Book Review:- ‘Tempest: The Royal Navy and the age of revolutions’ by J. Davey

By Niklas Frykman, published February 2024

Abstract

James Davey’s new book is a fascinating experiment in form versus function. Superficially, it looks like yet another general history of Nelson’s navy, with stirring descriptions of the war at sea, diagrams of all the key battles sprinkled throughout, and a narrative that wears its considerable learning lightly, never taxing the reader’s attention with extensive historiographical debates or conceptual interventions. It does all of this remarkably well. And yet, instead of telling the expected tale of maritime triumph in the face of continental adversity, of heroic officers and gallant Jack Tars together ruling the waves and never becoming slaves, Davey subverts the genre with a very different story about the Royal Navy, one that looks not across the Channel at the foreign foe, but rather gazes inward to emphasize the deep social and political conflicts that destabilized both nation and navy throughout the revolutionary 1790s. ‘This,’ he warns the reader, ‘is a book about a Navy in crisis.’ …

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Filed under: Mutiny & Discipline | Nineteenth Century
Subjects include: Administration | Manpower & Life at Sea

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