Book Review – ‘Captain Cook’s Merchant Ships: ‘Freelove’, ‘Three Brothers’, ‘Mary’, ‘Friendship’, ‘Endeavour’, ‘Adventure’, ‘Resolution’ and ‘Discovery’ by Janet MacDonald
This book tells the story of Captain James Cook’s merchant ships: the four in which he learned his job as a merchant sailor (Freelove, Friendship, Three Brothers, and Mary) and the four which he took to the Pacific on his voyages of discovery (Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery).
There have been many books about Cook, mainly covering his life and explorations; but this author approaches the story from a different direction. The concentration here, as well as the ships themselves, is on their builders, their owners, those who sailed in them and the town of Whitby as a port; the monarchs and politicians who ran the country, and the mercantile aspects of life in the eighteenth century. However, it is the latter aspects rather than the ships which prevail, together with numerous diversions into topics which are barely relevant, including details of Whitby families not connected to Cook’s ships, Quakerism, a general British history from the early sixteenth century and its numerous wars, and the changing freedom of religious belief. To be fair, the author does say that he thinks it necessary to place the ships and people in the context of their times but the level to which this is done is sometimes excessive …