J.R. Howden was an author specialising in factual literature for boys. Other works in “The Boys’ Book” series included “Railways”, “Locomotives” and “Warships”.
The title of this book is a little misleading as it is biased in favour of merchant ships, particularly large ocean liners, and British ones at that. The two main German lines HAPAG and NORDDEUTSCHER LLOYD are covered in detail and their fleet lists illustrate clearly the point at which British shipyards become superseded by German ones. It is quite interesting to note that the French hardly get a mention at all! Neither do warships except that some individual ones which featured some innovation in design or machinery.
The first eleven chapters are very technical, dealing with naval architecture, the transition from wooden hulls through iron to steel, and methods of propulsion through from paddles through single screws to multiple screws. The various types of machinery and boilers are described, up to the turbine. Two chapters deal with river steamboats and with lake, coastal and narrow seas vessels. Four chapters are devoted to the North Atlantic, Eastern and Australian routes, and to the South Atlantic and Pacific. Full fleet lists for the major companies involved.
The first chapters do not shy away from the mathematics involved in calculating displacement, centre of gravity; horsepower etc. which I suspect might be beyond the powers of the average sixth former these days, if deprived of his pocket calculator…