Case Studies

History & Policy: Hindsight perspectives for a safer world

Deepening understanding of issues and provoking creative solutions

Grant awarded: £121,617

Timeframe: 2021-23 


Project overview

History & Policy is a collaborative network based at the Institute of Historical Research and King’s College London, with connections to academic historians all over the UK and the world.

This project will commission professional historians to provide historical context and insight to contemporary safety challenges, in order to deepen understanding of the issues and provoke creative solutions. Working with the materials in the Heritage Education Centre (HEC), historians will produce five “Hindsight reports” within the scope of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s key safety challenges. 

Challenges faced by the industry today may have informative precedents. Trained historical analysis of the archive material, backed by wider research and specialised knowledge, can explore, for example, how technological change was successfully incorporated into fleets and infrastructure, and how safety regulation kept pace with change (or did not) and what the lessons are for professionals and policy makers today. A network of relevant historians, policy makers and professionals will help us tailor the reports to the requirements of potential stakeholders, ensuring that they combine academic rigour with practical value, and reflect the concerns of the present to inform the future. 


  • There is huge potential for professional, policy and public audiences to learn from the archive as they navigate the challenges of the coming years in the maritime and engineering industry, supported by a detailed research and report writing process managed by professional historians 
  • As the reports take shape, they will generate other outputs and activities such as workshops and blog posts, providing informative nuggets of information in their own right, and also spreading the word about the HEC collection and other archive’s resources and potential. 
  • The body of work created by the project will help the Heritage & Education Centre contribute to thought leadership iwider Foundation activities, and in the professional safety space. 
  • The global network of professionals, academics and public policy audiences created in the course of the project, and brought together under the banner of the Foundation’s key challenge areas, will outlast the project, and be a valuable resource to its members. 


Hindsight Perspectives Blogs

COVID-19 and containerships: the last straw on the camel’s back: Every ‘innovation’ is fundamentally built up of components of history that, when put together, construct our future. One shipping challenge being faced today which global marine history could shed light on is the rising trend of transporting containers on the decks of bulk carrier vessels. 

Self-driving cargo ships: will they be haunted by history? Using history to address a contemporary problem: how historical cases could be applied to tackling the issue of shipping lane crowding.

Avoiding supply-chain bottlenecks: what can history teach us? What can we learn from past experiences? Why has the backlog at sea become a pressing issue in recent years? And how can we amend past solutions in order to improve our own approach, and prevent failures from happening in the future?

Ports and their hinterlands, past and future: Port cities are dependent on trade and transport networks and therefore decisively affected by technological changes in this area. Explore these intrinsic connections, and what we can learn about the challenges of today, by exploring the transitions of the past.

Fire at Sea: Fires at sea have taken and continue to take many lives, cause great environmental damage and great cost to companies. A greater understanding of the history of fire safety could help us answer questions including what are the most effective ways of implementing fire safety recommendations? 

The Experience of Containerisation: The successes, failures, foresight and folly of the past can teach us a great deal about how we should respond to the challenge of decarbonisation.

LNG Transitions a ‘Chicken and Egg’ Paradox: What can we learn from the literature on the transition to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) propulsion, and how can we use these successes and failures in order to create a hard business case for decarbonisation?

Learning from the past

You can find out about our wider Learning from the past programme and also listen to a podcast about it here

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Find out more about History & Policy