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  • August 24, 2021 10:17 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Chasing the Bounty: The Voyages of the Pandora and Matavy

    Edited by Donald R. Caxton

    Chasing the Bounty: The Voyages of the Pandora and Matavy, edited by Donald A. Maxton, continues the tradition. The book examines the expedition sent to recapture the mutineers. It tells of events aboard HMS Pandora a 24-gun frigate dispatched in search of the mutineers and the cutter Matavy, built by Bounty mutineers and seized when Pandora arrived at Tahiti.

    The story is told through primary documentation. Maxton collected writings of those participating in the Pandora expedition, willing and unwilling. The quarterdeck view from Pandora is offered by Captain Edward Edwards (commanding Pandora), Pandora’s surgeon, George Hamilton, and Midshipman David Renouard. The book includes Edwards’s official dispatch to the Admiralty, Hamilton’s 1793 book about the expedition, and Renouard’s Voyage of the Pandora’s Tender (1791).

    The last is Renouard’s report about the activities of Matavy after Matavy became separated from Pandora, and sailed independently to the Cape of Good Hope. Renouard commanded Matavy after it was seized and became Pandora’s tender.

    Presenting the mutineers view of the voyage are letters written by Peter Heywood to his mother and sister during the voyage between Batavia and Britain, and James Morrison’s journal of the voyage. Heywood was one of the midshipmen aboard Bounty. Morrison was its boatswain, the driving force behind building the cutter seized by the Pandora.

    Other documents round out the book: Pandora’s Admiralty’s sailing orders, a statement on Pandora’s loss by Edwards, Bounty court marital results, and an anonymous poem about Bounty and Pandora believed written by an officer aboard Pandora. These place the main part of the book in context.

    Maxton took these documents, cleaned up the spelling and modified some punctuation and grammar to conform to modern standards. The result is a remarkable retelling of Pandora’s voyage from disparate points of view. Maxton captures each author’s voice. Edward’s writes in sparse language, while Hamilton is effusive. Heywood seems defensive, while Morrison is straightforward. (This is possibly due to when these were written. Heywood’s letters were written before the trial, Morrison’s account afterwards.)

    Maxton divides his material by chronological sequence. His chapters cover different stages of the expedition: the outbound trip, the hunt for the mutineers at Tahiti, the search for the rest of the mutineers, and the wreck of Pandora, He breaks up each account. Readers move from Edwards to Hamilton to Heywood to Morrison in each section. (The order varies by section.) While it keeps events in order, it also disrupts the flow of each narrative.

    Despite this, Chasing the Bounty is a valuable addition to Bounty lore. Much of its material has been unavailable for years in editions that contain errors. Maxton makes them available to modern readers stripped of inaccuracies. Maxton added introductory material, a glossary, and notes aiding readers’ understanding of the events. This book is a must for serious students of Bounty.

    • Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2020
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, x + 190 pages
    • Illustrations, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781476639741

    Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

  • August 24, 2021 10:15 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Revenge in the Name of Honour: The Royal Navy’s Quest for Vengeance in the Single Ship Actions of the War of 1812

    Nicholas James Kaiser

    The War of 1812 between the USA and Great Britain attracts little attention today in the United Kingdom, and not much in America, compared to other conflicts in which those countries have been engaged during their respective histories. It broke out on the declaration of war by the United States on a Britain nearly nineteen years into its desperate struggle with what had become the Napoleonic Empire, one that involved all countries of Europe as well as many others in the world.

    The new American war was received with little enthusiasm by the United Kingdom. What the year of 1812 is principally remembered for there and in Europe is Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the epic battle of Borodino (the biggest battle of the entire French Wars) and the disastrous French retreat through the Russian winter. To contemporaries, however, the defeats at sea of 1812 at the hands of the small United States Navy provoked shock and initial disbelief to the British public and military. The Royal Navy’s ‘cult of victory’ had, over many years, built up the belief that a British frigate was capable of taking any frigate of any other nation, and was expected to. That  expectation had largely been fulfilled against vessels of Britain’s principal enemies the French and the Spanish, as well as of others, including against more powerfully armed ships such as the new French 40-gun frigates armed with 24-pounder guns, frigates taken by British 38-gun frigates armed with 18-pounders.

