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Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain Paperback – 21 Feb 2002

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Frequently Bought Together

Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain + Cochrane: The Story of Britannia's Sea Wolf (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) + Cochrane the Dauntless: The Life and Adventures of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 1775-1860
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Robinson Publishing; New edition edition (21 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841193984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841193984
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 405,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


To those who are drawn to the age and especially to aficionados of O'Brian's work, I would recommend Robert Harvey's Cochrane. --The Times Literary Supplement

An entertaining and compulsive read. --The Sunday Telegraph

a wonderfully readable book....Robert Harvey convincingly argues, it is Cochrane's exploits that give birth to the fictional genre of Napoleonic sea-adventures. --The Independent

About the Author

Robert Harvey is the author of numerous books including Clive (of India) and The Undefeated. He has worked for the Economist and is a former MP. He lives in Shropshire.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mick Nagle on 12 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Cochrane's story is so unbelievable, so vital and so exciting it would take a far less skillful commentator than Harvey to undermine the gripping tale as it unfolds. Most accounts of Cochrane's life (his own no least) are unashamedly in awe of the achievements of this true-life boy's-own hero. Had he be born 20 years earlier it would likely be Cochrane we saluted as the epitome of English Naval daring-do rather than Nelson - certainly the accounts handed down to us of his exploits tell of man whose prescience, bravery and outright cunning warrant our attention and appalause. Harvey does a creditable job of trying to present a balanced account of Cochrane's notorious and enduring troubles with the Naval establishment - but you always have a pretty good idea where his sympathies lie. And yet... and yet... was Cochrane so much in the right ALL the time? Were his ideas as revolutionary and as brilliant as he himself makes out and many agree with? Was fear of an upstart so strong a motive for the entire naval establishment - an organisation which had promoted a maverick in Nelson to its highest rank, and which by contemporary standards had vested in Cochrane a unusual degree of independence and status for one so junior in its ranks - so fearful of his outspokenness that it conspired to engineer his downfall? To what purpose? As Cochrane was, by most accounts, a passionate but ultimately naive and ineffective political force I have my doubts. I'd love to see some more contemporary criticism and to hear a more objective appraisal of Cochrane's importance in a wider context, before coming to an final view of his significance - though of course I resolutely hope that my hero's story is vindicated and that his position as a national treasure is confirmed for posterity.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 11 July 2002
Format: Paperback
What an excellent book, both the content and the delivery! This reads more like a novel than a biography, understandably, as it is the basis for almost all of the Aubrey/Maturin series.
The descriptions of the naval exploits almost defy belief, if they weren't so patently true - and the land-based politicking, double-dealing and chicanery are incredible, only to be corrected half a century later in the Great Reform Act.
The intuitive brilliance of Cochrane as a sea-commander is totally at odds with the gullible naivety of his political career; his devout moral ethics made it very difficult for him to ignore wrongs or slights against himself or any defenseless group (specifically Jack Tar), and he carried his attempts to redress the balance to extremes, putting himself in very real danger, both physically and financially.
His moral stance was such that he was abstemious, never had a man flogged, never lied, never used his position to personal advantage and never philandered (although counter claims have been made in that direction, but it is hard to believe that a man made of such high moral fibre would cuckold another man or his own wife).
This brilliance also extended to inventions, all (I believe) of which he failed to patent, leaving the kudos to others; the Admiralty failed him in ignoring his suggestions and it was only off his own bat that the advantages were seen (explosive ships, steam vessels etc).
Mr.Harvey covers all this in a very readable style, elaborating in detail on some of the more important episodes in Cochrane's life, but never boring us. He includes snippets from Cochrane's autobiography, where we see his droll, laconic prose used to great effect (particularly in antagonising the Admiralty against him).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. T. Rogers on 18 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
You will not regret reading Robert Harvey's 'Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain'. It's a terrific account of the life of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Lord Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, 1st Marquess of Maranhão, a true hero and one of Britain's forgotten greats. It is astonishing that Cochrane is not more widely known, though he has echoed down the years to some extent: it is believed he was the inspiration behind the novels of Patrick O'Brian (i.e. the Jack Aubrey character) and C. S. Forester (i.e. the character of Horatio Hornblower). I must confess not to have read those novels; I arrived at this book purely out of historical interest, in that Cochrane's era has been neglected somewhat in my reading. I am glad to say this book introduces the historical period very well.

Cochrane's story is so varied and colourful in its own right, his unlikely record of fame, infamy and accomplishment so impressive, that one could be forgiven for taking this book as a particularly adept, if ambitious, novelisation, yet everything you will read here is true. At different times Thomas Cochrane was a naval officer, prisoner, military scientist, civil engineer, inventor, mercenary and privateer. He even served in Parliament as a Radical MP. These different facets of his life each involved risk and adventure and you will not fail to be enthralled by the journey. Military enthusiasts will particularly enjoy this, but for all the spectacular military achievements, perhaps the most interesting conflict in Cochrane's story is social.
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