Tools: Ship economics

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Ship economics

Editorial history

Created 01/06/2015 by CSG


Ship burden: data from English Admiralty Court records

Ship bill of sale


Overview of ship economics sources

Deposition books

HCA 13/70
HCA 13/71
HCA 13/72
HCA 13/73

Sentence bundles: schedules


Instance Papers: schedules


Overview of document types as ship economics sources

Document types

Ship bills of sale

Ship bill of sale


Single voyage accounts

Canary Islands

East Sussex Record Office: Archives of the Frewen Family of Brickwall in Northiam [FRE/1 - FRE/1126]: Personal [no ref. or date]: Account books [no ref. or date]: Account book of Benjamin Frewen and Stephen Frewen FRE/521 1632-1679: Accounts ledger of the ship Tenerife FRE/522 (?1646)-1656. 81 paper folios between limp parchment covers. John Turner owned two sixteenth parts of the ship; the ledger was propably compiled by John's brother Richard whilst on board during the overseas trips.

East Indies

Richard Abdy account book, 1657-1659


Daniell Gates account book for the voyage of the Leghorne Merchant into the Streights, 1668/69
The Accompts of the Shipp Undertaker to the 24:th of ffebruary 1656: Date: Exhibited by M:r Smith June 2nd 1657

West Africa

Voyage accounts of the Constant Ruth, August and September 1652

Ship accounts for multiple voyages

Ship accounts

Accounts of the ship the Charles of Bristol, beginning June 20th 1655[1]

Accounts of the ship the Constant Mary, 1654[2]


Merchants accounts


Shipwrights accounts


Charter parties

SEE: Listing of charter parties

SEE: Charter party of the William, Nov 1667[3]


Ship inventories of goods

Ship inventory of goods


Ship valuations or inventories


Wage schedules

Crew wage schedules


Capital costs

Hull: materials

  • Timber
  • Metal

- Quantities?
- Cost/measure?
- Material quantities per ton burden built?

Hull: labour

  • Master ship carpenter
  • Ships carpenters
  • Other labour

- Man/hours?
- Cost per man/hour?
- Rule of thumb labour input costs per ton burden built?
- Economies of scale?

Fitting out: materials

  • Rigging
  • Pulleys
  • Metal fittings
  • Sails

Fitting out: labour

  • Ropemakers
  • Sail makers
  • Pulley makers
  • Other

Operating costs

Wear & tear

  • Wear and tear costs (as estimated by owners and/or ship masters)
  • Maintenance costs (as estimated by owners and/or ship masters, or as evidenced in ship account books)

Freight lease costs

  • Monthly costs as agreed in Charter Party

Crew labour costs

  • Monthly wages
  •  ?Additional payments

Victualling costs

  • Food and drink

Port costs

  • Entry and Exit charges at port
  • Other port related charges

Cost of capital in market place

Bottomry bonds

Feb 1651: Bottomry bond made circa February 1651 for the ship the Expectation (Master: Thomas Newman), which lay at the port of Messina between November 1650 and February 1651 and lacked sufficient money for diverse repairs to her hull, tackle, apparell and furniture, and to purchase victuals and provisions for her company, as well as to pay the ship's company's wages ad other debts owing by the ship. The ship's master, Thomas Newman, and her purser, Thomas Ayres, borrowed 800 dollars (or pieces of eight) against a bottomry bond from the merchant Edward Beale, who was resident at Messina. The interest rate was not known to Admiralty Court witnesses, but the bond was witnessed in Messina by Paschall Russa a notary public, and the bond appears to have been repayable in London aupon the arrival of the ship the Expectation.[4]

Late 1655: Bottomry bond for £100 provided by Alderman William and Maurice Thompson before the departure in late 1655 of the ship the Lyon and Providence for the East Indies via Guinea, and to return to London bia Danzig "for which they were to have and receive upon her retourne to London one hundred and fourtie pounds". The sum was utterly lost as a result of the seizure of the ship by the Dutch.[5]

Late 1655: Sum of one thousand pieces of eight lent by Thomas Martyn, a 30 year old Irish born London merchant "upon bottomerie or grosse adventure" to Claus Johnson at request of Barent Claeson (brother to Claus Johnson). The money was lent at Madrid to enable Claus Johnson to purchase a ship from Vice Admiral de Ruiter, which had been taken prize from the Turks, the said Claus Johnson "not having money enough to pay for her and some goods which were bought there to be laden aboard her for the owners account"[6]

