Case Studies

Appraising the Archives

Safety in the Trawl Fisheries and Merchant Shipping Industry

Grant awarded: £10,000

Timeframe: 2018-2021



Researchers from the Blaydes Maritime Centre of the University of Hull proposed to appraise the archival holdings of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s Heritage & Education Centre, as well as records held in selected repositories in east central and northeast England (from the Humber to the Tyne). The appraisal focuses on material relating to the safety of vessels, seafarers, fishermen, passengers, and cargoes.

Two contrasting perspectives frame the work. First, an examination of primary sources generated and preserved by Lloyd’s Register and an assessment of archival material related to management committees, ship classification, and human resources. Second, the investigation embraces source materials relating to the distant-water trawl fisheries and the merchant shipping industry.

In considering the various archival materials generated by these different yet related activities, the team are testing the evidential quality of a range of primary sources relating to safety in the fisheries and merchant shipping over the long term. The appraisal is a scoping exercise designed to help prepare the ground for a large-scale research investigation into the evolving provision and significance of safety at sea since the mid-19th Century.


Preliminary findings from the initial appraisal and discussions concluded that the HEC archive has vast potential, which cataloguing would help to unlock. A wide variety of projects could be informed by the archive, in some cases complemented by other collections, which could give new insights into merchant shipping, shipbuilding and marine resource extraction from the 18th century to the present.

The researchers delved into archival resources not available in digital form at the time. These include the General Committee Minutes, which shed light on the internal proceedings and financial workings of Lloyd's Register, and the Lists of Officers, more commonly known as 'Staff Bibles', which record financial and personal details on historic clerks and surveyors.

The final research note was published in the International Journal of Maritime History in 2023 (