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The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 [Hardcover]

N. A. M. Rodger
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Oct 2004 0713994118 978-0713994117 1st
The Command of the Ocean describes with unprecedented authority and scholarship the rise of Britain to naval greatness, and the central place of the Navy and naval activity in the life of the nation and government. Based on the author's own research in half a dozen languages over nearly a decade, and synthesising a vast quantity of secondary material, it describes not just battles and cruises but how the Navy was manned, how it was supplied with timber, hemp and iron, how its men (and sometimes women) were fed, and above all how it was financed and directed. It was during the century and a half covered by this book that the successful organising of these last three victualling, money and management took the Navy to the heart of the British state. . It is the great achievement of the book to show how completely integrated and mutually dependent Britain and the Navy then became. The Command of the Ocean is a landmark in naval and military history; but it also allows us to see the history of Britain as a whole in a new perspective. Anyone interested in British history at this crucial stage in its development will find it both engrossing and enlightening.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin - Allen Lane; 1st edition (7 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713994118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713994117
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.6 x 6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

NAM Rodger’s The Command of the Ocean, the second part of his naval history trilogy that began with The Safeguard of the Sea, describes Britain’s rise to naval greatness during the period 1649-1815 when she finally gained sovereignty of the seas around the British Isles. It ably demonstrates the importance of naval history to the life of government and the nation; links naval history with political, social, economic, diplomatic, administrative, medical and religious history and charts the naval histories of Britain’s enemies and neighbors including France, Holland, Spain, Denmark and the United States.

Have no doubt, this is a brilliant piece of scholarship, cleverly organized and wonderfully written. Given the promising subject matter of naval warfare to work with it is not surprising that an historian with literary flair can produce a gripping narrative. Perhaps what is surprising is that half the book is devoted to the seemingly mundane background of naval history--how the Navy was managed, financed, directed, and supplied with materials, how the men were fed and so on--rather than the showy foreground, yet it remains a deeply engrossing read throughout. The secret of Rodger’s success is not just down to the cracking narrative and fine scholarship but partly to the way he has organized his material. The main body of the book is arranged into four parallel streams: policy, strategy and naval operations; finance, administration and logistics; social history; and finally the tools of sea-power, ships and weapons. These four themes are broken up into thirty six relatively small chapters each covering a certain time span. Constructing the book in this way has certain practical advantages for the reader. Most importantly, separating the key themes and alternating between them keeps the narrative fresh and interesting while giving the reader the best chance of taking on board the who, what, where, when, how and why of things without losing either the sense of continuity or one’s bearings. Over 100 pages of information are left outside the main body of the text: the front of the book contains several maps, a useful chart listing dates, battles and the names of the ships involved while the back contains an English glossary, a general chronology and appendixes on ships, fleets, rates of pay, Admirals and officials, manpower and naval finance. Rodger’s choice of structure along with his great story-telling abilities means we can assimilate the maximum amount of information with a minimal degree of effort while being thoroughly entertained along the way. On the whole The Command of the Ocean is one those rare specimens that will simultaneously stimulate the specialist and greatly please the general reader. --Larry Brown


'Encyclopaedic in its breadth, detailed in its knowledge, profound in its judgements, elegant in its style…a masterpiece’ -- Kevin Myers, Mail on Sunday

'a delightfully argumentative book...His absolute mastery of the sources allows Rodger constantly to produce fascinating and surprising insights and statistics’ -- Andrew Roberts, Sunday Telegraph

'an extraordinary achievement…. Rodger writes with scrupulous scholarship but deep admiration and love for one of this country’s great institutions' -- Max Hastings, The Daily Mail

'nothing written during the past century, perhaps ever, approaches Rodger’s ambitious and masterly three-volume Naval History of Britain' -- Paul Kennedy, The Sunday Times

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First Sentence
The English Commonwealth which executed its former king Charles I on 30 January 1649 was in principle a republic governed by a sovereign Parliament, but the Parliament was the 'Rump' remaining of the Long Parliament (originally elected in 1640) after Colonel Thomas Pride's troops had purged it of all remaining opponents of military rule in December. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not a pub quiz book 19 Aug 2006
NAM Roger has continued the excellent work he started with his first volume. This is an excellent book, well referenced and remarkably readable. Covering the technical, social and historical aspects of the Royal Navy for the period he has avoided the trap of concentrating on the battles and gives a clear view of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had to overcome to make it the force that it was in the nineteenth century. This is not a pub quiz book, however, anyone who is serious about British naval history should read this book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant at sea, but also good all round 30 Dec 2006
This is a brilliant book to read for anyone, whether they are a professional historian, or just as a passing fancy.