Nov 22nd 1655 or 1656: Bottomry bond for £300 dated Nov 22nd 1655 (or 1656): Henry Potts of Newcastle (Master: The Hopewell, formerly the Gilly flower) and John Carter bound to James Nutall. No details of interest rate. Ship was bound on voyage from Newcastle to London and back to Newcastle in November 1655 (or 1656) and lacked provisions, tackle, furniture, materials and stock to proceed on its voyage. [7]

Ca. Sep 1658: Bottomry bond for 1100 guilders (circa Sep 1658) lent by a Mr Demetrius the factor or agent for James Drawater, Demetrius being also freighter of the ship the Saint Anne (Master: Hendrick Johnson), which was bound from Amsterdam to Cadiz. The money was needed due to the great delay of the ship at Amsterdam due to foul weather and ice. Money was repayable on the return of the ship from Cadiz to Amsterdam. Interest amounted to 2200 guilders or £220. Ship was arrested on its return at suit of Mr Drawater to enforce payment of the interest.[8]

Ca. May 1659: Bottomry bond "at the rate of twenty per cent" taken up by an Edward Lemmon at Elsenore on the ship the Redd Rose in circa May 1659. Lemmon was one of the owners of the ship.[9] A passenger claimed that Edward Lemmon took up moneys at bottomry at both Embden and Elsenore for want of his bills of exchange, which had been seized from him, and that "for the necessary use of his sayd shipp take up much money at bottomrie at deere rates.[10]

Borrowing from crew members


Deposit rates with City of London


Returns on single voyages

HCA data on returns


Return to the ship owner


Return to the freighter(s)


Return to ship master


Return to the crew (labour)


Returns on a ship per annum or other period


Riskiness of returns

C17th concepts of risk and return

  • Quantum invested ("stock", "adventure")?
  • Beginning and end of an investment determing period over which return estimated or calculated?

  • Different expected returns on different asset classes?
  • Expected return for a given geographical route and/or commodity type?

  • Opportunity cost?
  • Portfolio thinking?

Insurance costs

"hee this deponent did thereupon satisfie unto the said Assurers their severall premiums after the rate of 10 li per Cent and did Charge the same by bill or bills of Exchange upon the said John Bollart, who accordingly payd the said bills"[11]

Suggested reading

Barker, The rise of an early modern shipping industry: Whitby's golden fleet, 1600-1750 (Woodbridge, 2011)
Barbour, V., 'Marine risks and insurance in the seventeenth century', Journal of Economic and Business History. I (1929)
Barbour, V., 'Dutch and English merchant shipping in the seventeenth century', Economic History Review, II (1930)
Davis, R., 'The organisation and finance of the English shipping industry in the late seventeenth century' (London PhD, 1955)
Davis, R., 'Merchant shipping in th eeconomy of the late 17th century', Economic History Review, IX (1996)
Davis, R., 'Earnings of capital in the English shipping industry, 1670-1730', Journal of Economic History', XVII (1957)
Davis, Ralph, The rise of the shipping industry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (London, 1962)
Fury, Cheryl A. (ed.), The social history of English seamen, 1485-1649 (Woodbridge, 2012)
Grassby, Richard, Kinship and capitalism (Cambridge, 2001)
Grassby, Richard, The business community of seventeenth-century England (Cambridge, 2002)
Grassby, Richard, The idea of capitalism before the industrial revolution (London, 1999)
Jones, Evan Thomas, 'The Bristol shipping industry in the sixteenth century', (Edinburgh PhD, 1998)
North, D.C., 'Sources of productivity change in ocean shipping, 1600-1850', Journal of Political Economy, LXXVI (1958)
Scammell, G.V., 'Shipowning in England, c.1450-1550', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, XII (1962)
Scammell, G.V., 'Shipowning in the econmy and politics of early modern England', The Historical Journal, vol. 15, issue 03, Sept. 1972, pp. 385-407
Stephenson, Judy, 'Industrial organisation in 17th century London building trades and institutions', unpublished seminar paper, Dec. 10th 2014
Ville, Simon P., English ship owning during the industrial revolution: Michael Henley and son, London shipowners, 1770-1830 (Manchester, 1987)
Ville, Simon, 'The growth of specialisation in English shipowning, 1750-1850', Economic History Review, XLVI, 4 (1993), pp. 702-711

Willan, Thomas, S., The English coasting trade, 1500-1750 (Manchester, 1938)
  1. HCA 24/113 item 97
  2. HCA 24/113 item 153
  3. C6/36/21 f. 3
  4. HCA 13/68 f.4r
  5. HCA 13/71 f.617r
  6. HCA 13/72 f.348v
  7. HCA 13/73 f.91v; HCA 13/73 f.96v
  8. HCA 13/73 f.202Av
  9. HCA 13/73 f.432r
  10. HCA 13/73 f.436r
  11. HCA 13/70 f.149r