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Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle [Paperback]

Roy Adkins
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
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Book Description

5 May 2005
This is the true story of the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most significant sea battle, as seen through the smoke-hazed gunports of the fighting ships. In an atmosphere of choking fumes from cannon and musket fire, amid noise so intense it was almost tangible, the crews of the British, French and Spanish ships did their best to carry out their allotted tasks. For over five hours they were in constant danger from a terrifying array of iron and lead missiles fired from enemy guns, as well as the deadly wooden splinters smashed from the ships' hulls by the cannon-balls. While the men manoeuvred the ships and kept the cannons firing, the women helped the surgeons tend the sick or helped the boys - the 'powder monkeys' - in the hazardous job of carrying gunpowder cartridges from the central magazine to the gun decks. Trafalgar set the seal on British naval supremacy, which became the mainspring for the growth of the British Empire, and in the short term not only prevented Napoleon from invading Britain, but also enabled Britain and its Continental allies to mount the campaign that would eventually defeat the French Emperor: without Trafalgar there would be no Waterloo.

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Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle + Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (5 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349116326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349116327
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Roy Adkins is a historian and archaeologist, author of numerous critically acclaimed non-fiction books on social and naval history, archaeology, ancient Rome, ancient Greece and Egyptology. His books (mostly written with his wife Lesley Adkins) include 'Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England' (just published, and called 'Jane Austen's England' in the US), 'Jack Tar', 'Trafalgar', 'The War for All the Oceans', and 'The Keys of Egypt'. They have been translated into several languages worldwide. He lives near Exeter in Devon.

Product Description


The blazing TRAFALGAR is at least the equal of STALINGRAD in blood, pace and detail, but it also boasts a welcome twist to the genre with a lacing of black humour (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Masterful in explaining why Nelson's men were so much more efficient ... Adkins has written a compelling account (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Well-written and makes good use of first-hand accounts (LITERARY REVIEW)

[Adkins's] painstaking digging, sifting, arranging and questioning take him everywhere on Nelson's fleet ... His account of the battle is a gripping album of snapshots from the quarterdecks and gun decks of the ships themselves ... A most eclectic but engagi (SPECTATOR)

Book Description

* A superbly researched, gripping account of the most important naval battle in British history, which thwarted Napoleon at sea and created a national hero in Nelson.