It highlights not just the military side of the period, but also the social and political aspects of it, portraying the personalities of the period with the utmost accuracy. There are also some fundamental points made in this book which although complex, are explained so well that they will improve any readers understanding of the period.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great work on Evolution of British Sea Power 7 Jun 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I owned a paperback, and just wanted the 'real' thing !
This surely must be one of the best works on the subject of the evolution of British sea power yet written. Both my copies are festooned with 'post it note' bookmarks, to highlight various aspects of interest.

A real revelation into the way our navy has evolved. I rate this book as being excellent in content.

Writing style is also very readable, though just a little convoluted at times. This after all is a major subject spanning a considerable time,[166 years] a large numbers of personalities and occurrences of historical significance. and to cram all the information contained into a single volume necessitates the use of a little licence at times.

For anyone with a real interest in the evolution of our Senior Service, through the good as well as the hard pressed times, over the period, this book needs to have a permanent place on your book shelf. You need to own a copy, not just borrow one, as the frequency you will delve into it to confirm aspects of naval history are likely to be frequent. At least judging from my own useage !
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and dispells many myths 3 Jan 2008
I picked up this book in Portsmouth after having realised I knew next to nothing about the true history of the Navy (apart from Nelson). This book was a delight, alternating between the naval history, the social background and technical developments. The one bit that really grabbed me was the role of Samuel Pepys in the Royal Navy. Also, the author goes into a few myths and errors that previous historians have introduces in their books, which shows how well researched the book is. I am now going to get the earlier book in the series to see where it all began.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If your curiosity about the Royal Navy was whetted by the Command and Conquer film then this excellent account, prepared in what seems a labour of love, should prove the fact belittles the fiction. How women and even entire families served in Nelson's Navy is brought to light by careful examination of naval records.How crews were more like foreign legions than just sons of England and how risk was seen a positive thing to allow common men to rise above their station. An excellent read!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Command of Naval History 4 Oct 2005
I am not an historian but I found this meticulously researched book very readable. It puts the Naval history in its context and is written in a clear and enjoyable style. Despite this there is an enormous amount of detailed research in the appendices. I look forward to the next volume.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine absorbing book 2 Mar 2007
This is one of the most absorbing history books I have read. The author covers not only naval operations but the politics, the financing, the organisation the social backgound and the economic effect of the Britain's navy. His style is clear and easy to read and not without humour.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a general reader I came on this book by chance & was immediately impressed by the quality of the writing and the comprehensiveness of the material. It is very effectively organised, giving clear outlines of development illustrated by vivid examples & anecdotes. Material is backed by comprehensive notes at the back, for those who wish to see the evidence, but most chapters can be read as uninterrupted narrative. The writing is sharp & vivid, whether he is describing the improvements in the dockyards, feats of navigation or relationships on board ships. There are many fascinating anecdotes which bring real people & situations vividly to life, but they also contribute to the development of a wider account.

N.A.M Rodger fits together wider aspects of the history that most people would not have considered. There are connections in some very unexpected places. Having read the book, I understood much more clearly how a navy worked, & the remarkable effect it had on the history of Britain & the rest of the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent all round.
Very detailed and informative but an easy read nevertheless. Perhaps the definitive study of this period in our Naval history?. Certainly the best i have read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mike
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading
If you are reading this then you are probably aware that N A M Rodger is a leading figure in this field. Eminently readable and essential for research.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched
It is a very detailed and informative book. The author has obviously done a lot of primary research and it has made me question the impression I have had on some historical... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Keith Leslie Mellor
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly but very readable
Rodgers works in the best scholarly tradition providing facts and figures to back up what he says and make his opinions convincing, yet he is at the same time very readable. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Greywolf
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
As soon as I can afford the fhe 3rd volume I shall buy it. Comprehensive reference book for my libray
Published 9 months ago by Robert Hoyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Naval History
I bought this for a friend who is interested in Naval History - it is really brilliant full of useful information for both the student and those who just love history. Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2010 by Mary P
5.0 out of 5 stars DETAILED NAVAL HISTORY
I purchased this as a present and so have not read the book myself. However, I did scan through the book. Read more
Published on 21 July 2010 by Mr. David M. Titchfield
4.0 out of 5 stars Something stops this from being 5 stars for me...
First things first, it's all here! Maybe that's a problem, whether you want to know about recruitment systems, pay, battles or ship design it's all in this book. Read more
Published on 12 May 2008 by J. Duducu
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Superbly researched and very well written book concerning possibly the most important period in the development of the British nation. Read more
Published on 25 July 2007 by Doctor Syn
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