CUP Undergraduate Research


How Shipbuilding was the Blessing and the Curse of Sunderland

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2017

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Arts & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Dr. Joel Davis


This thesis argues and consequently proves how the shipbuilding industry in Sunderland along the River Wear, was the blessing and the curse of the city. The specialisation of the industry around the turn of the Industrial Revolution resulted in Sunderland becoming famous across the world for shipbuilding. This specialisation would prove pivotal during the Great War and the Second World War. The U.K. relied on the remarkable output of ships from Sunderland’s yards to keep the country afloat. Britain’s survival in both conflicts was largely dependent on the continuation of importing goods from allied countries. This dependence meant that ships proved invaluable. Sunderland was able to contribute significantly to both war efforts. However, the specialisation which was necessary for this elevated contribution during the wars, would also prove to be the city’s biggest misfortune. Focusing almost all of the city’s economy towards shipbuilding resulted in Sunderland being vulnerable to damaging economical fluctuations. When the demand for ships fell during the interwar period and after WWII, the shipyards would suffer. The ship workers would be cast away by the nation as no real financial support was offered. The complex relationship between Sunderland and shipbuilding is epitomised by the events leading up to and after both World Wars. Thus shipbuilding was consequently the blessing and the curse of Sunderland.

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