City of Ships: The Development of London's Docks and Port Economy

Ref: C2420842

Using original, national and local sources this course will chart the development of London's docks as a major agent of economic and social change in the capital's history from Roman times onwards. In particular we shall study the links between the mercantile and ship building trades and the community in Waltham Forest. Thus we shall be studying merchants ranging from George Monoux in the 16th century to the Wigram family in the 18th and the relationship between their economic and social spheres. We shall also look at relations between between local workers, (a substantial number of whom worked in the docks) their employers and the worker-led organisations which sought to represent and fight for better working conditions in the waterfront trades. We shall conclude with some time reflecting on the course and local influence of the regeneration of the docklands area in the 1980s.

Course aim

Students will be encouraged to identify and follow-up on links between the development of London's docklands since Roman times and their own community and to become familiar with the principal sources for do this.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify the main sequence of events in the development of London's docks
  • Develop an understanding of how the development of the docks influenced that of my own area
  • Have an understanding and abilty to interpret the principal primary documentary and secondary sources for this topic
  • Construct a basic line of enquiry from historical sources

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • There will be opportunity for students to develop their own lines of research if they so wish.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet

City of Ships: The Development of London's Docks and Port Economy

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This course has started and there are no online enrolment places available.


This course is funded by the Greater London Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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