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74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography of an Extraordinary Man
I think I am correct in saying that I have read all of the biographies of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, published in the last few decades, and I would rate this volume as the being the best of all, giving good coverage of all phases of Cochrane's long naval and political careers. Unlike some authors, Cordingly is careful to match Cochrane's own accounts of his activities...
Published on December 30, 2007 by Bruce Trinque

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Sea battles good, British politics not so much
A little bit repetitious and the sections on British politics would require one to be a political science major to stay engaged.
Published 7 months ago by Pat O. Clifton


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74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography of an Extraordinary Man, December 30, 2007
By 
Bruce Trinque (Amston, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
I think I am correct in saying that I have read all of the biographies of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, published in the last few decades, and I would rate this volume as the being the best of all, giving good coverage of all phases of Cochrane's long naval and political careers. Unlike some authors, Cordingly is careful to match Cochrane's own accounts of his activities against other primary sources, and to give equal balance to Cochrane's activities in the wars for South American independence with those during the Napoleonic Wars.

Cochrane was an extraordinary man, his genuine history perhaps more amazing than any of the fiction inspired by his real-world activities, this is a biography that does him justice, lauding his good qualities and achievements without hiding his flaws and failures.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Fans of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower, March 3, 2008
This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
Many readers will come to David Cordingly's The Real Master and Commander from a desire as fans of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester to learn more about the remarkable man whose life provided the raw material for the tales of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. Make no mistake, however, Cordingly's excellent historical biography deserves to be read on its own merits.

Lord Thomas Cochrane executed such stunningly audacious feats - successfully attacking much larger ships with his small sloop Speedy, leading an attack of fireships on the French fleet at Basque Roads, and helping Chile and Brazil establish their independence - that one might cry `what pitiful stuff' if one read it in a work of historical fiction. But it really happened.

Cochrane was a flawed man who could not restrain himself from reckless attacks on powerful forces in the navy and the government generally. When he found himself entangled in an infamous stock exchange fraud (the leaders spread false rumors that Napoleon had died and then sold their shares when the market predictably spiked), he discovered that powerful men were only too happy to see him convicted and drummed out of the navy. Cordingly judiciously sifts the evidence of Cochrane's guilt or innocence from our vantage point nearly 200 years later.

In addition to his naval feats Cochrane also fought for reform causes as a member of parliament. His intemperate tactics and language did him little good. Of course, he was quite right in insisting that either the electoral system would be reformed from within or reformed with a vengeance from without.

After several years in the `wilderness', Cochrane sailed to South America and successfully aided the rebellion against Spain and Portugal. He eventually wore out his welcome there as well, in part due to fights over prize money. From there he went to the Greek Fiasco, as Cordingly aptly names it. He spent his remaining years fighting with some success to restore honor to his name. A sad dwindling away for this remarkable man.

A must read for fans of Age of Sail historical fiction and an excellent histroical biography.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relief for Patrick O'Brian withdrawal victims, November 13, 2007
This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
For those of us suffering from Patrick O'Brian withdrawal syndrome David Cordingly may well be the answer. His life of Lord Cochrane, the Real Master and Commander, is every bit as gripping as any O'Brian novel. What's more, details of British political life at the turn of the nineteenth century make Karl Rove and the Swift Boat crew seem like gentlemen and the UN Oil for Peace scandals small change. Cordingly brings history to life and I am now eager to read his earlier books.

lance Reynolds
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cochrane, The Real Master and Commander, December 20, 2007
This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
I am not an O'Brian fan but I do love C.S. Forester. This gripping true life narrative was an easy read and was more exciting than the fiction that used Cochrane as an inspirtation. This unfortunate tragic hero's life is told in gripping detail from his self-claimed sabotage as a naval officer to his failed career as a reformist politician in the Napoleanic Era of England. The scientific advances both in military and civilian pursuits are also touched on as scientific curioisty and their failure to commercially take advantage of their discoveries seemed to have run in Cochrane's family. For those who love those fictious sea tales of both O'Brian and Forester, this is the real thing.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smashingly Brilliant, December 15, 2007
By 
Roy K. Farber (Grand Junction, CO) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
David Cordingly brings to life this tragic hero, as vividly as any fictive work, but with a bold reality of his times, the war against Napoleon through the independence movements of Chile, Brazil and Greece, all in which Lord Cochrane played an indispensable role, and of the radical politician who, as a naval officer, actually cared for the wellbeing of those who entrusted their lives to him, and thereby acquired their undying adoration. And, insodoing, this real life biography outshines those works relying as their basis thereon.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Horatio Hornblower please stand up?, December 18, 2010
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Chances are you've already heard of Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, maybe even Frank Mildmay. But how about Thomas Cochrane, the real life British naval officer upon whose life and career all of these fictional characters are at least in part based?

