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Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy Hardcover – 2 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (2 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408700549
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408700549
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.4 x 4.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 530,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A fascinating, even occasionally humbling study' -- Sunday Times, December 2008

'A spirited and unsparing account' -- Literary Review, October 2008

'An extraordinary read' -- Daily Mail, December 2008

'Gritty detail springs from Jack Tar' -- The Times, November 2008

'This is as comprehensive - and lively - an account of the life of Jack Tar as you could hope to find'
-- Navy News, October 2008


'A fascinating, even occasionally humbling study'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 84 people found the following review helpful By J. Williamson on 7 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful follow up to the Adkins' 2 previous books 'Trafalgar: Biography of a Battle' and 'War for all the Oceans', and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of them. In this volume the sailors take the limelight and history takes a step back to create the setting for their lives. And what lives they were!

I am always surprised how many sailors of all ranks were able to write journals and diaries about their time at sea, how literate they were, how perceptive and honest their observations were, and more surprisingly how those manuscripts have survived. The Adkins have carefully drawn from these and many other contemporary sources and woven them into their text to create a vivid picture of life in the British Navy at the time of Nelson and the war with France. A good selection of maps, and illustrations helps fuel the imagination, and, as ever, they have succeeded in presenting the flavour of the time, bring the people and events to life in such a way it is easy to suspend disbelief and fancy you are watching real time events

Electric fluid, birds of ill omen, ship wreck, coffee made from burnt bread, one armed cooks,rats in your pies, weevils in your biscuits, goats falling down the hatches, holystones, wash day, pay day, strong liquor, marriage certificates, wives, children, mistresses and dogs on board, volunteers and press gangs, hernias, amputations and disease, cockroaches like animated varnish on the walls, dancing, prize money, pensions and begging, betrayal, decency, heroism, births and deaths. They are all here, and more.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Marioné on 13 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you read only one book of history this year that commemorates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Nelson, read Jack Tar.
During the Great War (1793-1815), the Royal Navy was the backbone of the defence of the British Isles and took a major part in the final victory.
Just as the great battles from Valmi to Waterloo were won by the troops in the field, the naval battles were in the end won by the crews - and not by the Nelsons, Hoods or Cochranes.

Roy and Lesley Adkins have worked like the archaeologists they are, unearthing hundreds of sources, extracting hundreds of relevant pieces, then carefully glueing them together until the whole image is reconstructed: the portrait of rough, hard-working men (women and children) living a perilous life on board a primitive, claustrophobic machine in a hostile environment.
Apart from the constant danger from man and nature, ships' companies appear more like small rural communities than the "rum, lash and sodomy" society depicted in "miserabilist" books like Masefield's one.
Jack Tar was no saint but the product of the very harsh 18th-century society. His voice is seldom heard in history books.
When you turn the last page, you'll have envisioned the complete life of Jack Tar from his entry as Johnny Newcome to his later life in Greenwich hospital (if he was lucky), told in his own words.

If you have no previous knowledge of the naval history of the period, don't worry, Roy and Lesley have everything at hand for you: maps, diagrams, explanation of all the nautical terms you'll need.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas J. R. Dougan TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the second of Roy & Lesley Adkins excellent popular histories of the Royal Navy in Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars that I have read, the first having been "The War for All the Oceans". The Adkins treat their subject - the common sailor - in a thematic approach, covering such areas as recruitment and selection (aka the Press Gang), basic training (learning the ropes), diet (salt junk and grog), the daily routine (bells and whistles) etc. They present letters and memoirs from a surprising number of simple sailors, supplemented by those from junior officers as well, inevitably, as the more senior. The Adkins leave never miss an opportunity to explain the derivation of expressions that have survived to modern times, but the book is none the worse for that.

The book deals with the Navy over the period from 1771, when Horatio Nelson joined as a cabin boy at the age of 12, to 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic wars. This is an entertaining and very readable book, but the thematic approach does have the disadvantage of hiding developments made during the course of the period. Thus, for example, the term Master & Commander is explained as a temporary rank given to substantive lieutenants when appointed to command ships too small to justify a post captain, overlooking the fact that Commander became a proper rank in its own right in 1794. The requirements for midshipmen to "pass for gentlemen" as well as passing their exams for promotion to lieutenant was one that, as I have read elsewhere, changed over the period, as the Navy's officer corps became more socially exclusive, and men who would have been commissioned at the beginning of the period were denied promotion by the end.

This, however, is a minor criticism and, dealing as it does with officers, is not in any event the main focus of the book. This is an excellent depiction of the life of the common sailor in Nelson's Navy, and is well worth reading.
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