To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World

To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World

4.5 14
by Arthur Herman
     
 

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To Rule the Waves tells the extraordinary story of how the British Royal Navy allowed one nation to rise to a level of power unprecedented in history. From the navy's beginnings under Henry VIII to the age of computer warfare and special ops, historian Arthur Herman tells the spellbinding tale of great battles at sea, heroic sailors, violent conflict, and

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Overview

To Rule the Waves tells the extraordinary story of how the British Royal Navy allowed one nation to rise to a level of power unprecedented in history. From the navy's beginnings under Henry VIII to the age of computer warfare and special ops, historian Arthur Herman tells the spellbinding tale of great battles at sea, heroic sailors, violent conflict, and personal tragedy -- of the way one mighty institution forged a nation, an empire, and a new world.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
[Mr. Herman] is particularly adept at explaining the changes in technology and battle tactics that kept the British Navy a step ahead of the competition. Even more impressive, he describes the evolution of the navy's bureaucracy in such dramatic fashion that Samuel Pepys, secretary to the Admiralty, becomes as stirring a figure as Horatio Nelson. The British Navy scored its greatest victories largely because it was better organized, better financed and better equipped than its enemies. For this, Pepys gets much of the credit.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World returns with this quite splendid history of the British Royal Navy. Probably to no one's surprise, his thesis is that the British Empire was the foundation of the modern world and the Royal Navy the foundation of that empire. By and large, he sustains that thesis in a fluent narrative that stretches from the Elizabethan Age to the Falklands War. Although definitely Anglocentric and navalist, the author has done his research on a scale that such a large topic (to say nothing of a large book) requires. The Royal Navy's discipline and food in the age of sail may not deserve quite as much rehabilitation as he gives them, but on the other hand, he is frank about the limitations of British warship design, poor Victorian gunnery and lack of preparations for antisubmarine warfare between the world wars. He also writes extremely well, whether dealing with the role of the Royal Navy in founding the British iron and steel industries (it was a major customer) or grand battles, such as Quiberon Bay (1759) or Trafalgar (1805). Good one-volume histories of one of the modern world's most vital fighting forces appear rarely; this one should rule for a while to come. Agent, Glen Hartley. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The contributions of the British fleet extend beyond the inventive use of rum, sodomy, and the lash. The British Empire, argues Herman (How the Scots Invented the Modern World, 2001, etc.), would scarcely have been possible without it, and "half the world's independent nations would not exist today." The inhabitants of the British Isles, by mere virtue of the fact that they live on islands, have been going down to the sea in ships for millennia. But Herman credits Henry VIII with taking lessons from his fellow rulers in more ambitious lands and rethinking the whole business of the ocean as more than an inconvenient obstacle between England and its holdings in Ireland and France; a "skilled copycat," he built up a modern fleet for his time and, stealing a page from Scotland, mounted its ships with heavy, bronze siege cannons. Its descendant, the navy of Elizabeth's age, sailed the world, mostly in order to chase the Spanish; as Herman notes, the Spanish crown replied by launching three successive armadas in 1596, 1597, and 1598, the last of which set off a national panic, "with citizens of London closing off streets and rushing to Tilbury with 30,000 militiamen to repel the imagined attackers." England's swabbies found worthy opponents in Napoleon's fleet, too, which dogged them around the globe and made heroes of Lord Nelson and his lieutenants; in the fleets of the Germany in WWI and WWII; and even in the Argentine navy, which gave England's ships a hard fight in the Falklands War of 1982. The last conflict, the author notes, forced a rethinking of the fleet's increasing reliance on high-tech gizmos and put it back in touch with the old traditions: "If the British navy was going to winthis war, it was going to have to rely on the human factor, the courage and endurance of its officers and men." There's plenty of courage and endurance here. Herman's thesis is less than groundbreaking, but his narrative ought to please fans of Aubrey and Hornblower-and even the Tudor kings.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060534257
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/25/2005
Series:
P.S. Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
688
Sales rank:
645,713
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Herman is the author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World as well as The Idea of Decline in Western History and Joseph McCarthy. He has been a professor of history at Georgetown University, Catholic University, George Mason University, and the University of the South.

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