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 



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 three “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. 


The reports commissioned by History & Policy were released in 2022:

Reducing the dangers of dock work in the UK, 1899-1939: how past approaches could prevent future tragedies

Dr Guy Collender (University of Oxford)

Dock workers continue to suffer injuries and die due to workplace accidents, both in highly regulated countries such as the UK and around the world. This report looks at how this problem was tackled in the UK in the early decades of the 20th century. Fatal accidents on the UK docks fell from 115 in 1899 to 69 in 1939. The risks, equipment and safeguards were different – but what were the mechanisms? The report explores how a combination of detailed and disaggregated data collection on accidents, proactive legislation, increasing levels of inspection and collaborative work between dockers and employers contributed to these improvements.

Local knowledge, global change: a study of Lloyd’s Register surveyors 1834-1860

Dr Elin Jones (University of Exeter)

This report explores the social history of Lloyd’s Register surveyors during a period of immense technological change. Focusing on the period 1834 – 1860, Elin charts the conception of the surveyor as an ‘agent of standardisation’ when steam-powered paddle ships, screw-steamers and iron-clad vessels were being developed apace in Britain’s shipyards, and when the concept of the ‘objective surveyor’ was in its infancy. Taken as a whole, the report forms an examination of relationships between corporate governance and local realities during a period of maritime industrialisation.

You can read a blog about Elin's work here. Find out more about History & Policy 

Security at sea, cyber space, and the governance of the global commons

Dr. Louis Halewood (University of Plymouth)

Dr. Rory Hopcraf (University of Plymouth)

This paper examines the development of maritime governance across centuries, exploring how this has shaped the approach of the international community to the management of modern risks in the maritime sector today, and the implications for the nascent challenge of cybersecurity. The paper highlights the concept of the sea as a ‘global commons’, an idea that dates back to at least the seventeenth century and Hugo Grotius’ Mare Liberum. From an early stage, modern thinking on the sea as a commons has been underpinned by commercial and political interests. During the nineteenth century, British policymakers attempted to cultivate international law at sea through multilateral conferences as well as state practice, in order to bolster neutral rights and safeguard the British Empire and its vast merchant marine. However, the First World War demonstrated Britain’s continued willingness to close the seas when it deemed it necessary in order to secure its national and imperial interests.

Download all the Hindsight Reports here. 

Hindsight Perspectives Blogs

H&P supported the HEC team in hosting and mentoring micro-interns from the University of Oxford -  setting them the challenge of diving into our digital archives and coming up with content on a subject of interest to them and of relevance to the project, such a as supply chain bottlenecks, maritime decarbonisation or fire at sea. Find out more and read their work here.

Learning From the Past (LFP)

The Grant to H&P forms an important strand of the Lloyd's Register Foundation's broader LFP programme. You can find out about our wider programme and also listen to a podcast about it here

Explore further information and work on the project here.


*Please note that all the Hindsight Reports are in and the grant has ended.