    The three large American 44-gun frigates were, however, yet another step up in power from the French frigates. The USS President, United States and Constitution were the most powerful frigates afloat in 1812, well built, manned and commanded. Their three 1812 victories against British 38-gun frigates, as well as successful American actions against smaller British vessels, provoked a public outcry, sending shockwaves through the navy and public in Britain and in Nova Scotia, Canada. American pride had been boosted by the victories at sea of their tiny navy, a much-needed boost following the ineffective American campaigns on land. British pride had been wounded. For both sides, the naval war had become a matter of honor to be upheld or reclaimed, as the author clearly points out, and of revenge to be exacted by the world’s most powerful navy.

    The author, Halifax-based Nicholas James Kaiser, effectively follows this theme through to the war’s conclusion in 1815, offering a fascinating and well-balanced account that covers all the important actions and their effects. His style flows smoothly, and he has contributed a most readable book to the increasing volume of works on the War of 1812, and one with a different slant to most. This is an offering firmly recommended to all interested in the maritime history of the period and of this war in particular.

    • Warwick: Helion & Company, 2020
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, softcover, 216 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, appendices, bibliography, index. $32.95
    • ISBN: 9781912866724

    Reviewed by Roger Marsh, Killaloe, Co. Clare, Ireland

  • August 24, 2021 10:12 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Admiral Lord St. Vincent: Saint or Tyrant? The Life of Sir John Jervis, Nelson’s Patron

    James D.G. Davidson

    John Jervis, Lord St. Vincent was one of Britain’s stellar admirals of the end of the age of fighting sail. Despite an outstanding record, he is largely neglected. Today he is best known for his influence on Horatio Nelson’s career.

    Admiral Lord Saint Vincent—Saint or Tyrant? The Life of Sir John Jervis, by James D. G. Davidson is the first modern biography of John Jervis in nearly ninety years.

    Davidson does a workmanlike job of tracing the arc of John Jervis’s rise from obscurity to prominence. Jervis’s father was a lawyer who wanted his son to follow him into the law. Instead John Jervis determined to become a sailor, and entered the Royal Navy as twelve-year-old able seaman. After four years he was rated a midshipman, and two years later, with the requisite sea time, became a lieutenant. While distantly related to Lord Anson, he appears to have risen on his own merit. Promotion then came steadily. He distinguished himself during the Seven Years War, participating in the capture of Quebec and ended that war as a post captain commanding the 44-gun two-decker Gosport. (It was not the frigate Davidson stated it was.) He commanded the 80-gun Foudroyant at the start of the Wars of American Independence, participated in the Battle of Ushant, and supported Whig Keppel over Tory Palliser in the political imbroglio following the battle, not because of politics, but because Keppel’s actions were correct from a naval standpoint.

    He served in Parliament between the American and French Revolutionary Wars, rising to flag rank in February 1793. He commanded a West Indies expedition, and then the Mediterranean Fleet, winning the Battle of St. Vincent (gaining a peerage). Later he served as commander of the Channel Fleet and First Lord of the Admiralty.

    Davidson does an outstanding job of showing the difficulties St. Vincent overcame during his tenure in these three roles. He also shows how St. Vincent served as mentor for Nelson and other British naval stars. Davidson also does an excellent job explaining St. Vincent’s reforms as First Lord.

    Davidson breaks little new ground in this biography. Some primary sources were used, including the Naval Records Society’s The St. Vincent Papers and Brenton’s nineteenth century Life and Correspondence of St Vincent. Most of the bibliography appears taken from twentieth-century sources published before 1980. Davidson seems to have missed much new research unearthed over the last forty years. He draws his views on life in the sailing era Royal Navy from Masefield rather than N. A. M. Rodger.

    This book is for those interested in naval history, especially the period from 1750 through 1820. Ship modelers and wargamers will find nothing of interest in it.

