Breaking Seas, Broken Ships: people, shipwrecks, and Britain, 1854-2007

Broken Seas, Broken Ships is Ian Friel’s latest book on the history of ships and shipwrecks in Britain, and is the ‘sequel’ to Britain and the Open Road (2020), which covered British maritime history starting in the medieval period and ending in the 1820s – and formed the basis of a feature in CA 372.

This book starts where the previous one ended, exploring British seafaring from when the Empire was at its zenith in the middle of the 19th century, through to the World Wars, the collapse of the Empire, and ending with the state of shipping today. An informative and engaging read, the book covers each of these periods not through a dry summary of events, but instead through a series of case studies of specific ships, each of which arguably defines the period in question. The last two chapters – on the spill of the oil tanker the SS Torrey Canyon in 1967 and the impact of shipping as explored through the container ship the MSC Napoli – are particularly poignant, highlighting the environmental impact shipping has had in recent history.

Breaking Seas, Broken Ships: people, shipwrecks, and Britain, 1854-2007, Ian Friel, Pen & Sword History, £20, ISBN 978-1526771506.
Review by KK