Book Review-‘Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks and people, 1297–1825’ by I. Friel, Pen

By Jack Pink, published May 2021


Britain’s maritime history is often studied by looking at events on the large scale. Friel’s book does something different. This book tells the individual stories of eight different ships, through which we can get a snapshot of events spanning just over 500 years. This is the first of two volumes employing this approach, with the next instalment set to continue the journey right up to the present day. The aim of these two volumes is an ambitious one, particularly given the relative variances in the record across the total timeline. However, Friel has taken an approach that appears to have been well thought out, resulting in an interesting book with a strong narrative approach. He also manages to avoid dense nautical terminology and minutiae without feeling ‘dumbed down’ or simplified. In the opening sections even the challenge of tonnage measurement and the many ways it can frustrate studies of ships is set out. Any audience with even a limited maritime interest can tackle this book without needing to reach for the assistance of Wikipedia or Google…

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern) | Other (Nineteenth C) | Shipwrecks
Subjects include: Archaeology | Manpower & Life at Sea

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