The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815

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Overview

An Economist Best Book of 2004: "Destined to remain the reference on the subject for the coming generations."—U.S. Naval InstituteThe Command of the Ocean describes with unprecedented authority and scholarship the rise of Britain to naval greatness, and the central place of the Navy and naval activity in the life of the nation and government. Based on the author's own research in a dozen languages over more than a decade, it describes not just battles, voyages, and cruises but also how the Navy was manned, ...

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Overview

An Economist Best Book of 2004: "Destined to remain the reference on the subject for the coming generations."—U.S. Naval InstituteThe Command of the Ocean describes with unprecedented authority and scholarship the rise of Britain to naval greatness, and the central place of the Navy and naval activity in the life of the nation and government. Based on the author's own research in a dozen languages over more than a decade, it describes not just battles, voyages, and cruises but also how the Navy was manned, supplied, fed, and, above all, how it was financed and directed.
N. A. M. Rodger provides convincing reassessments of such famous figures as Pepys, Hawke, Howe, and St. Vincent. The very particular and distinct qualities of Nelson and Collingwood are illuminatingly contrasted, and the world of officers and men who make up the originals of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower is brilliantly brought to life. Rodger's comparative view of other navies—French, Dutch, Spanish, and American—allows him to make a fresh assessment of the qualities of the British.

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Editorial Reviews

The Economist
“As Mr. Rodger demonstrates on almost every page, if you do not understand the importance of British maritime history, you can never fully understand Britain.”
Washington Post Book World
“Rodger illuminates the world of Nelson and Hardy and its portrayal by C. F. Forrester in the Hornblower novels and Patrick O’Brian in the Aubrey and Maturin cycle . . . to understand the Royal Navy at its peak, Rodger’s account is indispensable”
Publishers Weekly
The adjective "magisterial" is justified for this colossal second volume of a complete history of British sea power, which began with The Safeguard of the Sea (1998); the author of the classic 18th-century British naval history, The Wooden World, has surpassed himself here. The book opens with the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1649; for its duration there were two British navies, the Commonwealth Navy (which laid the foundations for a professional officer corps and fought the First Dutch War of 1652-1654) and a semipiratical Royalist Navy-in-Exile. After the Restoration, we quickly find the diarist Samuel Pepys exercising less literary but more permanent influence as secretary (or chief administrative officer) of the admiralty. The book offers colossal amounts of information (organized sometimes thematically, sometimes chronologically) right through to its endpoint of 1815, accompanied by a formidable set of notes and bibliography, as well as 24 pages of illustrations. The author not only avoids a hagiography of famous admirals but displays psychological insight in his portraits of, for example, the trio of Lord St. Vincent, his protege Nelson and Nelson's indispensable second, Collingwood. Rodger also demonstrates a firm grasp of the relationship of technical subjects (the amount of tar caulking a ship needed) to British strategy (keeping the Baltic sources of tar accessible). Readers without an intense interest in the subject may be daunted; readers without some background knowledge in British social history may be somewhat at sea in the author's discussion of the officer corps and the recruitment of sailors (usually through the press-gang). Serious students of naval history, however, will find this absolutely indispensable; this is the place to find out whence the navy of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower came. Agent, Peter Robinson at Curtin Brown (London). (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rodger (naval history, Exeter Univ.; The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649) presents the second of his three planned volumes on British naval history, a remarkable effort to put naval affairs back into the history of Britain. Rodger's first volume received accolades as the first part of a massive effort that, when completed, will present a comprehensive account of the history and traditions of the British Royal Navy for the first time in over a century. In Volume 2, Rodger again combines high academic scholarship with a lively narrative that explains how the political and social history of Britain has been inextricably intertwined with the strengths and weaknesses of her sea power. The book begins with the execution of Charles I in 1649 and ends with Napoleon's surrender to the Royal Navy in July 1815. Rodger shares his convincing reassessments of such famous figures as Pepys, Hawke, Howe, and St. Vincent, contrasts the qualities of Nelson and Collingwood, and describes the world of other distinct characters, including Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. Rodger's deep, impressive, research integrates numerous unpublished theses and dissertations, as well as an abundance of other published sources, cited in the 200 pages of reference notes and bibliography. This awesome second volume, alone or as part of its eventual three-volume set, is an essential addition to British history collections in all academic libraries and special libraries focusing on naval history. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060508
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/4/2005
  • Pages: 976
  • Sales rank: 474,970
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

