Book Review:
The Naval History of Great Britain, vol 1 : 1793 to 1796

By W.M. James

Well, The Naval History of Great Britain vol 1 is an absolute treasure trove of information on the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, containing more than 400 pages of excellent detail on the Royal Navy between 1793 and 1796.

It was written by William James, a lawyer turned historian, who felt the need to put right some of the propaganda used by America against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812.

James felt decidedly put out by US claims that their vessels defeated equal or larger Royal Navy ships in single combat and spent years talking to survivors, measuring ships and comparing guns.

He found that the British did not lose one engagement to an equal vessel and so began his examination of Great Britain's naval history.

This first volume, one of six, looks at the creation of the Royal Navy and improvements it made to its warships.

At the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars James reveals that the difference between Britain's navy and its enemies was not as much as is believed, when taken on a per-gun basis, and yet superior seamanship won the day for the Royal Navy.

Throughout his book James includes excellent panels of information on how many guns the various vessels mentioned had, crew numbers, captains' names and the like.

He also describes famous places - such as Brest and Toulon - and gives great information on naval campaigns such as the capture and subsequent loss of islands like Guadaloupe.

Above all, in this fellow's opinion, the real beauty of The Naval History of Great Britain vol 1 is James' authoritative accounts of single ship duels between the Royal Navy and its French and Dutch enemies.

He took a lot of time researching his subject and interviewing those involved in the actions and his painstaking efforts were very worthile for later historians.

This volume is a beauty and if the rest of the series are as good then it is a must-have naval reference for Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era fans.



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