Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Sailor's Friend

16 March 1873
Plimsoll line

The plight of the ordinary seaman commanded much attention from the British public in the mid-1870s. Some 20 percent of the nation's seamen died at sea, and in some passages of the coal trade, the casualty rate of ships reached an astounding 70 percent. In the realm of maritime safety, Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), the 'Sailor's Friend',  figures prominently. Our Seamen: An Appeal (1872) was his clarion call to action regarding the dangerous condition of oceangoing ships. He initiated the load line or Plimsoll line, a mark on the outside of a vessel indicating how low it may safely rest in the water when fully loaded. Plimsoll's emotional speeches on the subject always drew huge crowds. He spoke in Leeds on 16 March 1873 about grossly overladen ships that went down and about sailors sent to prison as they refused to work on dangerous vessels.

From: Leon Fink, Sweatshops at Sea. Merchant Seamen in the World's Globalized Industry...(2011)