Latin Americans as sailors? This remark caused laughter among 19th-century foreign observers, particularly British observers. Yet, Latin Americans did struggle to create important merchant fleets, an effort largely ignored outside the region. This book rescues Latin American shipping from oblivion. In a chronological narrative, it presents the most important events in the emergence of Latin American shipping. While focusing on the shipping companies, the book also roams widely into governmental policy, foreign relations, and naval affairs.
Divided into two parts, the book opens with a brief summary of the age of sailing ships, then traces the history of the first steamship companies, focusing on Brazil and Chile until 1914. Part I then goes on to analyze the impact of World War I and the Great Depression. Part II considers World War II and U.S. surplus ships. New issues in Latin American shipping, arising in the 1950s, will be discussed in another volume.