    Readers will come away from Davidson’s book feeling Saint Vincent was neither a saint nor a tyrant. Instead he is revealed as an officer of extraordinary competence, dedication, and honesty, one whose services proved critical to British success over Napoleon. Despite limitations, Admiral Lord Saint Vincent—Saint or Tyrant? is a book worth reading.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, vii + 230 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, appendix, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781844153862

    Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

  • August 24, 2021 10:08 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy from the 15th Century to the Present

    J.J. Colledge, updated by Ben Warlow & Steve Bush

    Pendant Numbers of the Royal Navy: A Record of the Allocation of Pendant Numbers to Royal Navy Warships and Auxiliaries

    Ben Warlow & Steve Bush

    The fifth edition of the late J.J. Colledge’s Ships of the Royal Navy is a valuable update of this standard reference work, first published in two volumes in 1969 and 1970. This latest version, revised and updated by Ben Warlow and Steve Bush, adds information for all the most recent warships commissioned into the Royal Navy since the previous edition in 2006. It also incorporates, for the first time, the ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a reflection of the fact that these vessels, although not commissioned warships, have come to play a vital role when deployed as integral elements of the Royal Navy’s task forces worldwide.

    Readers of this edition who are accustomed to the format of the previous versions will find little has changed, in terms of the presentation of the data, from Colledge’s original ground-breaking work. Since all such information is in a highly condensed form, it is essential to read carefully and thoroughly through the introductory sections to gain the full benefit of this mass of data, which covers the more than 15,000 vessels that have served in the Royal Navy since the fifteenth century.

    Pendant Numbers of the Royal Navy, on the other hand, is a completely new title. Since it and Ships of the Royal Navy were published within a few months of each other and present complimentary information, it seems appropriate to consider them together.

    The practice of painting pendant numbers on the hulls of ships of the Royal Navy began in 1914, but the numbers themselves pre-date that practice considerably. The very large size of the Royal Navy in the late nineteenth century led to the allocation of individual numbers to each ship for administrative and identification purposes. While signaling using flags, these numbers were used to direct messages and the fact that a number was being signaled was indicated by using a pendant, a triangular flag. Hence, when the numbers came to be marked on ships, they were called pendant numbers.

    This new book will be an invaluable tool for researchers, since it lists all known pendants numbers for surface ships and submarines, and has a supplement covering numbers allocated to the vessels of the British Pacific Fleet in 1944-1945. Thus facilitating identification of ships from photographs on which the numbers are visible. It is important to note that pendant numbers were changed periodically, specifically to confuse enemy intelligence, unlike the hull numbers used by the United States Navy, which changed only if a ship changed its role. There also is a complete list of ships by name with each ship’s pendant number or numbers, and the dates for which these were applicable. This could be useful for model makers or artists planning a model or painting but unsure of the correct number for the date they wish to depict.

    Ships of the Royal Navy and Pendant Numbers of the Royal Navy should find a prominent place on the shelves of any self-respecting researcher.

    Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy from the 15th Century to the Present

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2021
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xx + 500 pages. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781526793270

    Pendant Numbers of the Royal Navy: A Record of the Allocation of Pendant Numbers to Royal Navy Warships and Auxiliaries

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2021
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xviii + 432 pages
    • Photographs, appendices. $44.95
    • ISBN: 9781526793782

    Reviewed by Denis Wilkinson, San Diego, California

  • August 24, 2021 10:02 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    The Kaiser’s U-boat Assault on America: Germany’s Great War Gamble in the First World War

    Hans Joachim Koerver

    Hans Joachim Koerver’s work, The Kaiser’s U-boat Assault on America: Germany’s Great War Gamble in the First World War, is a well written narrative on the inner workings of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s government in World War I. Topics covered include the Imperial Navy’s quarrel with the chancellorship, the atmosphere of Germany’s working class, the resentment of the Royal Navy’s blockade, and President Woodrow Wilson’s role as mediator between Germany and the United Kingdom early in the war. The book avoids the traditional retelling of battles and military maneuvers, and instead it elaborates on the indecision of the Kaiser’s government on the issue of unrestricted submarine warfare, the influential weight that Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz had within the government, and the struggle between the navy and chancellor.

