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Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy [Hardcover]

Ben Wilson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 16.75 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 July 2013
The story of our navy is nothing less than the story of Britain, our culture and our empire. Much more than a parade of admirals and their battles, this is the story of how an insignificant island nation conquered the world's oceans to become its greatest trading empire. Few other nations have fallen so deeply in love with a branch of the armed forces as the British did with its Navy. Yet, as Ben Wilson shows, there was nothing inevitable about this rise to maritime domination, nor was it ever an easy path. For much of our history Britain was a third-rate maritime power on the periphery of Europe. EMPIRE OF THE DEEP also reveals how our naval history has shaped us in more subtle and surprising ways - our language, culture, politics and national character all owe a great debt to this conquest of the seas. This is a gripping, fresh take on our national story.

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Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy + Leviathan: The Rise of Britain as a World Power + Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory, 1793-1815
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (25 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297864084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297864080
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


One of our finest young historians...With such a variety of peaks and troughs to choose from, this book can only generate discussion: it is, in its essence, a book about rise and fall that explodes the notion of rise and fall. It is a wonderful book because it does not tell the answer from on high but, instead, it asks the question: what do you think? (DAILY TELEGRAPH 2013-07-27)

Wilson tackles this formidable canvas with zeal and spirit. He is strong on strategy and analysis, yet also throws himself into the great battle scenes, of which his account of the battle of the Nile in 1798 is particularly effective. (NEW STATESMAN)

Compelling...Wilson's mastering of 1,500 years of naval history is no small achievement. (SUNDAY TIMES)

Superb...crisply and clearly composed by Ben Wilson (BOOK OF THE WEEK THE TIMES)

My only regret was in finishing this fascinating and thought-provoking account. (THE SPECTATOR)

The fighting, blood-and-guts side of naval life is portrayed by Wilson with great skill...A charming book. (Kwasi Kwarteng EVENING STANDARD)

Spanning the period since the Romans left until now, Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy is a sprawling, magisterial account of how Brittania came to rule the waves. (METRO)

The author...writes with such brio and passion about the subject. (THE CATHOLIC HERALD)

Wilson has a brilliant flair for addressing very current questions with reference to the past. (BBC WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?)

Empire of the Deep by Ben Wilson is an engaging history of the British navy from King Alfred to the Thames pageant at last year's Diamond Jubilee. (CHOICE MAGAZINE)

In this enlightening book, the author rightly argues that it is necessary to go back more than a thousand years to understand the history of the Royal Navy. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

An entertaining and erudite tale (WARSHIPS INTERNATIONAL FLEET REVIEW)

Wilson charts and celebrates a 1,000-year love affair between our islands and the seaborne branch of the armed forces...The sea boils and timbers creak as you read this smart, salty, invigorating work. (Dan Jones THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, History Books of the Year)

Book Description

A landmark history of the British Navy from King Alfred to the 21st century.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Senior Service 5 Aug 2013
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Ben Wilson has written a magnificent book about the rise and fall of the British Navy. His previous books, for example, 'What Price Liberty' sold well.
The naval historian N A Rodger has written two massive books on the command of the ocean that cover the period 660 to 1815. The final volume of his masterly trilogy is eagerly awaited.

Meanwhile Ben Wilson, originally a political historian, has written a major work of scholarship in a single volume of some 720 pages that focuses on the whole sweep of Britain's maritime history. He writes:'The British sense of national identity was in large part forged at sea'. He says we 'forget that at our peril'.

His book covers the period from the Saxons to the recent Defence Review, a review that has been widely criticised. He discusses, for example, in detail the Merchant Warriors, Defence of the Realm 1399 to 1509, the New Model Navy 1642-1652, The Science of War 1772-1779, Nelson's victories, naval matters in the World Wars, and the major naval events up to 2013.
His bibliography is superb and his illustrations and maps are of a very high quality.

