath him.

This was in , and he bore it without obtaining relief from the usual medical treatment until April, , when one day, when he was working in a bonded warehouse, he says, "a dreadful pain struck me in the back, and I had great trouble in getting through my work. Getting worse," he continues, "I went to a doctor, who said it was inflammation of the kidneys.

He gave me medicine and attended me off and on for six months, but with no beneficial result He said he could not understand how I could keep on with my work. Still, I did struggle on, though the disease was wearing me out. From a strong, able man, I became thin and weak, and was afraid I should have to give up my work. Last July, , a Custom House officer recommended me to try an advertised preparation, entitled Mother Seigel's Syrup.

I did so, and before I had finished the first bottle the pain left my back, and I began to digest my food and gain strength. By continuing to use this remedy I was soon as well as ever in my life.

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My master, seeing what the Syrup had done for me, also took it for benefit that now he always keeps it by him. I have no interest whatever in testifying thus, and only speak of the medicine as I found it. Kelly evidently had a narrow escape from Bright's disease, a malady very common among all classes in England, and one of the surest and most direct products of torpid liver, itself a symptom of indigestion and dyspepsia.

We mention this case not to put money in anybody's pocket, but for the sake of the sufferers who need help no matter what it comes from. The latest reports on British commerce are of a conflicting tenor, and will awaken mixed feelings in the patriotic breast. First there comes the sense of exultation. During last year a larger amount of merchant shipping entered and left the ports of the United Kingdom than ever before in the national annals. The aggregate figures were 85 millions of tons, or just five millions more than ever passed through our ports in a single year.

Then comes the sense of depression and anxiety. There is a constant transfer of our sailing ships and steamers from the British to foreign flags, chiefly the Scandinavian. Last month thirty-one such transfers took place. It must not be supposed that when the ships carry the Norwegian ensign they cease from troubling; very much the reverse.


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  • They become our competitors with freer hands and lighter burdens, and undersell us in our own seas. This is a grievance of the shipowners -- a just and sore grievance. But the British sailor has a grievance too -- not one whit less real and irritating. He finds it very difficult to get employment. In British ships he is set aside in favour of the foreigner; the other day, for instance, A Shields shipowner declared that British nationality was a disqualification, and that he wanted -- and got -- Dutchmen for his ship.

    The British cannot look for compensation to foreign ships; they are deliberately closed against him, so that he is between two fires. His own countrymen decline to employ him, and foreigners are not permitted to do so. These are old complaints, but they are complaints for which the instincts of self-preservation should prompt a remedy.

    We depend for existence upon our navy, and we not only man our ships with aliens but place obstacles in the way of our own countrymen getting employment on our own decks. When we look abroad we find a very different policy pursued to the mercantile marine. A German ship must carry German sailors.

    1660 - 1815

    Even the freedom-loving Americans draw the line at their merchant service, and stipulate that ships that fly the Stars and Stripes shall be navigated by American citizens. A pregnant illustration of this policy was furnished when ships of the American line were transferred from the British to the American flag: The same attitude is adopted by the Germans, and is exemplified in the Transatlantic liners running to North German ports and dropping in upon us to pick up our passengers -- not obeying our laws or employing our countrymen, yet robbing us of our commerce. This is called free trade; it is suicidal trade.

    Germany is making rapid strides in her foreign commerce, prospering at our expense. But there is another side of the medal presented by the experience of France, which, though following the same tactics, is not prospering. The general survey is striking and cogent, and the most superficial knowledge of continental affairs confirms its accuracy.

    It only depended on us to remain the entrance into Europe. We have suffered this privilege to pass into the hands of our rivals Genoa, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg. Our ports are almost empty, with the exception of a very few, notably Dunker, which is in good communication with the interior. Havre is a melancholy sight; its life is visibly dying out. One aggrieved resident of Marseilles says "We pay for expediting our goods per French boat from Marseilles to Yokohama francs per ton: For shipments lo Australia we find no freight at all. This is why the last statistics of the Suez Canal show us that our merchant marine is losing its position more and more, in spite of the creation of our empire in Indo-China and our colony in Madagascar, and coming, in , not only behind Germany, but after Italy, almost on a level with Holland.

    The British shipbuilders have broken the record this year, with merchant vessels, of 1,, tons, under construction on September 30, being , tons above the previous best record, while 92 warships, of , tons, are also building. Great Britain's maritime supremacy is shown by the fact that out of the merchant ships are being constructed for British owners. Bristol in south-western England is on the River Avon. The river traditionally marked the border between Gloucestershire and Somerset. In , Edward III of England proclaimed "that the said town of Bristol be a County by itself and called the county of Bristol for ever," but maps usually instead show it as part of Gloucestershire.

    As the city spilled south of the river, it took the county with it. Bristol was the starting point of John Cabot's voyage to North America in Renewed growth came with the 17th Century rise of England's American colonies and the rapid 18th Century expansion of England's part in the Atlantic trade in Africans taken for slavery in the Americas. Bristol, along with Liverpool, became a significant centre for the slave trade although few slaves were brought to Britain. During the height of the slave trade, from to , more than slaving ships were fitted out at Bristol, carrying a estimated half a million people from Africa to the Americas and slavery.

    The master of one of the steamers asserts that a change of a most serious character has occurred in the position of the Sandbanks of the upper part of the Bristol Channel, and that recently were he thought the track to be clear, he could only find eight feet of water upon a moderate ebb. The vessel upon that occasion took the bottom, and all the steamers have frequently felt the bottom within a short space of time. During the eighteenth century, Gloucester developed into an industrial centre thanks to nearby deposits of iron ore, coal and timber from the Forest of Dean.

    The city was famed for its pin manufacturing and bell founding. The century also saw many social reforms which had their origin in Gloucester. Sir George Onesiphorus Paul raised concerns that led to nationwide prison reform starting with Gloucester Gaol the most advanced of its time. The influential George Whitefield began his ministry in the city before exporting his fiery brand of evangelism to the American colonies. The Victorian era saw the completion of the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal which brought further growth to the timber industry and opened up the city to Scandinavia.

    As the port grew with drydocks and larger warehouses being established, the city s prosperity was further enhanced by the development of the railways as the population grew six-fold and many civic building projects were established. Another theory suggests that the name Gravesham may be a corruption of the words grafs-ham a place "at the end of the grove".