    Hans Joachim Koerver is a well-established historian and researcher who has published several works on naval history, many of which focused on World War I. The Kaiser’s U-boat Assault on America utilizes sources gathered from the British National Archives, such as declassified documents and charts. Koerver also does an excellent job consulting German primary sources, such as the diaries of Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, Naval Representative at the Imperial German Court. Koerver’s writing style presents different perspectives during the years leading to the United States’ declaration of war on Imperial Germany in 1917 and is readily accessible to the casual reader.

    The Kaiser’s U-boat Assault on America is broken down into five parts, each containing several chapters. The first part contains two chapters in which Koerver compared the naval strengths of the United Kingdom and Imperial Germany along with their financial and industrial capabilities prior to the outbreak of war in 1914. Koerver displayed numerous graphs and charts to further illustrate the economic tolls exacted through blockade, U-boat warfare, and the war itself. The following four parts examine developments in the U-boat war for each year chronologically until 1917 and contain five to fifteen chapters each. These developments included the sinking of Lusitania and other vessels using unrestricted submarine warfare and correspondences between the Imperial government and the White House. Additionally, the narrative presented in this work portrayed the British with much criticism, which was further supported with decrypted messages gathered from Room 40, restrictions placed by the Royal Navy on shipping to neutral countries, and the British government’s rebuttal of Wilson’s offer to open peace negotiations.

    The inner struggle within the Imperial government remained a theme throughout the book, as the Imperial Navy, backed by Tirpitz and much of the conservative population, pushed for the full adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare. In contrast, the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, pushed against unrestricted submarine warfare in recognition of the potential severance of relations with the United States. Koerver details this struggle well, and in the final chapters examines the Kaiser’s submission to Germany’s military leaders in the face of defeat. In doing so, the narrative is well ended with the declaration of war from the United States, and the rest is history.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii +  343 pages
    • Photographs, maps, tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95
    • ISBN: 9781526773869

    Reviewed by Tyler McLellan, East Carolina University

  • June 04, 2021 11:20 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    U-Boats at War in 100 Objects, 1939-1945

    Gordon Williamson

    Gordon Williamson offers a fresh look into the Kriegsmarine in his new book U-Boats at War in 100 Objects, 1939-1945. In 182 pages, the author of more than 50 books on military subjects presents the who, what, where, when, and why to piece together a World War II story that both educates and entertains the novice to the expert.

    Forgoing a chronology of historical events, Williamson highlights individual components that fit together to make a complete war machine. He does this through sensory writing, easily digestible sections that include an object or two, and a one-to-two-page fact-filled overview of them. Diverse objects of war include photographs of bunkers, weaponry, authentic passes, and propaganda posters as well as badges of honor, uniforms, and images of well-known and everyday sailors.

    His multifaceted approach works well for a variety of learning styles and breathes life into his book. The reader can feel the emotions attached to an awards ceremony, the color, texture and fit of a hat on a sailor’s head, the immense stress s\sailors bore, and the often-rank smell of a crowded U-boat. In this vein, despite eschewing a chronological format, he also develops a feeling of time. The reader absorbs the many hours sailors train for the various ranks, the time it takes to introduce, retire, or perfect technology or to launch weapons and submerge the submarines, and how time eventually ran out for the Kriegsmarine.

    Rather than categorize like objects into single chapters, Williamson sprinkled them throughout the book so that each turn of the page is exciting and not dulled by repetition. This allows every object, including a Type VIIC U-boat, a rare Kriegsmarine Star Globe, and a closet-sized U-boat galley, to stand out.

    His object-by-object approach invites students to personally construct a period in history much like completing a jigsaw puzzle. Like the puzzle piece that is examined for its shape and place in the whole, the object is studied for its characteristics and how it fits into history. Take, for example, the descriptions and photographs of various badges; medals of honor created to give credit for numbers of tours, exemplary work, and to lift the spirits of the sailors. We learn the details of designs and the badges’ purposes, how many and to whom the badges were given, the materials used, and companies and artists who created them.

