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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
I think a fair summary of Gardiner's book would be: It's ALL there - but some of it takes a little finding. Rather like the odd upperworks of a rasée 74, its shape betrays a process of conversion. According to the foreword, it was originally intended as the sequel to his 1995 book on heavy frigates, and to carry the story well beyond 1815. For various reasons it...
Published on July 9, 2002 by Mike Daplyn

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but limited
Within it's limits, this is an excellent book. However, the title is misleading: rather than being about "Frigates of the Napoleanic Wars", it covers only British frigates of the larger classes (those of 30 guns or more). There is no coverage of the smaller frigates. There is, likewise, virtually no discussion of French, Spanish, etc vessels, except insofar as captured...
Published on July 19, 2008 by John McCoy


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, July 9, 2002
By 
Mike Daplyn (Totescore, Isle of Skye, UK) - See all my reviews
I think a fair summary of Gardiner's book would be: It's ALL there - but some of it takes a little finding. Rather like the odd upperworks of a rasée 74, its shape betrays a process of conversion. According to the foreword, it was originally intended as the sequel to his 1995 book on heavy frigates, and to carry the story well beyond 1815. For various reasons it ended up dealing with all frigates, and restricted to the Napoleonic period. Gardiner says he used the enforced delay in publication to do more research: I would humbly submit that he could have made his readers' lives easier by using some of the time to review the flow of his book. I confess to having been myself a little daunted at first sight.
As examples: the very first chapter heading, "The Return to Moderate Dimensions" only makes sense if one is familiar, from Gardiner's earlier book or other sources, of the Royal Navy's flirtation with large frigates in the 1790s, and the chapter charges straight into the subject without a word of recapitulation. The internal structuring of the book is also a little odd. The whole first section of the book is titled 'Design History', but what it really covers is the procurement history of the Royal Navy's frigates. The real history of design evolution is covered in the second chapter - confusingly, also titled 'Design' - of the second section of the book. The first chapter of the second section covers construction techniques; since these are the means by which design is translated into tangible form, the design chapter might have been better placed first.
All this, however, is mere quibbling, for, again like the rasée 74, the end product packs a huge punch, whatever its shape. It is magnificently comprehensive, scholarly in the very best sense of the word (everything backed up by chapter and verse, evidence carefully sifted, no concealed suppositions), and well (often wittily) written. Every individual chapter is excellently done, and one has only to dive in, in order to find a wealth of information logically ordered and intelligently discussed.
Section 1 (what I would term the procurement history) has comprehensive tabulations and illustrations of every class of frigate built for the Navy, or taken in as prizes, while the text gives an excellent analysis of the conflicting factors - strategic requirements, cost, foibles of First Lords of the Admiralty - which governed the number and type of frigates constructed. This interesting stuff, though some readers might find it a trifle dry - speaking strictly for me, there is a limit to the number of sheer plans I can digest.
The book really takes off and flies in the second section. The chapters here cover construction, design, wartime modifications, armament, sailing performance, and the use of the frigates in action. All are packed with goodies. The overall picture is of a strong impetus towards innovation - in construction methods, gun design, water stowage, boats, hen-coops ... the list is almost endless, and Gardiner discusses them all, with excellent illustrations, nearly all contemporary. He describes entertainingly the technical debates, which ran fast and furious on many of these issues, with professional reputations rapidly made and as rapidly broken, and lawsuits flying like grapeshot between rival inventors. The Admiralty (which was directly responsible and politically accountable for meeting strategic needs) generally favoured innovation, and was open to suggestions both from serving officers and outsiders, while its supporting technical Boards (the Navy Board which designed and built the ships, and the Ordnance Board which armed them) tended to be more conservative. Neither side was was right all the time.
