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Review for The Royal Navy 1793-1800

Author/Director : Mark Jessop

Format : Book

This is an unusual book not for its content but its style. Mark Jessop has chosen a novel way of presenting the ‘Birth of a Superpower’ by creating fictional characters through whom he introduces the reader to each particular aspect before developing the actual history. The characters are not the ‘great and good’ but the surgeon, the trader, the bosuns wife, the secret agent and others. It is the style that makes the information entertaining and most accessible to the casual reader or to the new comer to the history of our navy.
While reading it I enjoyed it but on reflection there are other books which convey more information in an accessible form and there are novels which present more of the flavour and the atmosphere of the Royal Navy of that period. Getting both in one book was a tall order and I applaud Mark Jessop for his attempt and the scholarship which underlies it.
Where the book succeeds unequivocally is in showing just how complex the creation of ‘the superpower’ was. The author places an emphasis on people, from the First Sea Lord to the powder monkey, as each in their own station worked to make the wooden wall strong and paramount. I felt the Epilogue could have been stronger in drawing together all the threads with which the various chapters deal.
This book will be enjoyed by readers with only a passing interest in the subject, anyone rather more knowledgeable will still get a lot from it. Especially as throughout the book the author makes reference to publications in an impressive bibliography which lists some quite rare sources.

Published by : Pen & Sword History, 2018
ISBN : 978 1 52672 033 7

Review last updated : 2019-03-27 14:00:55

See also : other "Napoleonic Wars" reviews