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Lord Cochrane: Seaman, Radical, Liberator- A Life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (Heart of Oak Sea Classics) Hardcover – October, 1998

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Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860), the 10th Earl of Dundonald, was a man distinctly of his time, and in some ways far in advance of it. Descended from a noble Scottish family that had fallen on hard times, Cochrane had a naval career spanning the Napoleonic wars and beyond, to the struggles for independence of Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Greece. His exploits showed such tactical genius that they have become textbook examples in military training, and his derring-do inspired the lives and fiction of Frederick Marryat (who sailed with Cochrane as a young man), C.S. Forester, and Joseph Conrad.

But Cochrane's career was a checkered one, due mostly to his dislike of authority and tendency to nurse grudges. The man whose meticulous naval strategies were masterpieces of preparation was prone to ill-considered attacks on those in command, and his career as a British naval officer came to an effective end when he prosecuted a court martial against his commanding officer Lord Gambier after his near-disastrous timidity at the Battle in the Aix Roads. His political career as a radical politician was similarly jeopardized by impulsive attacks against the sitting government, and while he had a series of stunning military victories later in life as the admiral of several South American navies, each was followed by political wrangling and disappointment.

Christopher Lloyd's popular biography (first published in 1947) is as brisk and engaging as the novels that Cochrane inspired. It is a well-balanced portrayal of a man who, despite his heroism, invention (he proposed poison gas as a weapon a full hundred years before its usage), and idealistic commitment to liberal causes, was never given the opportunity to achieve his true genius. --John Longenbaugh

About the Author

Christopher Lloyd (1906-1986), one of Britain's premier naval historians, taught at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, from 1934 to 1966.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books / Henry Holt; Reprint edition (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805059865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805059861
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,765,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Joe Buff on August 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
A thoroughly researched and beautifully written treatment of the life of one of Great Britain's most important heroes from the Age of Fighting Sail. I've devoured everything I can find on the Royal Navy for years -- this is among the most memorable volumes available! Lord Cochrane was a naval commander in war (and peace) whose talents almost rivalled the great Nelson's, and unlike Nelson he lived to a ripe old age. In a surprisingly "modern" twist to Cochrane's biography, he was duped into a financial scandal that led to bad headlines, ugly partisan politics, and a nasty court case. His subsequent efforts on the part of Latin American nations to help them win independence from Spain make him a veritable nautical Simon Bolivar. Author Lloyd brings this amazing man to life with compelling prose.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By tertius3 on August 20, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lord Cochrane won an astonishingly brilliant series of victories in three different British ships against the French and Spanish during the Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The first 80 pages of this biography cover his astounding career in single-ship actions, and the inability of the Admiralty to understand his innovations. The next 55 pages deal with his ignominious Radical parliamentary career and financial fiascos. Another 46 pages cover his attempts to free a series of colonies from their Iberian or Ottoman masters, and how the rebels repeatedly frustrated victory and, of course, didn't pay up. The final 21 pages cover his attempts to restore his honor and his contributions to the deveopment of a recognizably modern navy. The editors say this 1947 book was selected for its congenial style and vignettes of Cochrane, not because it is the last word on the irascible man. This biography is superseded in accuracy by those employing additional family and governmental papers made public since the 1960's and listed in the brief bibliography.
Fans of naval fiction should note that Forester's Hornblower frequently adopts Lord Cochrane's audacious naval exploits, as do many other series' heroes. Forester having appropriated Lord Cochrane's real adventures, Dudley Pope's Lord Ramage series seems to depend more on invented exploits to fill out the same general historical progression. O'Brian's Jack Aubrey also partakes of Cochrane's political ineptness and suffers his finanacial scandal (see especially the early Aubrey novels). While occasionally you see inspiration from Cochrane's later attempts to aid South Americans win their freedom from Spain (Forester, O'Brian, Cornwell), no novelist has taken up Cochrane's inventions (like ship lanterns, tar derivatives, chemical warfare!, and steam warships).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fernando Melendez on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lord Cochrane was, by all accounts, a superior naval officer. He was inventive, bold, imaginative, extremely meticulous in his preparations for action, and capable of great theatrics in the service of victory in battle, in capturing prizes, and in befuddling the enemy. He treated his men honorably at a time when abusing them was the norm and he rewarded them handsomely from the prize revenues he engendered. As a result he was adored by his subordinates and never had trouble recruiting personnel to serve under him.
He was a model which inspired aspects of Jack Aubrey and Hornblower and other fictional characters of the Anglo-French wars. His true life was even more tumultuous than the fiction it spawned, for he became a naval hero in Chile and in Peru, in Brazil, and in Greece as he participated in each of those countries' wars of independence.
When on land, Lord Cochrane was an inept, impetuous, cantankerous politician (he was a member of parliament for 10 years), who had no notion of the art of politics, and therefore was repeatedly demolished by his enemies, which were many. It is amazing that the brilliant and disciplined naval officer and tactician would become a bumbling, disorganized politician, but that is precisely what happened. He was involved in financial scandals, his honors and medals were removed, and his purse squandered and lost. It is likely that this honorable man was never guilty of the charges for which he was convicted (stock fraud), but the truth shall never be known for sure.
He lived a long life (1775 - 1860) and by the time he died at 85 he had managed to (mostly) repair his honor, his finances, and his reputation, more as a result of the political changes around him than as a result of having learned political lessons.
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