It all comes together in the last chapter, which not merely describes, but analyses, all the multifarious tasks the frigates had to perform. Strategic and tactical reconnaissance (well illustrated by the examples of the Trafalgar and Nile campaigns), the increasing involvement of frigates in fleet and squadron actions (facilitated by their rapid rise in size relative to the 74s), blockade, coastal and amphibious operations, sea control, dogsbody work like hauling live cattle to provision the fleet - it is a wonderful corrective to the works, both fact and fiction, which see the solo cruise and single-ship combat as the essence of a frigate's work. The independent cruise is not neglected, with examples from famous exponents including Pellew and Cochrane, but again these are properly put in context: it was not by random search, but by expert analysis of wind systems and sailing times, that the successful cruising captains found their targets. It is only a shame that space has limited this chapter to one or two examples of each type of frigate work. The subject really demands a book-length treatment done with the thoroughness that Gardiner can give it. I sincerely hope he gets round to writing it one day.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, March 15, 2001
By 
Sam Paisley (Montgomery, IL USA) - See all my reviews
A great historical overview of the frigates that served the English, not all of which were of English design. There is a wealth of information on a variety of hulls and armament, as well as the decision making process that went into their selection. Ship modelers should not look to this book for ship building techniques, but may find the hull drawings of interest. History buffs will enjoy the information on the Admiralty and captains attempts to influence design.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, July 9, 2002
By 
Mike Daplyn (Totescore, Isle of Skye, UK) - See all my reviews
I think a fair summary of Gardiner's book would be: It's ALL there - but some of it takes a little finding. Rather like the odd upperworks of a rasée 74, its shape betrays a process of conversion. According to the foreword, it was originally intended as the sequel to his 1995 book on heavy frigates, and to carry the story well beyond 1815. For various reasons it ended up dealing with all frigates, and restricted to the Napoleonic period. Gardiner says he used the enforced delay in publication to do more research: I would humbly submit that he could have made his readers' lives easier by using some of the time to review the flow of his book. I confess to having been myself a little daunted at first sight.
As examples: the very first chapter heading, "The Return to Moderate Dimensions" only makes sense if one is familiar, from Gardiner's earlier book or other sources, of the Royal Navy's flirtation with large frigates in the 1790s, and the chapter charges straight into the subject without a word of recapitulation. The internal structuring of the book is also a little odd. The whole first section of the book is titled 'Design History', but what it really covers is the procurement history of the Royal Navy's frigates. The real history of design evolution is covered in the second chapter - confusingly, also titled 'Design' - of the second section of the book. The first chapter of the second section covers construction techniques; since these are the means by which design is translated into tangible form, the design chapter might have been better placed first.
All this, however, is mere quibbling, for, again like the rasée 74, the end product packs a huge punch, whatever its shape. It is magnificently comprehensive, scholarly in the very best sense of the word (everything backed up by chapter and verse, evidence carefully sifted, no concealed suppositions), and well (often wittily) written. Every individual chapter is excellently done, and one has only to dive in, in order to find a wealth of information logically ordered and intelligently discussed.
Section 1 (what I would term the procurement history) has comprehensive tabulations and illustrations of every class of frigate built for the Navy, or taken in as prizes, while the text gives an excellent analysis of the conflicting factors - strategic requirements, cost, foibles of First Lords of the Admiralty - which governed the number and type of frigates constructed. This interesting stuff, though some readers might find it a trifle dry - speaking strictly for me, there is a limit to the number of sheer plans I can digest.
The book really takes off and flies in the second section. The chapters here cover construction, design, wartime modifications, armament, sailing performance, and the use of the frigates in action. All are packed with goodies. The overall picture is of a strong impetus towards innovation - in construction methods, gun design, water stowage, boats, hen-coops ... the list is almost endless, and Gardiner discusses them all, with excellent illustrations, nearly all contemporary. He describes entertainingly the technical debates, which ran fast and furious on many of these issues, with professional reputations rapidly made and as rapidly broken, and lawsuits flying like grapeshot between rival inventors. The Admiralty (which was directly responsible and politically accountable for meeting strategic needs) generally favoured innovation, and was open to suggestions both from serving officers and outsiders, while its supporting technical Boards (the Navy Board which designed and built the ships, and the Ordnance Board which armed them) tended to be more conservative. Neither side was was right all the time.