    The author juxtaposed technical detail with human behavior to sculpt experiences such as in his section on equipment used for the call to nature: one or two septic tank-free bathroom facilities for many sailors, and the outdoor “toilet” that was a metal ring fastened to hang overboard the ship. We learn about U-boat plumbing and how something humankind does every day in private is not always the case on a U-boat—or an easy feat—and how maintenance and a basic human action can have deadly effects if not managed correctly. The passage is brought home by a photograph of a man perched on a metal ring over the sea.

    In the end, Williamson puts within reach of a broad spectrum of readers a fascinating, complex, and multilevel story of human and technological success and failure, where life hung in the balance.

    • Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2020
    • 7” x 10”, hardcover, ix + 182 pages
    • Photographs. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781526759023

    Reviewed by Mary Ellen Riddle, Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

  • June 04, 2021 11:18 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Britain’s War Against the Slave Trade: The Operations of the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron 1807-1867

    Anthony Sullivan

    While many people may understand what the slave trade was, very few understand the overwhelming task and steps that nations, specifically Great Britain, took to stop the trade along the African Coast. Anthony Sullivan's book provides an in-depth look at Britain's West Africa Squadron and its fight against the trafficking of human cargo over sixty years that is meant for any audience.

    Sullivan describes events spanning from the fight in the House of Commons to abolish the slave trade in 1807 until the end of the squadron's operations in 1867. At that point the squadron, had detained 1,600 vessels, freeing an estimated 160,000 Africans from slavery. Sullivan's narrative is structured chronologically, with each chapter discussing different impacts that the squadron and the British government had during the years covered by the specific chapter. Topics covered in the book include international treaties, the squadron's operations along the coast, and the methods used to stop the slave ships in the open waters. For instance, chapter ten describes the treaty signed between the British and the Spanish in August 1835. The Spanish Equipment Clause gave the squadron the right to stop and search vessels flying the Spanish flag to see if they were equipped for slaving.

    While Sullivan covers every year of the squadron's participation off Africa's coast, his greatest weakness is that his writing seems rushed when talking about their operations compared to diplomatic resolutions between countries. Instead of going into detail about events, he simply mentions one and moves to the next. When describing the vessel Daring and its capture of the Spanish brig Centinella on June 30, 1812, in chapter two, Sullivan states that the brig was captured and then talks about how Daring captured another vessel a week later.

    Sullivan provides the reader with maps of the different areas where the squadron patrolled and first-class drawings of the vessels that the squadron and their allies used. These images allow the reader to have a better visual idea of the territories and boats Sullivan describes. However, Sullivan's most significant contribution to the reader is his glossary. His glossary defines naval words such as quarterdeck and pinnace, making the book easy to understand and enjoyable to read whether you are a novice or an expert in marine vessels. Sullivan supports his writing with an abundance of primary sources ranging from captains’ logbooks found in the British National Archives to the countless newspapers he used from the British Newspaper archives.

    Sullivan's book is very direct and organized chronologically, and it serves as a great reference point for anyone interested in studying a specific vessel within the squadron. In his two-separate appendices, Sullivan has a timeline of important events that he mentions in his book and the commanders-in-chiefs appointed to the squadron throughout the years. Sullivan's work provides an answer to a hole in the historiography of Britain's operations against the slave trade along the African coast. From scholars to your everyday reader, Sullivan's work is a great launching point in understanding the daunting task that the British's Africa Squadron faced for sixty years as they tried to end the African slave trade.

    • Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2020
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xxv + 372 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, glossary, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781526717931

    Reviewed by Charles Cox, University of West Florida

  • June 04, 2021 11:16 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Captain Cook and the Search for Antarctica

    James C. Hamilton

    While the history of James Cook’s voyages and his accomplishments is well known to anyone interested in British maritime history, Captain James Cook and the Search for Antarctica by James Hamilton offers an in-depth focused look at the less researched subject of Cook’s travels, the search for the last unknown continent. Since antiquity, it was believed that a land in the south must exist to counterbalance the land in the north. Maps dating back to the Middle Ages frequently depict the legendary land Terra Australis Incognita, the “Unknown Southern Land.” Antarctica, as we call the land today, remained intangible and elusive to many explorers until the nineteenth century.