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First Sentence
From 1793 to 1815 there were only thirteen months of peace between France and Britain. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I found this book fascinating, absorbing, moving, and very hard to put down once started. The conflict is described from all three sides; British, French and Spanish. By using many letters and reports written by the sailors and officers, as well as other first hand accounts Adkins describes the battle, and its aftermath from the view of the men and women who fought and their relatives back home. He portrays their world so vividly you feel these people are your friends and family writing, not long dead strangers from an alien past. The preparations, tactics, and details of the 5 hour battle along with individual exploits are astonishing enough, but he also covers the background and lead up to Trafalgar, the hurricane that followed and the scenes of devastation on the Spanish coast, the victory celebrations, Nelson's funeral and why he became an adored and iconic hero, and the exhausting years maintaining the naval dominance until the end of the Napoleonic War. He finishes with the differing treatment of their sailors by the British, French and Spanish governments - there is always a sting in the tale of a 'glorious victory'.
I read this book to learn more about my great, great, great, great grandfather who fought at Trafalgar, and to find out why we should still be celebrating the battle after 200 years. Before I finished I had fulfilled both aims. This is a biography of a battle as fought by ordinary people not a history of politicians and emperors. I shall be reading it again.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Read by a Reader from Bristol 16 Sep 2004
By A Customer
This is a haunting, thrilling book, which beautifully narrates the events leading up to the fateful day of 21 October 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar, when the British won, but Nelson was killed. The events surrounding the battle are skilfully described, and interwoven with the scenes are descriptions of many aspects of life in the navy, such as food, clothing, medicine, artillery and even women and children. The battle led to the surrender of many French and Spanish ships, but no British, yet worse was to come, because a violent storm immediately hit them, with dreadful loss of life. Adkins then goes on to describe events after the battle, including the news reaching various parts of the world, and the mixed reception in England: joy at the victory and grief at the loss of Nelson. A terrific read.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 12 April 2005
A brief extract from this excellent book
"It was now a few minutes past one o'clock, just over an hour after the battle had begun.At the heart of the fighting, where the two British columns had cut the French and Spanish line, the flow of blood from the decks into the gutters and out through drain holes had left scarlet streaks down the sides of the ships.The sea itself was taking on a dull crimson cast alternatively lit by flashes from the muzzles of the cannons and shaded by the pall of dust and smoke......" and so it goes on!
In 1805, Britain was at risk from iminent invasion from the superior and very experienced armies of Napoleon and with little in the line of defence to counter this attack. That is of course excluding the Royal Navy under the command of one Admiral Horatio Nelson!
This book tells of the hardships of life aboard a Royal Navy Battleship during 1700/1800's, the very uncomfortable living conditions, the poor diet, the disease and suffering and perhaps worst of all, the horrors of the surgeons table.
The details of the battle will most certainly leave you in awe of the bravery of each and every individual including both officers and able seamen and others on board. You will read amazing details of battleship technique and the description of the effect of red hot cannon balls and musket balls and the horrendous carnage that left decks looking like a butchers yard.
Finally of course you will learn of the brilliance of Horatio Nelson and the hero that he ultimately became.
The personal accounts written by those who were there (both British, French and Spanish) are superb actually taking you 'there'.
In this, the Trafalgar Bicentenary Year and as a Norfolk Man, I thoroughly recommend that you read this book!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trafalgar 5 April 2005
By A Customer
This book is fantastic, it has everything. The insight into life on board ship during the period is fascinating and mentality of good old British "stiff upper lip" I have to say very amusing at times. Enthralling, educational and very complete, its one of those books you just dont want to end!!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best 12 May 2005
By Tanydon
To anyone with an interest in naval warfare during the Napoleonic era and the battle of Trafalgar in particular it would be reasonable to assume that there is almost nothing new that a modern author could contribute to the subject that hasn't already been covered many times before.
I too thought this way until I read this book. Whilst the basic facts of the battle are sure to be well known to anyone with more than a passing interest in Nelson and Trafalgar, where this book really scores is in the many references and excerpts taken from the letters written by the 'ordinary' seamen of both sides who took part in the battle and how it changed their lives.
In this bok Adkins achieves the difficult balance of giving just enough technical information to keep the knowledgeable interested but not so much as to overwhelm the newcomer who just wants to find out more about the most important naval battle in Britains history.
I cannot remember a book written about the battle of Trafalgar that I have enjoyed reading more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Pr Peppiatt
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Bit heavy in places but very good book it's not a bedtime read, the font is quite small but the diagrams & pictures are very good, good book, well written/researched enjoyed it. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Phil
5.0 out of 5 stars you can taste the salt
an excellent account of the battle hour by hour with detailed maps showing the position off all the ships as the battle progressed which revealed to me that it actually was spread... Read more
Published 10 months ago by kriswud
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
A blow by blow account of this famous battle, the events which led up to it and the aftermath. Full of details which opened my eyes to the importance of Trafalgar to Britain's... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ampthill bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars It brilliantly weaves different sources into a coherent and...
A brilliant piece of work that covers all aspects of the battle from the seamans to the Admirals point of view. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Philip M F Barker
2.0 out of 5 stars HAVE NOT READ THIS YET
Published 16 months ago by john wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars good history
it,s a good read if like me your into your history lots of letters from people that were there at time
Published 19 months ago by jon sands
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Writing
Having spent may years in the Military and having a keen interest in 19th century military I enjoy Bernard Cornwall's reserch and literary skills
Published 19 months ago by Clive Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars Trafalgar, Biography of a Battle.
Husband thoroughly enjoyed the book and it compliments his collection perfectly. Arrived in good order and promptly. Would recommend this site.
Published 19 months ago by Eleanor Constance
5.0 out of 5 stars Edge of the seat material
An exciting "Boy`s Own" narrative which is gripping as well as being informative. Thoroughly enjoyable. Somewhat difficult to put down.
Published 20 months ago by I H JONES
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