Hindsight Reports

History & Policy: Hindsight Report Series 


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 commissions 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), three 'Hindsight reports' will be produced within the scope of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s key safety challenges. 

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. Find out more about our work with History & Policy

Explore further information and work on the project here.

All 3 Hindsight Reports are now available to view below:

Hindsight Perspectives for a Safer World - Report 1 (March 2023)

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

Dr Elin Jones (University of Exeter)


Today's maritime industry is focussed on technological, engineering and governance challenges as it faces up to the dauntingly complex processes of decarbonisation. One way we can unpick and contextualise these challenges is to consider how governance bodies at all levels dealt with similar sweeping technological change in the past. As with all work that puts historical research to this kind of use, the intended outcome is not so much a list of "dos and don'ts" (although there may be some) as a way of understanding what is possible, and what should the guiding principles be.

Dr Elin Jones's report explores how standardisation and centralisation intertwined over the first half of the nineteenth century in the UK maritime industry, as steam gradually replaced sail (much more gradually than zero carbon fuels will have to be introduced).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.

To download the Hindsight Report, fill out the form below. 




Hindsight Perspectives for a Safer World - Report 2 (May 2023)

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

Dr Guy Collender (University of Oxford)


In 1899 statistics collected by the British government, in the form of the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, included 115 fatal accidents on the UK docks, and many more serious and minor accidents. Forty years later in 1939, there were 69 fatalities. These are obviously still high figures compared to the UK's safety record today, but clearly a marked improvement had taken place.

In the second Hindsight Perspectives report, Reducing the dangers of dock work in the UK, 1899-1939: how past approaches could prevent future tragedies, Dr Guy Collender takes us through how these improvements were made, a combination of legislation and regulation, public attention, inspections, joint safety committees staffed by company representatives and unionised workers, and increasing buy-in from individuals and corporations. The motives of government were not purely humanitarian – the labour shortages following the First World War made the safety of the remaining workers an economic necessity. But still the story is one of progress and co-operation, and early twentieth-century experts' genuine desire to get to the heart of the problems is evident in their words over a hundred years later. The report details many problems and solutions that will be familiar to work health and safety professionals today.

To download the second Hindsight Report, fill out the form below. 




Hindsight Perspectives for a Safer World - Report 3 (May 2024)

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.

To download the third Hindsight Report, fill out the form below.