It all comes together in the last chapter, which not merely describes, but analyses, all the multifarious tasks the frigates had to perform. Strategic and tactical reconnaissance (well illustrated by the examples of the Trafalgar and Nile campaigns), the increasing involvement of frigates in fleet and squadron actions (facilitated by their rapid rise in size relative to the 74s), blockade, coastal and amphibious operations, sea control, dogsbody work like hauling live cattle to provision the fleet - it is a wonderful corrective to the works, both fact and fiction, which see the solo cruise and single-ship combat as the essence of a frigate's work. The independent cruise is not neglected, with examples from famous exponents including Pellew and Cochrane, but again these are properly put in context: it was not by random search, but by expert analysis of wind systems and sailing times, that the successful cruising captains found their targets. It is only a shame that space has limited this chapter to one or two examples of each type of frigate work. The subject really demands a book-length treatment done with the thoroughness that Gardiner can give it. I sincerely hope he gets round to writing it one day.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but limited, July 19, 2008
This review is from: Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars (Paperback)
Within it's limits, this is an excellent book. However, the title is misleading: rather than being about "Frigates of the Napoleanic Wars", it covers only British frigates of the larger classes (those of 30 guns or more). There is no coverage of the smaller frigates. There is, likewise, virtually no discussion of French, Spanish, etc vessels, except insofar as captured ships became part of the British fleet.

That said, within it's chosen bounds the book is exceedingly detailed and comprehensive. Someone seeking to understand the technical side of the subject would be entirely satisfied.

Unfortunately, like all books from Chatham Press, the paperback version of this title suffers from an incredibly poor binding. Purchasers of the paperback version should anticipate the book falling apart before they have finished reading it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Effectively just one section out of a much larger hypothetical book, February 4, 2010
This review is from: Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars (Paperback)
A frigate during the "age of fighting sail" is roughly the 18th and early 19th century equivalent of the modern naval destroyer, the ideal command in the minds of most zealous captains, then and now -- small enough not to be expected to stand in the line of battle, large enough to be capable of formidable and dashing independent service. And that meant one-on-one actions against the enemy and the prospect of prize money. Unfortunately for modern naval historians and fans of Patrick O'Brian and C. S. Forester, no standard-size frigates of the Napoleonic period have survived, only ships of the line like VICTORY. (The CONSTITUTION, though called a "frigate," is much larger than the classic design, a compromise resulting from the American need for a navy with the lack of funds to build a large one.) This is the author's third book about frigates and was meant to be part of a series, but was recast as a stand-alone volume. Except that it still seems to pick up in the middle of the subject; the first chapter is even called "The Return to Moderate Dimensions," with no indication what the earlier dimensions of a frigate were. And coverage is exclusively on British-built ships, except for refitted captured vessels. Six chapters on overall frigate design up through 1815 are followed by six more on the design, construction, performance, and armament of individual ships -- or of ship classes, actually, as there were far too many frigates built to discuss the details of their numerous variations individually. The writing itself is academically precise and quite technical, wending among a large number of tables, hull design drafts, and specialists' working drawings. No effort is made to define or explain terms like "spar-deck armament," "hollow waterline," or even "scantlings" (to a comparison of which considerable discussion is devoted). This is definitely not a book for the beginner, even one familiar with square-rigged ships. I must say that many of the included original designers' plans are also less than useful because the cutlines often refer to points discussed in the holographic notes in the drawings which are reproduced at a size too small to be read. For me, the best part of the book is at the very end, Chapter 12, "Frigates in Action," which discusses the application and result of all that abstruse architecture and skilled building, with sections on the frigate's role in independent, squadron, and fleet action, the function of such ships in reconnaissance and in intelligence-gathering and in blockade duty off the French coast, and the key part they played in coastal and amphibious operations generally, where ships of the line were simply too large and too inefficient in their seakeeping to be trustworthy. Still, I suspect this book will be most useful to students of naval architecture and to builders of detailed, large-scale models.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow start, great finish, April 11, 2007
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This review is from: Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars (Paperback)
The early chapters of this volume are difficult reading for anyone not intimately familiar with sailing ship design and construction. However, the later chapters are an outstanding exposition of the roles, uses and developments of British frigates in the early years of the 19th century. Still, a bit technical for the average American reader.
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Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars
Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars by Robert Gardiner (Paperback - October 1, 2006)
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