N. A. M. Rodger is professor of naval history at Exeter University and a fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of The Wooden World and the highly acclaimed volumes of his naval history of Britain, The Safeguard of the Sea and The Command of the Ocean. He lives in England.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xiii
Foreword xvii
A Note on Conventions xix
Maps xxx
Introduction lxiii
1 A Mountain of Iron: Operations 1649-1654 1
2 Cromwell's Hooves: Operations 1654-1659 20
3 A Looking-Glass of Calamity: Administration 1649-1660 33
4 The Melody of Experienced Saints: Social History 1649-1660 50
5 Terrible, Obstinate and Bloody Battle: Operations 1660-1668 65
6 Protestant Liberty: Operations 1668-1687 80
7 Amazement and Discontent: Administration 1660-1688 95
8 Learning and Doing and Suffering: Social History 1660-1688 112
9 Mad Proceedings: Operations 1688-1692 136
10 Notorious and Treacherous Mismanagement: Operations 1693-1700 152
11 An Additional Empire: Operations 1701-1714 164
12 Strife and Envy: Administration 1689-1714 181
13 Our Mob: Social History 1689-1714 201
14 Great Frigates: Ships 1649-1714 216
15 Pride and Prejudice: Operations 1715-1744 226
16 A Strong Squadron in Soundings: Operations 1744-1748 241
17 A Scandal to the Navy: Operations 1749-1758 257
18 Myths Made Real: Operations 1758-1763 272
19 The Great Wheels of Commerce and War: Administration 1715-1763 291
20 Disagreeable Necessities: Social History 1715-1763 312
21 The Battle of the Legislature: Operations 1763-1779 327
22 Distant Waters: Operations 1780-1783 343
23 The British Lion Has Claws: Operations 1784-1792 358
24 Plans of Improvement: Administration 1763-1792 368
25 A Golden Chain or a Wooden Leg: Social History 1763-1792: Officers 380
26 Dividing and Quartering: Social History 1763-1792: Men and Manning 395
27 Science versus Technology: Ships 1714-1815 408
28 Order and Anarchy: Operations 1793-1797 426
29 Infinite Honour: Social History 1793-1802: Men and Manning 442
30 The Second Coalition: Operations 1797-1801 454
31 A Great and Virtuous Character: Administration 1793-1815 473
32 A Thinking Set of People: Social History 1803-1815: Men and Manning 489
33 Honour and Salt Beef: Social History 1793-1815: Officers 507
34 Gain and Loss: Operations 1803-1805 528
35 A Continental System: Operations 1806-1811 545
36 No Greater Obligations: Operations 1812-1815 563
Conclusion 575
Appendix I Chronology 585
Appendix II Ships 606
Appendix III Fleets 610
Appendix IV Rates of Pay 618
Appendix V Admirals and Officials 629
Appendix VI Manpower 636
Appendix VII Naval Finance 640
References 647
English Glossary 747
Foreign Glossary 772
Abbreviations 774
Bibliography 777
Index 865
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Second Book in a Definitive history of the Royal Navy

    Naval Historian N.A.M Rodger continues his comprehensive history of the Royal Navy introduced with the first volume, The Safeguard of the Sea. The second book in this study The Command of the Ocean continues beyond the formative years of English sea power, covering the Cromwellian period through the end of the Napoleonic era. Like the structure of The Safeguard of the Sea, each chapter examines a particular aspect of the British Navy within a given time period, such as Ships, Operations, etc. Rodger shows how the navy evolved as a both a tool and facilitator of Empire, as well as Britain’s chief means of defense.

    During the period covered, the wooden sailing warship becomes a highly specialized fighting machine, with the line-of-battleship and frigate reaching high states of refinement The author also details improvements in logistics, supply, dockyard facilities, and other matters critical to maintaining sea power. From Lord Admiral to common tar, the issues of manpower such as discipline and promotion are also examined.

    The navy’s operational role in both war and peace expands during this period, involving wars with Holland, Spain, France and America. The Mediterranean becomes critical to British naval policy as well. The navy also expands its role in exploration with the voyages of Cook and Anson. It’s role in the defense of Britain spans the often disastrous engagements with the Dutch in the late 1600’s and cumulates in Nelson’s stunning 1805 victory at Trafalgar.

    As he has in past works, Rodger effectively combines scholarly research with a highly readable text. While the book may not appeal to all general readers due to its specialized subject matter, anyone with an enthusiasm for British or maritime history will find this an excellent read. The series may prove the definitive naval history of Britain for some time to come. I look forward to the third book in this series!

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