The Thames was used for navigation as early as the concept itself was discovered, in prehistoric times, as proved by the relics found in its vicinity or river bed. It is believed that sometime during the Middle Ages, probably between the 14th and 16th Century, due to the abundance of functional constructions such as mills, traffic on the Thames suffered a severe decline, to later thrive again. The river was often referred to as the ''Thames Highway'', such was its role in transporting essential commodities such as construction materials, coal and any type of tradable merchandise to a vast range of locations.
As further proof of its central economic importance, the use of the river has been subject to many Acts of Parliament ever since the 15th Century. The 18th Century, particularly its second half, was a noteworthy time of development and many artificial locks were created, as attested by documents such as those left by the Thames Navigation Committee regarding various projects. Besides its enduring economic importance, the Thames has been used for recreational purposes as well, a practice which increased substantially during the Victorian era and continues today with intense tourism.
Today, the Thames remains intensely navigated and equally regulated, to the extent that in certain areas a speed limit is imposed and its implementation actually monitored, aiming to ensure the safety of all who use it. The river still serves as a route for the convenient and ecologic transport of cargos of all kinds, including crude oil and timber. The tidal section is known as one of the most active ports in the entire country, comprising approximately sixty terminals for ships of all functions. With the rampant rise of tourism over the last few years, the Thames caters to local and international services, playing an important role in augmenting the country’s revenues.