Serving the empire: P&O, design, identity and representation (1837-1969)

PhD thesis

Davies, D. 2017. Serving the empire: P&O, design, identity and representation (1837-1969). PhD thesis Middlesex University Art and Design
TypePhD thesis
TitleServing the empire: P&O, design, identity and representation (1837-1969)
AuthorsDavies, D.

The thesis examines the place of art and design in the life of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). In particular, the thesis examines P&O’s art and design in the context of the company’s evolving role in the networks of the British Empire and Commonwealth from the company’s foundation in 1837 to the closure of its liner service in 1969. This contributes a different perspective to existing debates which have not yet focused on the role of everyday corporate art and design in Victorian maritime empire, the persistence of maritime empire in twentieth century art and design, or the impact of decolonisation on Britain’s maritime identity and culture after 1949. Drawing on P&O’s business archive held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, the thesis illustrates the case for a nuanced view of imperialism and culture beyond the simple monoliths of good and evil, and beyond generic characterisation as either corporate pride or propaganda. The research demonstrates how Britain’s imperial-maritime culture adapted a variety of art and design forms and functions at different times and places in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It reveals a story of imperial change, instability and uncertainty, as much as it does corporate power, order and control. The extended post-colonial timeframe identifies how melancholic and nostalgic imperial echoes persist and return in corporate narratives long after the formal end of the Empire.

Department nameArt and Design
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print23 Mar 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Mar 2017
Accepted28 Feb 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Accepted author manuscript
Permalink -

  • 24
    total views
  • 146
    total downloads
  • 6
    views this month
  • 10
    downloads this month

Export as