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The Terror before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the Secret War Paperback – June 7, 2013
Pocock, who has eight books on Lord Nelson to his credit, offers a gripping account of the four years leading up to one of the pivotal events of European history: the Battle of Trafalgar, the last great battle of sailing warships. Napoleon, ever intent on conquering anything in his path, planned to cross the English Channel and march into London. At the outset of this book, little hope is held that the British could stop him. But Pocock presents a cast of figures who created insurmountable roadblocks in Napoleon's way, including Nelson himself, who blockaded the French at sea for two years, all the while pining for his mistress, Emma Hamilton. Pocock painstakingly relates these events through diaries, letters, and newspaper articles, culminating in the great sea battle at Trafalgar that finally rid England of the fear of French invasion, while sadly taking the life of its greatest sea commander. This is a fine addition to the literature on this era. Allen Weakland
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'The author has a conspicuous reputation as a narrative historian, and here he is at his best' -- This England 20050901 'This is a most engaging book...at its best it is classic Pocock, and his fans will not be disappointed' -- The Spectator 'The Terror Before Trafalgar" is narrative history at its shining best; a tale of secret agents ... thumb screws and murder in Paris cells, an emperor's impotent rage and an adulterer's magnificent triumph' -- The Economist 'Mr Pocock's book is a lucid exposition of this vibrantly exciting period...[and] is essential reading for anyone requiring a better understanding of why a battle off an obscure Spanish promontory should be remembered still' -- Lloyd's List --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
An alliance misnamed "The Armed Neutrality of the North" combined the forces of Russia (led by the half-mad Tsar Paul I), Prussia, Sweden and Denmark. This group was allied with Napoleonic France against Britain and placed an embargo to British shipping throughout the Baltic ports. This alliance represented a mortal threat to British power as Scandinavia was the principal source of timber and hemp for rope and canvas -- critical components of the Royal Navy.
On April 2, 1801 Vice Admiral Lord Nelson led a fleet of twelve ships of the line of the Royal Navy in action against the Danes at the battle of Copenhagen. He was second-in-command to Admiral Lord Hyde Parker. Nelson violated the conventional naval tactics of the day by leading his ships against the Danish ships AND the battery of a fixed fortification (Tre Kroner). At one stage of the battle, it appeared that the British were taking heavy damage from the tenacious Danish forces when Lord Parker sent a signal ordering Nelson to make a tactical withdrawal. Lord Nelson raised a telescope to his blind eye and declared, "I really do not see the signal."
At a critical moment that afternoon Lord Nelson penned a note to the Danes seeking a temporary truce:
"To the Brothers of Englishmen, the Danes
'Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark when she is no longer resisting, but if firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson will be obliged to set on fire the floating batteries he has taken, without having the power of saving the brave Danes who have defended them."
After being pounded with broadsides from the British 74-gun ships of the line, the Danes agreed to a temporary truce and the crisis passed. In spite of Parker's caution, Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy prevailed that day capturing 12 Danish ships, sinking two, blowing up another and setting much of Copenhagen ablaze. The butcher's bill for the battle of Copenhagen was 350 British dead, about 1,600 Danes killed and 2,000 captured.
Lord Nelson came "ashore to deliver the ultimatum to Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark in person. His deep-lined face and spare, one-armed figure, hung with stars and orders, attracted curious stares when he accompanied his host to the banqueting hall. As he climbed the wide, wooden staircase Nelson turned to a British officer beside him and, in the hearing of the Crown Prince, say, 'Though I have only one eye, I see all this will burn very well.' In the negotiations that followed dinner, the Crown Prince agreed to Nelson's initial terms: a truce of fourteen weeks." Source: The Terror Before Trafalgar.
"Though I have only one eye, I see all this will burn very well."
Unbeknownst to Nelson or the Danes, on March 24 (before the battle of Copenhagen was fought) Tsar Paul I had been assassinated in Russia by his own courtiers with the contrivance of his son and heir who promptly became Tsar Alexander I. Russian foreign policy immediately veered from being pro-French to becoming pro-British. Why is it that the Russians are so reliably unreliable, so dependably undependable? This regime change and Nelson's victory at Copenhagen led to the collapse of The Armed Neutrality of the North. Nelson's combination of force, flattery, credible threats and raw courage had won the peace for Britain.
If you enjoyed The Terror Before Trafalgar you will also like America Invades America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth by Kelly / Laycock and Italy Invades
Not all books have to be totally original in every paragraph of every page. A book that contains SOME new interpretations, insights and information is still a great accomplishment. Pocock's book falls into this category. It does contain a lot of material already in the "public domain" (a strange phrase for knowledge, anyway), but it also contains some gently presented but nonetheless invaluable insights and information. I learned much from this book, and I'm a scholar!
The book is meticulously researched, carefully arranged, sensibly and persuasively argued and Pocock-ishly written (in other words, elegantly). It is broad in its sweep of topics, but not in the least disjointed. All topics relate and flow together to form a colourful and richly helpful portrayal of a perilous period. I congratulate Mr Pocock, who has inspired me during my own academic journey. With this book he continues to do so.
Tom Pocock has combined his usual exhaustive research with his customary skill in writing. He presents a story of a time not unlike the Phony War of 1940 when two countries were nominally at peace but when undercurrents of war including the actions of secret agents were rampant. All was not quite peaceful during this time, Nelson conducted what today would be called raids against France and there were other activities.
This is a most interesting book of a time that was prologue to the last of the great sailing ship battles.
We have come to expect excellence from Tom Pocock, one of the great naval history writers and this book is true to form.