Customer Reviews: Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men, and Organization, 1793-1815
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on June 5, 2003
This is the best book I have ever encountered for this topic. It has something about everything. If you don't want a guide to all the parts, skip down to ***.
Part I shows the background and is very useful to someone who doesn't know about it already.
Part II is about the ships themselves. It's extremely informative and has many illustrations showing profiles of ships, from First Rates to unrated vessels. It talks about the fundamentals of ship design and the individual kinds of ships.
Part III is entitled, "Ship Building and Fitting." It is divided into four subtitles: Ship Construction; Fitting of Ships; Masts, Sails and Rigging; and Armament. Each provides extensive details in its respective subject.
Part IV is about the officers. It begins with telling about midshipmen (trainee officers) and their progress to the examination for lieutenant. Then the author tells us about the commisioned (or "sea") officers, telling us about the different ranks, "from lieutenant to admiral of the fleet", as he puts it. In this section, he also tells us about shore duties, half-pay, and retirement. He next discusses the warrant officers (who include the master, surgeon, purser, chaplain, boatswain {pronounced, "bo's'un"}, carpenter, gunner, and schoolmaster) and their duties and pay. The next subtitle is "Officers' Living Conditions," and it talks about uniforms very specificly from 1795-1814, but rather vaguely at other dates; decorations; swords; cabins; and victuals. The final subtitle for this book is about ship administration, and covers: the captain's responsibilities to raise a crew, keep a log, and turn in 25 forms to the admiralty; the purser's position; shipboard communication; and prize money.
Part V concerns the problems of recruiting (sailors wanted to be in the merchant service more), the infamous press gangs (bands of sailors setting out to "press" or force people into the navy), and other types of recruitment.
Part VI is entitled,"Seamen and Land[s]men." It talks about "Jack Tar's" (a colloquial term for an able or ordinary seaman) terms of service and how he could become a petty officer; "Land[s]men, Artificers and Servants," the positions which could easily be held by landlubbers; and the naval plagues: mutily and desertion.
Part VII is about the marines, who were like people in the army except that they served on naval ships and vessels.
Part VIII is called, "Techniques" and is about the skills used in basic seamanship, ship handling, boat and anchor work, battle, navigation, and disaster. It has illustrations showing several interesting knots.
Part IX is titled "Shipboard Life" and talds about shipboard organisation, how time was counted, the watch system, clothing, food, pleasures, health, and discipline.
Part X is entitled "Dockyards and Bases," and it's about just that. In addition to the text, there are several interesting charts.
The title of Part XI is, "Fleets." It talks about their distribution around the world, fleet administration, signaling, and tactics.
Part XII is "The Seaman's World." It talks about winds, currents, and other maritime bodies.
Part XIII is called, "Foreign Navies." It's primarily about the French, Spanish, and American Navies, as these were the two most often encountered, but there is a section on "Other Foreign Naval Forces."
Part XIV is "Tactics," and it is about actual battles, blockade, cruisers, convoys, and amphibious operations.
At the end there are some appendices, all of which are extremely informative. I use them more than any other part of the book.
***This is a great book, but not for the faint- hearted. If you've never looked at something like this before, I would suggest something like /Men of War/ by Patrick O'Brian and then maybe this if you're still interested. That book is a great introduction. /Nelson's Navy/ is very costly, so if you know you're interested but you're on a tight budget, I would recommend /The Illustrated Companion to Nelson's Navy/ by Nicholas Blake & Richard Lawrence. This is smaller, but it's also in depth, and it has references to most novels on the topic, as well as being more detailed about the uniforms. If you can afford it, I suggest that you get it along with this one.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 29, 2004
I've read a number of nonfiction books lately on the Royal Navy during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and this is far and away the best of them -- no comparison, not even Lavery's own _Jack Aubrey Commands_ (2003), which is in many ways merely a cut-down version of this encyclopedic volume. This is 350 pages of highly detailed, heavily illustrated discussion of every conceivable subject and all its subtopics, from the engineering principles of ship design and the differences among each of the different rates, to the divisional organization of the Royal Marines, to the truth (with statistics) behind the press gang system, to a disquisition on the differences in naval fighting tactics between the British and French and Spanish fleets -- and a great deal more. And there are even graphs, flow charts, and organization tables to bring disparate informatiion together. It's actually a very slow read because there's so much to absorb, even for the experienced fan of Forester and O'Brian -- but that's certainly not a criticism! I'll be referring back to this gorgeous, oversized book for many years to come.
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on March 17, 1997
If you can only afford one book about the Royal Navy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, then this is the one. Covering every aspect of the RN during the time of Horatio Nelson this book has it all from an historical background; details of the life on board for officers, men and marines; aspects of ship handling, weapons and tactics; and just about everything else immaginable. Extremely well illustrated, perhaps the only negative comment might be that it would be nice if a portion of the illustrations were in colour
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on December 1, 2002
Being introduced to the period by Patrick O'brian's books, I have found that this volume is THE one to get about the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars. Full of scanned documents, diagrams, drawings/photos/art, a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge about everthing from how to provision a ship to how to sail it. Do not let this one sail away!
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on April 16, 2004
Tom Pocock's classic narrative biography of Horatio Lord Nelson and Joel Hayward's new and innovative thematic military analysis of Nelson's "warfighting" are both excellent and highly recommended, but without a good background knowledge of the Georgian Navy they might be a bit confusing in places. THIS is the book to provide that knowledge. It is wide in coverage and thorough in treatment. With beautiful illustrations (from the era) it will help you understand the naval world of the Nelson/Napoleonic periods.
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on May 22, 2004
If you are truly interested in the Navy of Lord Nelson and all the various aspects of its functioning and operation, this is THE book to own. It's hard to imagine a better book on this topic ever being written - it's that good. If you enjoy Civil War navies, there are two companion volumes in the same "series" by the same publisher. Lincoln's Navy and The Confederate Navy. Both from Conway. Excellent books, all.
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on July 30, 2004
As you will infer from the other reviews, rating this book is a snap: it ain't got no five-star average for nothing! If you're interested in Nelson's Navy and this fascinating period of history, just order the book and get on with your life. Until it arrives, that is, and then you'll have to drop everything else and delight in its reading. Nothing less than the epitome of a well-written, illustrated history.
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on June 12, 2001
Lavery has compiled the entire history of the Royal navy in one tomb. Wonderful stuff, covering aspects from history to construction, fitting and rigging. This is facinating stuff for historian,enthusiast and modeller. I have yet to see a publication in this genre put togeather so well and in one volume you negate the need for so many other books.
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on July 12, 2004
The text is wonderful and informative. The reason I gave it a four star rating instead of five is that I would like to have seen the illustrations in color, but don't let that stop you from getting this great book. As stated by Patrick O'Brian in the Forward of this book "You name it, Nelson's Navy has it."
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on December 26, 2005
I found this book to be the sort of book I wish I had years ago when I first developed an interest in Nelson and the HMS Victory. I have other books that go into more detail about the construction and rigging of these ships but this one gives the perfect background to the environment these great ships operated in. A number of things that I had difficulty with were somehow cleared up and my understanding of a number of issues improved greatly. This is the second book by Brian Lavery I have and I have others on my wish list.
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