That's what I thought. Don't worry, David Cordingly's Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander has got you covered.

The best biographies illuminate not only their title character but the time and place in which that character lives, and this book does that in spades, with some eye-opening revelations. For one thing, I had no idea that the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars were on the whole, well, pirates.

Oh yes, they were, and I'll tell you why. The British Navy was essentially a money-making proposition in those days. Whenever a British ship caught an enemy ship, it would be sent back to England where it would be assessed by the Admiralty and assigned a value, one-eighth of which was then shared among the officers and crew of the capturing ship. The more enemy ships they captured, the more prize money they made, and Cochrane, whose improvident father had cost the family the hereditary estate, was forever in a row with whoever was in charge about getting full value for the ships he captured.

An eye ever to the main chance Cochrane may have had, but he was also by everyone's account, even his enemies', of which he made many, a master mariner. Cordingly writes that some of Cochrane's actions, described in full in you-are-there prose, are still cited by naval historians as the best of their kind. He was his own worst enemy on land but at sea he was unsurpassed. He wreaked havoc with Napoleon's navy up and down the coasts of France and Spain, and not for nothing did the French call him "le loup de mer," or the Seawolf.

Ashore, though, he involved himself in radical politics and made enemies of people in power, especially in the Navy. He was intemperate and mouthy, which, allied with a burning and fatal desire to achieve better pay and conditions for his officers and men, started the downward spiral. The British Admiralty just wasn't there yet. When, inevitably, he made England too hot to hold him, he went to South America, where as, sequentially, chief of naval operations for both countries he assisted immeasurably in Chile and Brazil's wars of independence with Spain, and later and less gloriously in Greece's war of independence with Turkey.

He had a keen scientific curiosity and the patience for experimentation which caused him to spend a great portion of his aforesaid prize money on experimenting with, among other things, lamps, steam engines and bitumin (aka asphalt). He was a passionate and faithful husband to his not always worthy wife, and what money he didn't spend on scientific experimentation and petitions for reinstatement in the British Navy was employed to bail their worthless children out of hock.

This book is beautifully produced, with many detailed maps, marvelous cutaway illustrations of two of Cochrane's ships so you can practically walk the decks right next to him, three sections of contemporary paintings of friends and colleagues, including many portraits of Cochrane himself at every age, ships of his time, seascapes of sea battles and ports of call and scenes of engagement. There is even a glossary at the back to teach you the difference between bombarde and bumboat, and more illustrations throughout, such as a reproduction of the recruiting poster Cochrane had made up to entice a ship's crew to the Pallas. "My lads," says the poster, "The rest of the GALLEONS with the Treasure from LA PLATA are waiting half loaded at CARTAGENA...Such a Chance perhaps will never occur again."

That was appealing to their better natures, all right.

Cordingly's Cochrane is a rousing tale, all the more astonishing because it's all absolutely true. A wonderful read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sail on, April 18, 2009
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This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
The purported model for the great Patrick O'Brian hero Jack Aubrey, this biography reads like fiction. Cochrane was scarred from battle, tossed and upended in his love life, sometimes broke, and always fighting political admirals and a bureaucratic government. I would have preferred some more detail about his sea battles, but perhaps I'm spoiled by O'Brian. Some of his greatest (and longest) battles were about getting his share of his prize money from a penurious government and corrupt superiors. But this is a fine story of the classic British Navy and the brave men who sailed in harm's way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The British Navy's True Master and Commander, February 15, 2008
This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
As a die hard Patrick O'Brian fan and an amateur history buff this book was intriguing to me. It is very well written and presents the life story of an amazing British Navy hero not well known today.

