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Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World Hardcover – August 18, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0670034482 ISBN-10: 0670034487 Edition: 1st Us Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This illustrious introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar from an archeologist and historian is one of the best in generations for the nonseafaring reader curious about the nautical epic, and it also handsomely rewards those whose study of the battle goes back a generation or two. The battle itself and its aftermath form most of the narrative, interspersed with details of gunnery, ship handling, discipline, construction, damage control and shipboard health and medicine (not for the weak of stomach). The author gives full credit to the heroism of both sides—the dismasted Spanish flagship Santa Ana; the crew of the British Belleisle, also reduced to a wreck; and the aptly named French Redoubtable, from whose tops a stray bullet killed Nelson. Also given in more than usual detail is the weeks-long aftermath of storms, which sank most of the British prizes and during which the British further distinguished themselves by rescuing and landing enemy survivors. "If blood be the price of Admiralty, Lord God we ha' paid in full," Kipling wrote decades later, and this narrative of one of the bloodier occasions in winning that Admiralty is fully worthy of its subject. (On sale Aug. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Adkins' account focuses on the day of the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, commenting upon the technology and tactics of sailing-ship navies and the readiness of the particular fleets that met at Trafalgar. An explanation of the strategic situation of France's threatened invasion of Britain frames the center stage of the narrative, a broadside-by-broadside description of which ship was where during the battle. Amid this structure, Adkins incorporates excerpts from survivors' accounts, which retain their gory power to appall. Trafalgar was a slaughter, a consequence of the near impossibility of sinking a wooden ship-of-the-line; hence, the British commander's decision to gain victory by closing with and killing enemy gunners. Writing in the traditional way about Nelson, Adkins knowledgeably narrates events for readers just discovering the blood-and-guts chronology of Trafalgar.

Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st Us Edition edition (August 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670034487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670034482
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on November 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The british subtitled this book, "The biography of a battle" - which seems to much more accurately describes exactly what this book is - it treats the whole battle as a biography, allowing all the information to speak to build up a comprehensive picture of just what this battle meant - both in the lead up, and in the aftermath.

I would highly recommend this book to others who have not read much about sea battles of this period before. Adkins is enormously readable, his prose flows and is neatly interspersed with quotes of contemporarys both describing the battle, and everyday life where appropriate

The first part of the book is very much about the basics. There is a short introduction to Nelson's colourful life and career, a lot about the life and times of a seaman, and much useful information about life onboard ship in this period. Just what it was like to serve in the Nvy of George III. It was easy to understand the hardships and deprivation when reading this - the shortage of good food - which was generally maggoty or mouldy, or both. The smells from the lack of good sanitation, the terrible water which was unfiltered and stored in uncleaned barrels so that it soon became noxious and full of algae.

It was a hard life for anyone, and even Nelson did not touch land once for at least 2 years. The difference in life for officers and enlisted men was significant though. Conditions, food, clothing, position on board all played a significant role.

So the first part of this book sets the stage for the battle - it also dwells in excellent detail on the political situation, the pending Napoleonic invasion of Britain, the reaction, the blockades by British ships of French and Spanish ports, the lead up battles, such as that of the Nile, and so on.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is in the balance an excellent work of naval history and truly readable. It is a well-paced account of the pivotal naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars, where a British fleet commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson engaged the combined fleet of the Spanish and French near Cadiz. The British decisively defeated the Combined Fleet, effectively ending Napoleon's naval ambitions and any question of a cross-channel invasion of England. Trafalgar was the last great naval battle between fleets of sailing ships, and led the way to the British domination of the seas during the 19th century.

The book is a page-turning, captivating account of the actual mechanics of a sea battle with sailing ships. Adkins has considerable skill in making dramatic even the preparations before the battle - for instance noting the chilling but necessary sand strewn on decks for aiding footing in slippery blood. The combat itself he describes with a cinematic vitality, his details of the five hours of combat endured by sailors on both sides evokes a truly hellish stew of violent chaos, splinters, and smoke. A glimpse of this reality was recently portrayed in the movie Master and Commander, where two contemporary ships blast away at point blank range with shattering violence.

The book makes considerable use of first person accounts, but these are predominantly British, as is the perspective of the book. In describing the aspects of the sailing ships the English perspective is given, usually with an added comment that French and Spanish conditions were similar. The decisive difference was in the clearly superior skill and training of the British sailors and gunners. And that made the difference in the battle.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John T. Cullen on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Roy Adkins, having read his books on archaeology--which I treasure on my bookshelves. Adkins magnificently details this historic naval battle between the French and Spanish on the one side and the British on the other. Adkins not only gives a memorable overview of the battle, but he also takes the time to explain various aspects of life at the time on board ship, as well as the reasons leading to the battle. What is also a great surprise is that there was a huge storm afterwards, in which more far people lost their lives than in the battle itself. The author then goes on to recount how the news was brought to England after the battle and how it spread to the rest of the world. This is a very stirring and often sad story, much recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By N. Wallach VINE VOICE on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
On October 21st, 1805 the important naval battle of Trafalgar took place. During it two major events happened: the British obliterated a combined fleet of French and Spanish ships; and Lord Nelson who was in overall command was killed. the book claims that this is "The Battle That Changed The World".

As the 200th anniversary of the battle approached, many people released books telling the story of the battle and is various components. While this book is not one of the great ones telling this story, it is clearly written and does an adequate job of telling its story.

Since the book is intended for a general audience who may not know much of the period or the specifics of naval warfare, the author intersperses his telling the story of the battle with many tangents in which he tries to place his story in the context of the times. While this is a logical and reasonable approach, I felt that it actually distracted from this particular story. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I have read many naval novels set in the time period (Hornblower and Bolitho series in particular) and so was aware of the kinds of issues that Adkins brings up.

In the early chapters, Adkins sets the strategic stage with the British fearing an upcoming invasion of their island by the French and Napoleon doing his best to get an invasion underway. We are then told of the preparations in Britain to repel this invasion (this is where one of the odd things is told - many of the items being put in place were not completed until years after this battle and therefore were not really necessary any more). We are also told about the lives of British sailors and officers and their conditions at sea.
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