Archive for November, 2006
A Naval History of Britain, 1649 – 1815
by N.A.M. Rodger
If you’re living in my country, you don’t get naval history taught at school. Not a word, in all the 13 years I went to school. Instead, you’ll learn all about the French revolution. Six times, at least. Sometimes, the 2nd World War gets a brief mention, but first of all, it’s the French revolution, because, quite obviously, the French revolution is the only event in history worth being mentioned. Vive la France!
The only way of learning more about history (beside the French revolution) is reading. As a child I loved books about travelling and animals. I remember that I had three favourite (picture) books: Daktari (yeah, yeah, I know, I just had a weak spot for the cross-eyed lion), Ivanhoe and some book about the journeys of Captain Cook.
Honestly? I can’t remember the content of the books. I was three or four at that time, but at least I knew that there IS a thing as the sea and yes, there are ships larger than the rowing boats on the local duck pond.
For people like me, and those who prefer to read their history books in a language they can understand without enrolling at university themselves first, I’ve found the perfect book: “The Command of the Ocean – A Naval History of Britain, 1649 – 1815” by N.A.M. Rodger, and I can only recommend it. Not only is it written in an informative yet also entertaining way, you’ll also learn a lot about everyday life aboard a ship, the life if the simple seamen (because yes, history does not only consists of admirals!), the way wars were really fought, and all this with great illustrations (some scans below).
The book also corrects many errors about naval history and gives you insights into little known facts (you’d be surprised how many babies were born on British battle ships. No, seriously.), introduces historical figures with respect, but yet also with a healthy dose of realism.
Very helpful for a landlubber like me, “The Command of the Ocean” comes with an extensive chronology, glossary, statistics, dates and names etc. Naval finance? Read all about it. Manpower per year? It’s in there. Rates of pay? Admirals and officers? Look in the appendix.
At £ 12.99 (Penguin History) this is great value for your money.
Oh, and the French revolution is also mentioned. Just in case anybody wondered.