Earlier this year, I was introduced to "Tramp Ships: An Illustrated History" and "Coasters: An Illustrated History" both of which are by Roy Fenton and Seaforth Publishing. To complete a trio of extraordinary books, this work in the same series, albeit by another author (Ambrose Greenaway) is a further example of sheer excellence in print.
As I frequently mention, I am a shipwreck historian (it's what I do) and, in order to completely understand any ship which was lost at sea, I find myself studying almost anything and everything associated with the subject. Most vessels fall easily into an appropriate category such as; passenger-liner, passenger-ferry, vehicle-ferry, bulk-carrier, tanker, aircraft carrier or whatever. The cargo-liner, however, is often regarded as something of a crossbreed - being neither a freighter nor a passenger-liner but still possessing something of both.
Instead of ignoring the `awkwardness' of such hybrids, Ambrose Greenaway has produced a remarkable document which traces the origins and the history of the cargo-liner from the earliest years right through to the latest designs and innovations and, of course, the decline of the type in favour of containerisation. How sad that `Travel by Cargo Ship' is no longer as easy or as cheap (and, therefore as much fun!) as it used to be - but I digress!
By repeating the `Contents Page' of this richly illustrated work, the reader will gain an appreciation of what to expect: Origins & Early Years, Consolidation, Innovations in Machinery & German competition, World War 1, Difficult Trading and the Rise of the Motorship, Depression & Renaissance, US Maritime Commissions Shipbuilding Programme & WW2 Construction, Postwar Reconstruction, New Design and Innovation and, fin ally, Apogee & Decline as Containerisation Spreads. The work then concludes with a Bibliography and Index. Having started at the very beginning, each subsequent chapter skilfully adds the next relevant segments of information so that the complete story of the cargo-liner is fully explained. In addition that `explanation' is both well-researched and well-written.
The book itself measures 10¼ x 9½ in (260 x 241 mm) and contains 184 pages. There are 1-3 first class historic photographs of ships on every page and those, coupled with an informative, well-researched and easy to read text, makes this book outstanding by any standards.
Whereas the history, development and evolution of, for example, big passenger ships and warships (of all types) are well documented, the same is not so for the many different types of less glamorous commercial vessels. Of these it might (only might!) be argued that the cargo-liner is possibly the most overlooked of all. Now that gap is filled by a work which is unlikely to disappoint anyone at all.