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Fast Sailing Ships - Their Design and Construction, 1775-1875


Year: 1988
Language: english
Author: MacGregor D.R.
Genre: History
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
ISBN: 0870218956
Format: PDF
Quality: Scanned pages
Pages count: 324
Description: English Maritime History is noted for its high standards of excellence. It has examined its naval history in depth, the growth of its national merchant marine and of its important trades, including the national fisheries. Operations, economic effects, and social relations of many trades have been studied. It has recorded the lives of great English navigators and explorers, described the lives of seamen in commercial and naval services. It has discussed the national maritime policies in various periods and many other matters.
English maritime history had the support of active nautical research studies by members of the Society for Nautical Research, much of which has been published in the Mariner’s Mirror, journal of the society.
However, in spite of all this, there has been an important area of neglect; the history of the evolution of the fast-sailing vessels in the English merchant marine and in their naval service, utilizing contemporary ship plans as evidence.
This is different from American practice, in which the evolution of American naval architecture is an important historical factor. As a result, ship plans are employed in America as technical evidence; these are the foundations for many historical conclusions. For example, a claim that a vessel was a clipper is accepted only if a plan, half-model, or a surviving technical description verify the claim. The plans or halfmodels are visible evidence of the shape of the hull of the vessels in both cases and sometimes of the rig in plans. Usually the lines of a ship, for which a half-model exists, are ‘taken off and converted to a plan of the hull, as a convenience. There are instances where extensive technical descriptions of individual ships are in existence, adequate to justify acceptance as evidence of hull-form, but these are relatively rare.
The criterion of excellence of sailmg ship design has been speed, by common consent, therefore the fastest ship of a type would be the ‘best design’. However, the suitability of a ship for her trade would undoubtedly be a more realistic evaluation for such a judgement, but it is very difficult to assess.
The apparent neglect of the history of English naval architecture by English marine historians has been puzzling, particularly so because of the immense collections of ship plans preserved in England. The greatest of these and probably the largest in the world is the Admiralty Collection of Draughts preserved in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. This collection contains contemporary plans of sailing ships built between 1675 and 1875, or later. Predominantly the plans are of men-of-war built for, or captured by, the Royal Navy. However, there are also many merchant ship plans in the collection, English and foreign. In addition there are surviving plans in some of the Old English shipyards and in private hands, which are large and important collections.
The Admiralty Collection of Draughts contains the most complete and valuable plans of American sailing vessels between 1745 and 1845 so this collection of plans has been a very valuable source to American students, if to few English historians. The excuse for the neglect of the history of English naval architecture has been that ship plans and professional data are ‘too technical’ for English readers.
The American practice of utilizing numerical factors in the analysis of a ship design gives some support to this excuse. These factors did not prove very decisive in analysis, however, and visual comparison was found adequate. Experience and publication showed that plans were understood to far greater extent than had previously been thought to be the case. It should be acknowledged that ship-model builders have been of great assistance in this; their need for an understanding of plans is obvious.
In view of what has been said about the state of the history of English naval architecture this work is a great departure. Through its use of plans, as historical evidence, the true evolution of English fast-sailing ship designs becomes well-defined. In addition, the development of English vessel types such as the cutter and three-masted lugger, are brought to attention.
It will be found that the history of English sailing merchant ship design is outlined, showing ships of various classes — in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The history of iron ship design and construction in England, the leader in this, is traced. Also, the development of composite construction is examined.
The ubiquitous clipper ship receives attention and all classes of these that were developed in England, are shown, with liberal use of plans. Ships that have not been previously introduced, in English clipper ship history, are brought to light. It will now appear that English construction and evolution of clipper ship design paralleled American development and construction of the extreme clipper ship model. The part played by iron construction in the evolution of extreme clipper ship in England is particularly interesting. The claims that English designs were influenced by American principles are completely exploded. The comparative developments can now be explored and the history of the clipper revised and corrected.

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