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Storm and Conquest: The Battle for the Indian Ocean, 1808-10 Paperback – 4 Sep 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571224679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571224678
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"For sheer excitement, what most gripped me was Storm and Conquest ... as thrilling as anything by Patrick O'Brian." -- Jeremy Paxman, Books of the Year, Observer

"Taylor has written a ferociously good book ... an incredible tale." -- Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm

"A magnificent book ... The writing has all the nautical salt and pungency of a Patrick O'Brian novel." -- Literary Review

"A triumph... a ripping yarn founded on original research ... popular maritime history at its very best." -- Huw Bowen, Guardian

"Taylor is a great man for storms and desperate enterprises ... in this irresistible volume he demonstrates his steady scholarship too."
-- Jan Morris, The Times

'Compelling ... STORM AND CONQUEST holds the attention like a cyclone at sea.'
-- Daily Telegraph

Book Description

Storm and Conquest: The Battle for the Indian Ocean, 1808-10 by Stephen Taylor is a gripping account of the infamous Battle for Mauritius, between Nelson's navy and the French fleet.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Gs-trentham VINE VOICE on 4 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback
At the beginning of the 19th Century a significant factor in Britain's prosperity was trade with India, a country effectively ruled by a commercial enterprise, the East India Company. But that trading was a hazardous affair, beset by ferocious weather and the enmity of Napoleon's France. In Storm and Conquest, Stephen Taylor magnificently brings to life the many deprivations and disasters and the occasional ultimate rewards. As much as this is an evocation of ships and the elements, it is also a gallery of vividly drawn portraits of men and women, friend and foe, colleagues and rivals. The author's great triumph is in holding the many strands together so that the reader is always carried forward by the over-arching narrative.

The first two-thirds of the book describe the terrifying challenges faced by the Indiamen as they plied between east and west. For protection they usually - but not always - had vessels of the Royal Navy, not exactly the brotherly alliance that might have been expected. The Navy men drew a distinction between "the art of war and the art of gain" with barely disguised, but unjust, contempt for the latter. Much tension between and within the two camps derived from incompatible personalities. There were also the wives; Taylor spices his pages with some juicy scandals.

The final third deals with conquest. Two small islands in the Indian Ocean - Bourbon and Ile de France - were staging posts for French vessels that were always vigilant for the possibility of taking a passing Indiaman as a bountiful prize. The solution for Britain was to capture the two outposts. Success crowns the story but the manner of its achievement is a tragi-comedy of bloody battles mostly lost and final anti-climactic victory.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By clare marsh on 20 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought and read the book a couple of years ago, but will now buy it on Kindle as it was such an evocative account of the arduous and dangerous journey to and from India by sea in the early 1800's. As well as the military, large numbers of officials were sent out by the East India Company with their families. I have an ancestor who travelled out during this time and returned with a wife and young child. As someone who has struggled with small children on public transport the idea of months at sea with a lively toddler in the conditions described was horrendous. The ships faced the worst conditions imaginable and so many lives were lost,
As someone who hasn't read naval novels of the Napoloenic period I wasn't sure how I would get on with it. It was as easy to read as a novel and better written than many, based on meticulous but not intrusive research.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By MLA VINE VOICE on 26 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Storm and Conquest is a popular history book as gripping as many novels. It details the triumphs and tragedies of the East India Company over a couple of years in the early 19th century. The main players in India, South Africa, and sailing the Indian Ocean are brought to life through a fantastic summary based primarily on the letters, notes, analysis, and reports of those who were there.

The British Empire was in the ascendency post-Trafalgar and it was naval prowess that had brought glory to Britain. The navy was far from unrivalled though and the French fleet and the elements still brought many ships down. Taylor's book explores the people who were on board, how they related to each other, and what became of them when disaster struck.

What surprised me the most about this book is that it is first and foremost a description of the people involved. From the politicking over the governorship in India, the bitter recriminations between rivals for honour, and the love, romance, and illicit affairs that sparked, this is a tale of real human beings.

Taylor's analysis of those people is rarely of a fence-sitting variety. The exploits of Captain Corbet for instance are a remarkable read with Taylor firmly backing the sources that show Corbet to have been a monster despite the occasional success he wrought. Corbet's tale on the Nereide is probably the most heartbreaking of all and the cruelty of the life among the Indiamen and HM Navy is brought home vividly.

While the title of this book suggest an equal weight between Storm and Conquest, the former is much more of a presence. This is not really a book of battles and military action, more a tale of survival and intrigue.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M David on 1 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
Other reviews have summarised and praised book and author and I can only agree whole-heartedly. Taylor has researched thoroughly and chosen a set of events that stand well on their own. However, as a book it is written to entertain and I think the author is clear where he 'visualises' events that could not have been recorded and generously credits his sources in the text itself (usually William Hickey).

For me the book has particular interest as one of my ancestors was 4th Officer on the Ceylon in July 1810. He was injured in the action and taken prisoner. Taylor's descriptions of the island of Ile de France and the chivalry of the French especially to courageous opponents are fascinating and left me wondering at the contrast between the cruel mayhem of battle and the apparently civilised aftermath.

As others have said Storm & Conquest is a study of personalities and characteristics; the measured and ultimately courageous Barlow, Governor of Madras who stood up almost single handedly to the White Mutiny and the long-term infidelity of his wife to boot. Yet the British political system ensured that as a commoner he would get no credit. On the other hand Taylor uses the measured and capable Captain Rowley as a counter-point to the serially irresponsible zealots, Corbin and Willoughby among others and through this illustrates the deep rooted flaws of character in the Royal Navy at that time.

This is an enormously satisfying book to read on many levels with a terrific human dimension.
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