David Cordingly does a superb job presenting the real life exploits of Cochrane, which incredibly are every bit as extraordinary as the fictional exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey in the Patrick O'Brian Master and Commander series.

I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent warm-up or cool-down for the Patrick O' Brian series, June 9, 2010
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Although the book starts off a little slowly with a background of Cochrane's father's life and Cochrane's early career in the Royal Navy before gaining his first command, the background provided is pertinent and provides much insight into his activities later in life. Once the book gets rolling; however, it is an absolutely engaging and absorbing read.

Cochrane lead a fascinating and heroic life and despite his many flaws he still remains a sympathetic character and his story makes for excellent reading. David Cordingly has written an extremely readable and informative biography that does justice to the subject.

One final note, for anyone interested, Cordingly gives his opinion at the end of the book that Cochrane was innocent in the stock market scandal, but in no way does he attempt to influence the reader to this opinion, he merely presents the evidence and leaves the conclusion to the reader. After reading the book I am undecided, although perhaps due to some cynicism on my part I find it hard to believe he was innocent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Even-Handed Biography, March 4, 2009
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This review is from: Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander (Hardcover)
I became interested in Thomas Cochrane after studying the wars in South America, (Chile, Peru & Brazil) in which Cochrane figured so prominently in providing leadership to their nascent navies. My first impression was that he was an adventurer and possibly a freebooter and filibuster, but he turned out to be much more than that. His fame was first earned fame as a British captain in naval actions during the Napoleonic wars, and he even took part in the Greek war for independence in the 1820s. The subtitle, "The Real Master and Commander" escaped me until I read in the Introduction that Cochrane was used as the historical figure around which the novels by O'Brian and Forester were based. Apparently the title was also the name for a novel by Henty, and has even reached popular culture in a movie by the same title. At any rate, the true historical character surely eclipses the fictional ones.

Thomas Lord Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, was a born into a noble Scottish family with widespread contacts and influence and little money. He first went to sea under his uncle, and following the very unfair and corrupt practices of the day was rapidly advanced to Lieutenant and commander of a small sloop. He made his bones through extremely aggressive action in the Mediterranean where he captured a much larger Spanish frigate. For this and other actions he was promoted to Post Captain, and his career seemed assurred.

Then the other side of Cochrane weighed in. He rashly displeased Admiral St. Vincent, and after causing his superior at Basque Roads to undergo a courts martial, Cochrane turned many of his superiors and fellow captains against him. He entered politics and was elected to Parliment, and pursued both his political and naval career simultaneously much to the detriment of his naval career. That Cochrane possessed an immense amount of talent as a naval commander is beyond question, but he also possessed the ability to self-destruct through a definite lack of political acumen. He allied himself with political radicals and brought himself into conflict with the very conservative hierarchy of the Royal Navy to his great detriment. As a result he became involved in foreign adventures for Chile, Brazil and Greece, where in particular he was stunningly sussessful in South America and is honored today more than in Great Britain. His career easily contains the raw material for many novels.

Author Cordingly has written an excellent biography on a difficult character. The writing style enhances the narrative, and the reader turns the pages eagerly awaiting what the author has to say next. The controversies in Cochrane's life, notably his possible involvement in a fraud perpretrated by his acquaintances that resulted in a prison term, fine, and time in the stocks, was presented fairly with evidence from both sides. The author quotes from Cochrane's own writings, but is careful and thorough in his analysis. The author concludes that Cochrane was not guilty, but he also gives references of those who thought otherwise.

The maps at the beginning of the book are excellent and should be used by the reader as reference when reading the book. The approach to the subject is scholarly, and the thirty pages of end notes are valuable both for explanations and reference. The author's list of references is also thorough and undoubtedly useful for further research and reading. But the real value to this work is that the author has produced a scholarly work that will stand the examination of scholars without loading the prose with the unfathomable gobblygook so loved by academicians. This is a very readable book for average readers and laymen interested in Cochrane or naval history.

Author Cordingly has earned his five stars, and I recommend this work to all.
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Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander
Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander by David Cordingly (Hardcover - September 18, 2007)
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