The emergence of examinations for British shipmasters and mates, 1830-1850
This thesis is a study of the attempts made during the second quarter of the nineteenth century to establish licensing examinations for ships' officers in the British mercantile marine. The focus is upon analysing the various forces which obtained to determine the pattern and progress of the examination debate. This involved a thorough sifting and evaluation of evidence in support of the view that the emergence of a national system of compulsory examinations for British shipmasters and mates was a more complex process than has been hitherto argued. It considers in detail the events between 1830 - 1850 when increasing demands were made upon government to attend to the problem of British shipwrecks, a problem which was shown to be related to the incompetence of ships' officers. The thesis shows that the demands to establish standards of professional competency for shipmasters were rooted in precedents of examinations in the Royal Navy, the East India Company, foreign mercantile fleets, professional occupations ashore and in the universities. It analyses the constraints on government action such as the widespread dislike of state interference in private affairs, the intransigent opposition of many shipping interests, the chaotic and restrictive nature of shipping legislation and the lack of a clearly defined government agency competent to supervise effectively a system of shipmaster examinations. The study demonstrates that the emergence of compulsory examinations for masters and mates coincided with the establishment of the Board of Trade as the executive department of government responsible for shipping affairs. Consequently, the Board's activities on the examination front are delineated and analysed. Also charted is the rise and fall of the General Shipowners' Society, the core of opposition to examination reform. Additionally, shipmaster examination reform is related to contemporary developments in the field of professional examinations.