What are your “essential” books on 18th century naval history?

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 What are your “essential” books on 18th century naval history?

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  • #22586
    Russell B
    Participant

      I am a complete novice in this field, but few interests in my life have been as long lasting and resolute as my fascination with the “age of sail.” I recently joined the NRS and discovered their treasure trove of remarkable content, and when I learned of the SNR through the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast (and other reading), I had to join this community as well.

      I’m attempting to put together a collection of “essential” books on the age of sail, to read (of course) and reference as I dive into this world. So far I have used, as reference, the eminently useful “Further Reading” section from Sam Willis’ In the Hour of Victory as well as the wonderfully extensive bibliography in N.A.M. Rodger’s Command of the Ocean. I’ve been wondering, however, if this community has reading suggestions that might be considered essential to the study of this very specific piece of history. I would love to hear any and all of your recommendations!

      #22588
      Sam Willis
      Keymaster

        Thanks for getting in touch Russell! I would encourage you to read some primary sources to get a real feel for what is going on. If it is naval history you are interested in, you simply can’t do better than Admiral Pasley’s Journals. The Navy Records Society’s Logs of the Great Sea Fights is where I started. And James Cook’s journals are astonishing.

        Sam

        #22589
        Wayne Tripp
        Participant

          For exceptional bibliographies see the books by Rasor. Look for books by Lavery for some good references on construction and vessels. Lincoln Paine is also good.

          For construction and rigging see Lee or Chappelle. That should give you a good start.

          Welcome aboard!

          #22590
          Malcolm Lewis
          Participant

            Ah, books! So many written on this popular subject. Here are just three suggestions which, like you, when new to the subject I found useful.
            Nelson’s Navy. The Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815 by Brian Lavery, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Probably the world’s leading authority on the sailing fighting warship.
            Seamanship in the Age of Sail. John Harland. “……the most comprehensive historical work on the sailing ship ever published……. any sailor worth his salt must have it on his shelf ashore.” The Daily Telegraph.
            Building the Wooden Fighting Ship. James Dodds and James Moore. Fascinating account of the building of a noble and historic warship and the surprising portrait of life and labour in the 18th century.
            Enjoy reading!
            Malcolm Lewis

            #22592
            Sara Cutler
            Participant

              After a quick consultation with my sister, who is a member of the Naval Records Society, for printed books to get you started, we have one title to recommend – if you don’t mind edging very slightly into the Napoleonic era. This is ‘Landsman Hay, The Memoirs of Robert Hay, 1789 – 1847’ Edited by his great-grandson, M.D.Hay. Unlike other, contemporary, memoirs, this one was written purely for the benefit of his family and was never intended for publishing. Then, if you are really serious in furthering your studies, may we suggest that you equip yourself with a reader’s ticket for The National Archives, at Kew, where you will find some very good books for perusal. The code ADM 36/ will help you locate the ship’s musters up to the early nineteenth century, ADM 51/ for the relevant Captain’s Journals and Logs and ADM 52/ for the Master’s, for starters. Wishing you all the best in your endeavours!
              Sara Cutler & Emma Cooper.

              #22616
              Russell B
              Participant

                Thank you for all these terrific suggestions! This is exactly what I was looking for. Between the primary and secondary sources listed here I’ll have more than enough to satisfy my interest for months. Much appreciated, everyone!

                Russ

                #22617
                Cy Harrison
                Participant

                  You could also look here for an unfilterd list of some sources, both primary and secondary, specifically covering naval warfare in the period.

                  https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=source_search

                  #23062
                  William M
                  Participant

                    UNLESS I MISSED THEM IN EARLIER REPLIES TO YOUR BOOK QUERY:
                    THE #1 CHOICE FOR ME IS THE 4 VOLUME SET CITED BELOW, IF YOU CAN BEG, BORROW, BUY, OR OTHERWISE FIND IT:
                    – Jean Pierre Paul Boudriot’s BOOK HIGHLY DETAILED IN FOUR HEAVY VOLUMES WITH FOLD OUT PLATES PROVIDES EVERY (AND I MEAN EVERY) DETAIL YOU COULD ASK FOR IF YOU WANTED TO (AND HAD THE RESOURCES TO) BUILD, FIT, ARM, AND MAN A FRENCH 74 OF THE AGE OF SAIL. THE FULLY TRANSLATED ENGLISH VOLUMES MIGHT BE AVAILABLE SOMEWHERE, BUT TRY LIBRARIES FIRST. THEY ARE TRULY WORKS OF ART AND MUCH OF THE ART WITHIN THEM IS HUMOROUS.
                    – LEE’S “MASTING AND RIGGING”
                    – SAM WILLIS’S WIDE RANGING AND DOCUMENT RICH “IN THE HOUR OF VICTORY” AND HIS OTHER BOOKS, OF COURSE.
                    – WILLIAM LAIRD CLOWES: “HISTORY OF THE ROYAL NAVY FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES THE PRESENT”.
                    – BOOKS BY HISTORIANS AND ARCHAEOLOGISTS ROY AND LESLIE ADKINS: GIBRALTAR, TRAFALGAR, ETC. ALL RESEARCHED. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE IN DETAIL OBTAIN THEIR “JACK TAR” BOOK.
                    – THE SCIENCE OF GUN FIRE (CANNON FIRE ON LAND) GOES BACK TO THE 1600’S AND NEWTON. FIND ON LINE.
                    – IF YOU WANT TO LEARN THE ROPES START WITH “THE YOUNG SEA OFFICER’S SHEET ANCHOR” THEN GO TO THE EARLIER REPLY POINTING YOU TO “SEAMANSHIP IN THE AGE OF SAIL”.
                    – GOOD LUCK.

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