Nelson Navy & Nation, The Royal Navy & The British People 1688-1815

B1889

This book is published in conjunction with the Naval Gallery that has been updated to match more closely the visiting public. Nelson has become an international icon that for many marks the height of Royal Navy achievement in protecting the interest of the British people.

The book is intended to match the new National Maritime Museum long-term gallery entitled Nelson, Navy, Nation. The publisher has done a first rate job of setting out the material and the lavish illustration, much of it in full colour. The authors shown above are more accurately editors and the book includes biographies for those contributing to the content. Collectively, the contributors have painted a picture of the Royal Navy, its ships, equipment and weapons, together with an insight into the society over the period of roughly one hundred years.

Reviews

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NAME: Nelson Navy & Nation, The Royal Navy & The British People 1688-1815
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 121013
FILE: R1889
AUTHOR: Quintin Colville, James Davey
PUBLISHER: Conway
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 240
PRICE: £20.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Admiral Lord Nelson, French Revolutionary Wars, Napoleonic Wars, sae power, Royal Museums Greenwich, British people, technology, tactics, gunnery, naval architecture
ISBN: 978-1-84486-207-8
IMAGE: B1889.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/oms85jg
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: This book is published in conjunction with the Naval Gallery that has been updated to match more closely the visiting public. Nelson has become an international icon that for many marks the height of Royal Navy achievement in protecting the interest of the British people. The Director’s Foreword has a strong whiff of political correctness and suggests that British museums should modify their exhibits to match the preconceptions of the visiting public who may be less sure about Nelson and the Royal Navy, knowing rather more of Mandella. Hopefully this is an unfortunate presentation of words because a museum should present exhibits in a clear and understandable manner that informs, using the currently accepted historical wisdom. The foreword brings to mind an amusing satire, placing the Battle of Trafalgar in the context of a politically correct ‘elf & safety view of life, rather than the world as it was at the time.

Of course one challenge is that the Nelson myth and legend does not match the real story.

The Royal Navy of King Alfred was probably the first standing navy created to defend the British Isles, although at that point in history Alfred was King in Wessex, a Saxon attempting to hold back the Nordic invaders as they tried to expand from the Eastern and North Eastern territories they already held. From that point, the development of England as a cohesive nation saw a continuing Royal Navy but never in peace achieving the ship numbers required for war and relying on commercial vessels taken into service and armed as auxiliary warships. Even in the Elizabethan era, the Royal Navy was small and augmented by corsairs operating from the South West of England and more northern ports, usually sailing in alliance with French Huguenot corsairs under papers issued by the Huguenots from their stronghold of La Rochelle.

Under the Stuarts and the first Hanoverian Kings, the Royal Navy was rarely funded adequately but always expected to rise to new challenges in new wars. It can be argued that this process has continued ever since and is a feature of Coalition Britain where a lacklustre coalition of two incompatible political Parties has gone a very long way to disbanding the Royal Navy, failing to understand the strengths, weaknesses, changing requirements and need for maintaining an adequate pool of skilled officers and seamen to meet future military needs.

The Royal Navy fought a series of wars against a number of enemies, not always faring well. The ability to counter the Dutch was one period of poor performance and inadequate funding and equipment. In 1812, the Royal Navy suffered several embarrassing reverses at the hands of the embryonic US Navy, just as the US Army faced even more embarrassing reverses on land at the hands of Canadian and British troops.

The Royal Navy did achieve ascendancy over the French and Spanish during the Seven Years War and then went on later to cement that dominance during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The Battle of Trafalgar effectively cost Napoleon any prospect of victory, although the war dragged dragged on, ending fifteen years after Trafalgar when Napoleon was defeated on land at Waterloo.

As a result, Nelson has been regarded out of context because he did not favourably turn round a naval and political situation at Trafalgar, rather he reinforced the earlier victories by other Admirals who failed to achieve the level of fame that became Nelson’s heritage.

The authors of this new book have taken a period of one hundred years to place the defeat of the French and Spanish Fleets in perspective against the period when the Royal Navy developed into the dominant naval force where the following hundred years saw no serious direct challenge to its position as the naval super power, protecting the long sea lanes of the rapidly expanding Empire.

The book is intended to match the new National Maritime Museum long-term gallery entitled Nelson, Navy, Nation. The publisher has done a first rate job of setting out the material and the lavish illustration, much of it in full colour. The authors shown above are more accurately editors and the book includes biographies for those contributing to the content. Collectively, the contributors have painted a picture of the Royal Navy, its ships, equipment and weapons, together with an insight into the society over the period of roughly one hundred years.

One of the great difficulties in understanding British naval and colonial history is that the British were primarily driven by a desire to trade, rather than a desire to conquer or to force a particular religion down the throats of unwilling victims. The wars with Spain in the Sixteenth Century were never an attempt to force the Protestant religion on Catholic Spain, but a combination of fighting to prevent Spain forcing itself on England and of opening markets in the Americas, which Spain was trying to keep closed. Has Spain been prepared to operate something approaching free trade, the history of Europe could have been very different. The French desire to colonize Europe built on the historic arrogance of Spain and was in turn followed by a German desire to rule, as subordinate nations, the countries of Europe.

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