Primers for naval history
- June 17, 2008 at 12:00 am #2394AnonymousGuest
My new students always ask me for a simple ‘primer’ in naval history – until they get their sea-legs when they suggest reams of arcane titles to me!
I always give them a set of five books, which changes with the particular student, their required level of understanding and any special interests (most of my naval history students are American and interested in the Stuart and Georgian sailing navies and the politics of empire).
I wonder if Forum Members would care to share lists of their top five naval or maritime history books, geared for different types of reader – e.g. ‘primers’ for those with little prior knowledge of the subject; technical treatises; political interests; ancient shipping etc.
To start, here are my five primers on the navy of the Georgian era for students with no previous knowledge:
Brian Lavery Nelson’s Navy
Tom Pocock Horatio Nelson
NAM Rodger Command of the Ocean (specific chapters)
NAM Rodger The Wooden World
Peter Warwick Voices from the Battle of Trafalgar
It is a difficult task to choose just five, and of course the selection depends entirely upon the readers’ needs.
I look forward to seeing your comments on this list, and your own suggestions, varying the needs and current knowledge of readers to build a ‘library’ of titles.
Justin ReayJune 20, 2008 at 12:00 am #2395Malcolm LewisParticipant
Justin, other suggestions:
Seamanship in the Age of Sail, John Harland. If you want to know how they handled ships in the days of sail this is as good as you can get. It is the result of 20 years of research and sells out regularly.
The Line of Battle: The Sailing Warship 1650-1840. Conway’s ‘History of the Ship’ series. Useful reference book on ship types, construction, armaments and naval tactics, etc.
TRAFALGAR: the men, the battle, the storm, Tim Clayton and Phil Craig. Dramatic account of the battle through the diaries, letters and memoirs of the men on both sides who took part.
Regards, MalcolmJune 21, 2008 at 12:00 am #2396Frank ScottParticipant
As a real primer I would start with Richard Harding’s Evolution of the Sailing Navy 1509-1815, which is short enough to enable them to gain some feeling for the subject very early on in their studies.
Since you say that most are from America, you might consider providing some Yankee colour to their studies by adding The Nagle Journal edited by John C Dann. As an American who served in privateers, the Royal Navy, and the Honourable East India Company, and who saw a remarkable amount of the globe, his unpretentious memoir should certainly stimulate their thoughts.
Frank ScottJuly 6, 2008 at 12:00 am #2397AnonymousInactive
Some others from my collection:
Paul Kennedy – The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery
Rif Winfield – British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793-1817
Peter Goodwin – The Ships of Trafalgar
James D Mack – Matthew Flinders 1774-1814
Richard Hough – Captain Bligh and Mr Christian
Peter AshleyJuly 16, 2008 at 12:00 am #2398AnonymousInactive
I suggest adding:
J R Hill (ed) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy, Oxford 1995
Eric Grove The Royal Navy Since 1815: a new short history, Basingstoke 2005
Both of these get straight to the point, which is useful when deadlines are tight!
Mike HesseyJuly 29, 2008 at 12:00 am #2399AnonymousInactive
This is always difficult with students as we are not certain as outsiders what the subject material will be covered. However these are my suggestions for an overal synopsis of maritime history:
1 Peter Kemp (ed.) “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”
2 Brian Lavery “Nelsons Navy”
3 Jan Glete “Navies and Nations: Warships,Navies and State Building in Europe and America 1500 – 1860” in two volumes
4 David J Starkey and Alan G Jamieson
“Exploiting the Sea: Aspects of Britain’s Maritime Economy since 1870”
5 Peter Padfield “War Beneath the Sea”
Books come and go and updating research is always useful to try and keep up to date which at times is very difficult. It also depends on one’s interests in the field of maritime history.
Keith LangridgeOctober 20, 2008 at 12:00 am #2400AnonymousGuest
May I suggest two books by Professor Nicholas Rodger? They are in effect the course books for Exeter University’s MA Naval History module entitled ‘British Naval History in the Age of Sail’:
1) ‘The Safeguard of the Sea’(London, Penguin Books, 2004);
2) ‘The Command of the Ocean’ (London, Penguin Books, 2005).
Both have very comprehensive bibliographies and are international best-sellers. ‘Safeguard’ covers the period 660 to 1649, and ‘Command’ continues from 1649 to 1815.
George StephensonNovember 30, 2008 at 12:00 am #2401Susan RoseParticipant
Don’t forget that war at sea started long before the sixteenth century; see [my chapter in] the Oxford History of the Royal Navy and also my Medieval Naval Warfare (2002) and The Medieval Sea for a general introduction.
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