Wilson tells us that Darwin was shown HMS Caledonia an enormous 120-gun ship of the line before he departed on his epic voyage in the Beagle. Darwin said that on coming near her:'her hum is like that of a town'. Darwin also described the state of below decks on HMS Beagle, 'everything was so clean that it put to shame many a gentleman's house'.

The author reminds us that the Royal Navy was, after Trafalgar,'an unassailable world force'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Empire of the Deep 7 Sep 2013
By Steve
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent and comprehensive account of the English, then the British Navy. The only thing I would say that was skimmed over though was the War of 1812 as it just mentioned that there was a few frigate confrontations which the Royal Navy mainly lost. Apart from that, the book mentions most of the main admirals and battles as well as the times the fleet was laid up and often rotting away and neglected between wars. Lessons should be learnt by the politicians of this country as Britain is an island nation, dependent on the sea lanes for 96% of everything we import and consume. Around the world there are choke points such as the Gulf of Hormuz and the Suez Canal which can be blockaded. Only ships can deal with these problems and we neglect the Navy at our own risk. When the price of food and petrol go through the roof and we no longer have the ships to do anything about it, only then will the British come out of their sea blindness and appreciate the role of the Royal Navy. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the history of English/British sea power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thoroughly Good Read 7 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ben Wilson has managed to cover a vast timescale - Pre-Norman to present day, whilst maintaining interest all the way through.
Needless to say it is packed with information, the result of thorough research and understanding.
It gives a convincing argument as to how the nations commercial interests and maritime power were inextricably linked. It also makes comments on the present situation.
It dwells a lot on the ability, or in some cases lack of, of the Navy's leaders and makes it clear how great an admiral Nelson was.
This is a concise yet complete history of the British Navy that makes for a thoroughly good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent survey with unusual detail 2 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very interesting book. A lot of detail that I didn't previously know. The best description of the battle of trafalgar that I've read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 3 Feb 2014
By Ben H
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book connects the dots. It gives context and clarity on many key battles and world events through history. An essential insight for any history student.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, readable and revelatory 10 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a passionate admirer of the Royal navy and this book has deepened that admiration as well as shedding new light on so many aspects of Britain's maritime history. Strongly recmomended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hornblower Fans, This is for you. 9 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book gives a vivid account of how Navies were made and how they grew,
How technology changed with time, and how this affected the lives of the sailors.
Sadly, this often meant more efficient means of destroying other ships, and other men.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched 4 Jan 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought the book well researched and well written. Ideal for anyone interested in British Naval history. An interesting read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Empire of the Deep
It took longer than expected but the postage was refunded which I thought was good. Having a husband who was in the Royal Navy for 32 years he was very pleased with the book
Published 1 month ago by susan lemon
5.0 out of 5 stars Super
Vivid detail and written in compelling fashion. Lots to be learned from this one - would not be surprised to see this serialised on BBC at some point in the future - do hope so !
Published 1 month ago by Lisa Drage
5.0 out of 5 stars Empire of the deep
Great book , makes history very readable ,charting the Navy from Viking days to modern times , well worth purchasing
Published 2 months ago by Mr. J. H. Hodkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, could not put it down
A great read, well writen and very readable. A clear understanding of british navy it's origins and it's current demise
Published 2 months ago by Will Cook
4.0 out of 5 stars value for money
good value not for me to read but went down well with recipient on his birthday as was requested
keep him quiet
Published 2 months ago by Jane Milner
5.0 out of 5 stars History
History of our past, written in a very easy manner, which makes for a most delightful story. Definitely recommend this
Published 3 months ago by Red Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Master and commander? - an enjoyable history
Bought this for my partner who thoroughly enjoyed it. Authoritative and engaging. Top of his wish list - highly recommended.
Published 4 months ago by Orkneylightworker
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a present - looks interesting
We brought this as a present for someone who likes sailing and history. We hope he enjoyed reading it! Looks good.
Published 4 months ago by J. F.
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