    Hamilton’s book explores the unofficial purpose of James Cook’s voyages: the search for the Southern Continent. While the British Admiralty maintained that the official purpose of Cook’s first voyage was scientific, to observe and record the transit of Venus, the voyage had a secret mission. The mission was revealed to Cook in a set of sealed letters after he fulfilled the official astronomical task. Cook was instructed to find the location of Antarctica, and if possible, claim the new land for England. An analysis of Cook’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic navigation in the Southern Ocean is the main focus of Hamilton’s book.

    Hamilton, a retired scholar of British history, begins his narrative with a brief summary of Cook’s life and his three legendary voyages undertaken in the years 1768-1779. He also offers a concise overview of prior attempts to locate Antarctica by Cook’s contemporaries. Using Cook’s journals and master’s log books, Hamilton moves on to analyzing Cook’s excellent seamanship and knowledge of ocean navigation. Hamilton stresses Cook’s remarkable competency as a captain and his unmatched bravery to venture more south than any man before him. Cook was able to sail as far south as 60 degrees south latitude on his first voyage. Even though he did not locate Antarctica then, the journey in the southern latitudes served as a “narrowing of options,” eliminating a large chunk of the Pacific Ocean from his future searching trajectories.

    Hamilton frequently emphasizes Cook’s accomplishments, not only as a skilled seaman but also as a scientist. He underlines Cook’s astonishing ability as a surveyor and a cartographer, as well as his observations of sailors’ nutrition and mental health. During Cook’s second voyage, where once again he was instructed by the Admiralty to search for the Southern Continent, Cook was able to cross the Antarctic circle three times. He reached 71 degrees south latitude, discovering and surveying South Georgia Island and South Sandwich Islands in the process. Even though Cook did not get to see Antarctica, only its ice barrier, he concluded that if the Southern Continent existed it would be covered by ice, uninhabitable, and of no commercial value to England. Ultimately, Cook’s voyages changed the understanding and maps of the Southern Continent and laid ground for future discovery.

    Captain James Cook and the Search for Antarctica is well researched and Hamilton’s exceptional historical investigation is noteworthy. Hamilton provides the readers with extensive excerpts from Cook’s and his scientist companions’ journals as well as from officers’ master log books. While these thorough accounts inspire the imagination and allow readers to perceive the journey and the search for the most elusive continent, the book is an academic read. I would recommend this book to scholars of maritime history and anyone who is interested in factual details of eighteenth-century seafaring.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiii + 303 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, tables, notes, bibliography, index. $42.95
    • ISBN: 9781526753571

    Reviewed by Ewa Silver East Carolina University

  • June 04, 2021 11:12 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks & People 1297-1825

    Ian Friel

    The word shipwreck brings to mind horrific events and harrowing rescues. For most, they are rarely sources of information about the social, political, economic, and cultural forces from whence they came. Dr. Ian Friel, in Britain and the Ocean Road, takes the stories of the wrecking events of shipwrecks to explore the social, political, economic and cultural forces at work in Britain between 1297 and 1825. The wrecks featured in this work are neither extraordinary nor filled with treasure, but representative of important trends in Britain’s rise to maritime supremacy. Friel, a renowned maritime historian, uses his collections and research experience to weave a tale to Britain’s maritime supremacy in his first volume, Britain and the Ocean Road.

    Friel begins focusing on the beginnings of Britain’s rise to maritime supremacy in the Middle Ages with the twenty-three vessels burned in 1297 as a part of an internal conflict between Yarmouth and the Cinque Ports over maritime trade and fishing rights. Moving forward in time, the cog Anne and other pilgrimage vessels of the fifteenth century represent Britain’s first major foray outside of the immediate area of the British Isles. This expansionist effort continues through the next two chapters discussing the birth of the British Royal Navy, represented by Regent, and the birth of the East India Company with Trade’s Increase.

    The second part of the work focuses on the solidification of Britain’s maritime supremacy and its global expansion. A portion of the second part of the work deals with the Royal Navy’s prowess. Using the stories of the three pirate vessels Resolution and of the wars with France through Berwick, Friel shows the solidification of Britain’s control and tactical prowess both against marauders and national navies. The last two chapters focuses on the economic capabilities of Britain’s oceanic prowess—slavery and exploration. Discussing Eliza and Fury, Friel indicates the economic necessity for controlling the seas and emphasizing the success Britain attained in having such dominance.

