Book Review – ‘French Warships in the Age of Sail 1626–1786: Design, construction, careers and fates’ by Benjamin W. D. Redding

By Benjamin W. D. Redding, published February 2021


In this new study on French warships, that covers the period from the appointment of Gaspard de Coligny, Cardinal de Richelieu to the post of grande maître de la navigation in 1626 to the revolutionary era, Rif Winfield and Stephen S. Roberts provide a detailed and desirable study of French naval strength.

The book is the second volume on the listing of French warships; the first, published in 2015, covers the later period of 1786–1861. This latest volume, which accounts for more than 160 years of ship design, also complements both the four- volume series on sailing warships in Britain by Winfield covering the period of 1603–1863, as well as companion volumes on the Russian and Dutch sea forces.

Winfield and Roberts are more confident in handling the later period of this volume’s scope, rather than the earlier.

Second, similar to other related volumes in this series by Seaforth Publishing, the text would benefit from including references to the original sources of information. As a piece of work which deserves to be bought and regularly consulted by academics and other professions, references in text or at the end of chapters to the sources of origin would strengthen future historical research.

Even with these criticisms in mind, Winfield and Roberts have produced a unique and significant study on early modern French war- ships, and I hope that this work encourages further research in both the English- and French-speaking worlds. It is an important and detailed text that is valuable not just to the historical researcher, but also to the interested modeller on account of both the detail and images provided. A valuable source to regularly consult; deserving of its place on the shelves of anyone interested in naval affairs during this period.

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Filed under: Period | Early Modern | Eighteenth Century | Other (Early Modern) | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Navies | Shipbuilding & Design

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