1902 Encyclopedia > England > Commerce. Shipping.

(Part 6)


Part 6. Commerce. Shipping.

British commerce received an enormous development, unparallel in the history of any nation, during the half a century from 1826 to 1876. In the year 1826 the aggregate value of the imports into and exports from the United Kingdom amounted to no more than £88,758,678; while the total rose to £110,559,538 in 1836, and to £205,625,831 in 1846. In 1856 the aggregate of imports and exports had risen to £311,764,507, in 1866 to £534,195,956, and in 1876 to £631,931,305. Thus the commercial transactions of the United Kingdom—those of England, by itself, cannot be given—with foreign states and British colonies increased more than seven-fold in the course of fifty years.

The following two tables exhibits the values of the annual imports, of the total annual exports of British home produce, and of the total imports and exports of the United Kingdom—the latter including exports of foreign and colonial produce—as well as the proportions per head of population, for every third year from 1864 to 1876;—


The following table exhibits the value of the imports into the United Kingdom from the principal British possessions and foreign countries in each of the years 1875 and 1876:—


The exports of British home produce from the United Kingdom in each of the years 1875 and 1876 were sent to the following colonial possessions and foreign countries:—


It will be seen from the preceding tables that the bulk of the commercial transactions of the United Kingdom, both as regards imports and exports, is with but a few states—mainly three British colonies and eight or nine foreign countries. In the same manner, the great mass of imports, as well as of exports of British produce centres, in each case, in about half a dozen principal articles. More than one-half of the total imports into the United Kingdom are made up of the six articles enumerated in the following table, one-half of which represent food for the nation, and the other half raw material for its manufactures. The table shows the value of each of these six articles imported into the United Kingdom during the years 1875 and 1876:—


The six principal articles of British produce exported to colonial possessions and foreign countries are derived from the labours of either manufacturing or mining industry. It may be gathered form the preceding chapters on mines and minerals, and on manufactures, to what an extent these six great export articles are the produce of each of the divisions of the United Kingdom.


The most important fact in connection with the foreign commerce of the United Kingdom in recent years, is that there has been a gradual and steady increase of imports, together with a decreased of exports of home produce. The movement began in 1872. Up to that time, the exports of British home produce had kept on increasing with the imports, although at a lesser rate, and far inferior in aggregate value; but a change took place in the latter year. While the imports continued their upwards course, gradually rising from £354,693,624 in 1872 to £375,154,703 in 1876, the exports of British produce fell from £256,257,347 in 1872 to £200,639,204 in 1876. The decline in exports, regular and steady throughout the period, and with a tendency to become more pronounced every year, affected all the principal articles of British home produce just enumerated. The value of the cotton manufacturers exported sank from £80,164,155 in 1872 to £67,641,268 in 1876; woolen fabrics from £38,493,411 to £23,020,719; iron and steel from £35,996,167 to £20,737,410; coals form £10,442,321 to £8,904,463; machinery from £8,201,112 to £7,210,426; and linen manufacturers from £10,956,761 to £7,070,149. The decline during the four years, it will be seen, was greatest of all in textile manufactures, and least in coals and machinery.

Customs Receipts.—While the distribution of the exports from each of the three great divisions of the United Kingdom may be judged by their comparative manufacturing activity, that of the imports can be approximately ascertained—making due allowance for great centres of commerce—from the custom-house returns. The receipts of the custom were as follows in each of the years 1875 and 1876:—


More than one-half of the total customs receipts of the United Kingdom, and nearly two-thirds of those of England and Wales, are collected in London; while the amount collected at Liverpool is not very far from the total receipts of Scotland and Ireland. Besides London and Liverpool, there are buy eight towns of England and Wales, out of eighty-seven which have custom-house establishments, where the collection amounts to £100,000 and more per annum. The following is a list of these eight ports, together with London and Liverpool giving the sums collected by the customs in each of them, in the years 1875 and 1876:—


The table indicates commerce in goods only that pay duty; otherwise Liverpool would show larger returns.

It appears from the returns of the last thirty years that the commerce of the country has a constantly growing tendency towards concentration, and that while the customs receipts of the smaller ports are gradually decreasing, there is corresponding increase in those of the two chief ports, London and Liverpool, which are gradually becoming the all-absorbing centres of England’s international trade and navigation.

Shipping.—The shipping of the United Kingdom increased sixfold in the period from 1840 to 1876. In the year 1840 the total tonnage of vessels, British and foreign, which entered at ports of the United Kingdom was 4,657,795; and in the year 1850 it had risen to 7,100,476; while in 1860 the total tonnage was 12,172,785. The rise continued uninterrupted, as will be seen from the following table, which gives the tonnage of British and of foreign vessels which entered and cleared at ports of the United Kingdom every third year from 1864 to 1876:—


The total tonnage here enumerated comprised both sailing vessels and steamers. The number and tonnage of the former is decreasing, and that of the latter increasing, to such an extent that stream vessels appear likely to absorb the whole international commerce of the country.

The following table of the principal ports of the country summarizes the tonnage of vessels with cargoes which entered and cleared coastwise, and from and to foreign countries and British possessions, in 1876:—


The subjoined table shows the total tonnage of the sailing vessels and steamers registered as belonging to the United Kingdom, at the end of each third year from 1864 to 1876:—


During the period 1864-76 the number and tonnage of sailing vessels registered as belonging to the United Kingdom decreased, but the steamers increased from 2490 to 4335, and the table shows that their tonnage nearly quadrupled. The latter fact indicates a doubling of the average tonnage of steamships, the wants of commerce requiring them to be more and more large. Nearly three-fourths of the total shipping of the United Kingdom belongs to England and Wales.

The total tonnage of the United Kingdom, far larger than of any other country, represents by itself more than one-third of the shipping of all the maritime states of the world.

Ship-building has long been an industry of great importance in England, altogether of late years it has suffered considerable fluctuations. The principal centres of the industry are the Thames, the Tees, the Tyne, and Sunderland on the east coast, and Liverpool, Barrow, and Whitehaven on the west. A very large proportion of vessels built in recent years are constructed of iron, with the consequence that the ship-building trade has mostly settled in those parts of the coast that are nearest to the iron and coal fields.

In 1874 the total amount of shipping built in England reached 277,984 tons; in 1875, 220,036 tons; and in 1876, 189,840 tons. In Scotland there were built 166,214 tons and in Ireland 4311 tons in 1876. the numbers do not include ships built on foreign account.

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