    Dr. Friel weaves an intricate web of archaeological, historical documents, and material culture evidence to tell the tale of Britain’s rise to a maritime power. The multitude of sources allows Friel to place the various wrecks within the larger historical contexts of the time period discussed in each chapter. This approach reaches all audience through the excitement of a shipwreck and allows Friel to explore Britain, its people, and their relationship with the sea. Friel also discusses in depth through the available sources the technological advances that allowed Britain to attain sea dominance, which features into the lives of the British people during each time period.

    Britain and the Ocean Road eloquently discusses the rise and solidification of Britain’s maritime supremacy from 1297 through 1825. Friel’s extensive research and accessible writing style makes this work relevant for the general public and researchers as a source for understanding Britain’s extensive maritime history with a unique approach of using shipwrecks as the starting point of the conversation.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 204 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781526738363

    Reviewed by Allyson Ropp, North Carolina Office of State Archaeology

  • February 23, 2021 8:53 AM | David Eddy (Administrator)

    Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age: Senior Service, 1800-1815

    Mark Jessop

    In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Britain’s Royal Navy achieved an apogee of effectiveness rarely achieved by any national military. It mastered the technology of its tools, the sailing warship and smoothbore artillery which was two centuries old by that point. It also mastered the soft skills—administrative, logistical, and operational - needed for the best use of its hardware. It had mastered both in a manner that left most of its rivals far behind. This created a fascination with Britain’s senior service of that era which endures to this day.

    The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age: Senior Service 1800-1815, by Mark Jessop, is a product of that fascination. In it Jessop examines the Royal Navy at its apogee.

    The book looks at the period from 1800 to 1815. It starts with the end of the French Wars of Revolution which ran from 1793 through the Peace of Amiens in 1801. It ends with the Hundred Days campaign of 1815, covering the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812. The book opens with the Battle of Copenhagen and effectively ends with Napoleon boarding HMS Bellerophon in the aftermath of Waterloo.

    Jessop strove to immerse readers in the period. Much of the book is presented in fictionalized vignettes, describing major battles or important aspects of life in the Royal Navy circa 1800-1815. These frequently cover topics that are important, but often overlooked. Examples include a description of the Battle of Trafalgar related by three petty officers to the sister of a deceased comrade, dockyard workers’ view of their work, and a diary account of an encounter with an early steamboat.

    Jessop does an outstanding job of using period sources for this book. A good third of his sources are contemporaneous with the period, and significant fraction of the remainder represents postwar accounts by those who lived through the period. The rest date primarily from the late nineteenth century, a period in which naval history could charitably called more romantic than necessarily accurate.

    Additionally, the bibliography lacks late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century sources (such as the work of N. A. M. Rogers or his students, such as J. Ross Dancy) which reexamined primary sources and corrected the misconceptions created by late nineteenth century historians. The result is a skewed view of the Royal Navy, one which exaggerates its ills and focuses on the romance of the sailing era.

    Jessop’s coverage is too cursory for those familiar with the period to benefit from it. Similarly model makers or wargamers will find too little detail in The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age for their interests, but might read it for color.

    However, The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age serves as a good introduction to the period for readers unfamiliar with the period. Jessop covers the key aspects of naval history during the period, introducing technical aspects in in a manner accessible to those unfamiliar with them. For those bored by academic histories, this book will be engaging.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2019
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xi + 180 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781526720375

    Reviewed by Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

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The Nautical Research Guild regularly publishes reviews of books about naval/maritime history and ship modeling.  Each issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes several book reviews, but there are often more book reviews than the Journal can accommodate. 

The listing below includes book reviews for each issue of the Journal starting with Volume 58.  You may browse the reviews by the issue of the Journal, by book title, or by author.

Book reviews marked 'Journal Only' (and are not clickable) are found in the pages of the listed issue of the Nautical Research Journal.


Listing Type



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