Steam Power and Sea Power

Coal, the Royal Navy, and the British Empire, c. 1870-1914

  • Steven Gray

Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series (CIPCSS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Steven Gray
    Pages 1-10
  3. The Rise of Coal Consciousness: Coal, State, and Imperial Defence

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 11-11
    2. Steven Gray
      Pages 13-38
  4. ‘An Enormous System Under Splendid Control’: The Development of a Coaling Infrastructure

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 65-65
    2. Steven Gray
      Pages 67-100
    3. Steven Gray
      Pages 101-127
  5. Coaling Labour

  6. Sojourning at the Coaling Station

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 183-183
    2. Steven Gray
      Pages 185-220
    3. Steven Gray
      Pages 221-251
    4. Steven Gray
      Pages 253-261
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 263-289

About this book


This book examines how the expansion of a steam-powered Royal Navy from the second half of the nineteenth century had wider ramifications across the British Empire. In particular, it considers how steam propulsion made vessels utterly dependent on a particular resource – coal – and its distribution around the world. In doing so, it shows that the ‘coal question’ was central to imperial defence and the protection of trade, requiring the creation of infrastructures that spanned the globe. This infrastructure required careful management, and the processes involved show the development of bureaucracy and the reliance on the ‘contractor state’ to ensure this was both robust and able to allow swift mobilisation in war. The requirement to stop regularly at foreign stations also brought men of the Royal navy into contact with local coal heavers, as well as indigenous populations and landscapes. These encounters and their dissemination are crucial to our understanding of imperial relationships and imaginations at the height of the imperial age. 


British Navy Coal Consciousness British Empire Royal Navy Coaling Station Naval Labour Coal Consensus Imperial Defence

Authors and affiliations

  • Steven Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.History, SSHLSUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-1-137-57641-5
  • Online ISBN 978-1-137-57642-2
  • Buy this book on publisher's site