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The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries$
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Ralph Davis

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780986497384

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780986497384.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Was It a Profitable Business?

Was It a Profitable Business?

(p.349) Chapter 17 Was It a Profitable Business?
The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

Ralph Davis

Liverpool University Press

This penultimate chapter attempts to answer whether or not merchant shipping in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was a profitable enterprise. It first quantifies the costs of operating ships, including wages, earnings, and profit, by analysing the account books of shipmasters and various other contemporary sources. It divides running costs into four sections: wages and crew costs; repairs and stores; port charges, pilotage and lighthouse dues; and miscellaneous expenses; and explores each in turn. After determining the cost of operations and of ships themselves, it then considers capital charge rates per annum. It asserts that voyage estimates alone cannot determine the profitability of shipping, and so turns to examine rates of financial ruin; increases in flow of capital into the industry; and the nature of fluctuating returns inherent to long-distance shipping. It concludes that these factors caused profit to vary, but stresses that it was not merely financial gain that led people to a career at sea, but an affection for ships and the appetite for adventure as much as enterprise, which renders financial gain less imperative.

Keywords:   Shipping Operations, Maritime Wages, Port Charges, Ship Running Costs, Colonial Shipbuilding

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