Written to accompany a BBC TV series, this is a case of the book being significantly better than the TV series which makes a change when many accompanying books are hastily put together to meet TV deadlines often by authors who know little of the subject. The author has established a very strong reputation for his knowledge and the quality of his books covering the Age of Sail.
NAME: Empire of the Seas
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Brian Lavery
BINDING: Hard back
PRICE: GB £20.00
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: Tudor navy, galleons, ship rates, age of sail, Stuart Navy, Commonwealth Navy, Restoration Navy, Georgian Navy, Victoria, WWI, WWII
DESCRIPTION: Written to accompany a BBC TV series, this is a case of the book being significantly better than the TV series which makes a change when many accompanying books are hastily put together to meet TV deadlines often by authors who know little of the subject. The author has established a very strong reputation for his knowledge and the quality of his books covering the Age of Sail. Where the TV series was an irritating mishmash of images that often had less than passing acquaintance with the narration, the book is laid out logically and lavishly illustrated with many illustrations in full colour. The author begins with 1588 and the defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada by a small British fleet of nimble Crown vessels and auxiliaries. From this point, the British built a unique Empire of the Seas by establishing naval dominance, a remarkable achievement for a small island nation. It is a most remarkable story of innovation, technology, seamanship and courage. The Elizabethan race-built galleons were the Spitfires of their day. As with the immortal fighter aircraft of 1940, these galleons were small but thoroughbreds, never many in numbers, they were manned with skill and courage that overcame larger, theoretically stronger vessels. From 1588 the design of British warships continued to develop advantages for their crews, becoming larger and carrying more guns firing heavier shot. In battle, Royal Navy vessels achieved a high rate of fire and accuracy in laying. By the Seven Years War in the mid Eighteenth Century, the Royal Navy had established supremacy at sea. The French continued to challenge until the decisive defeat of French and Spanish ships at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. From that point, the Royal Navy was not challenged in fleet action until the Battle of Jutland in 1916 when the German fleet fled the battle to remain in harbour until the end of WWI. The Royal Navy was always keen to adopt new technologies and the design of ships and guns was the hi-tech industry of the times as the aerospace industry is today. The technology was costly and the arms race fierce, but the rewards were far greater. Britain was able to establish an Empire that at its peak accounted for half the world population and girdled the globe. Although the design of ships and guns was critical to building a world beating battle fleet, it depended on similar advances in navigation and the making of charts. Even beyond Empire, Admiralty Charts are still the benchmark of navigational documentation. Navigation instruments including accurate marine chronometers enabled British ships to sail across the oceans with confidence and the Meridian still runs through Greenwich, now site of the National Maritime Museum of which the author is Curator Emeritus. The author traces the events, the technologies and the people who made the Empire of the Seas possible, shaping not only Britain, but the modern world. To provide a history of five hundred eventful years of naval history in only 272 pages with excellent illustration has been a major achievement and delivered a book that is great value, an excellent primer and a useful reference. It deserves to sell well.