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Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander Paperback – 16 Sep 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (16 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915879
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 832,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Offers a portrait of Thomas Cochrane, the hero who served as a model for fictional characters drawing on previously unpublished sources to document his exploits against the French navy and in the liberation of South America. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The real source behind many books and films. The story about the true life and times of Lord Cochrane is fascinating and despite the cost of the book a must read for the seafaring buff.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fantastic true story of a uniquely flawed and heroic individual.
The book was delivered in near pristine condition. Thank you!
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By Evie on 17 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good Book especially if a fan of this author and theme, always a sure thing as a gift for a reader in the family
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8cbc592c) out of 5 stars 80 reviews
82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cc825b8) out of 5 stars Excellent Biography of an Extraordinary Man 30 Dec. 2007
By Bruce Trinque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think I am correct in saying that I have read all of the biographies of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, published in the last few decades, and I would rate this volume as the being the best of all, giving good coverage of all phases of Cochrane's long naval and political careers. Unlike some authors, Cordingly is careful to match Cochrane's own accounts of his activities against other primary sources, and to give equal balance to Cochrane's activities in the wars for South American independence with those during the Napoleonic Wars.

Cochrane was an extraordinary man, his genuine history perhaps more amazing than any of the fiction inspired by his real-world activities, this is a biography that does him justice, lauding his good qualities and achievements without hiding his flaws and failures.
53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d5a86c0) out of 5 stars Must Read for Fans of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower 4 Mar. 2008
By Douglas S. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Many readers will come to David Cordingly's The Real Master and Commander from a desire as fans of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester to learn more about the remarkable man whose life provided the raw material for the tales of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. Make no mistake, however, Cordingly's excellent historical biography deserves to be read on its own merits.

Lord Thomas Cochrane executed such stunningly audacious feats - successfully attacking much larger ships with his small sloop Speedy, leading an attack of fireships on the French fleet at Basque Roads, and helping Chile and Brazil establish their independence - that one might cry `what pitiful stuff' if one read it in a work of historical fiction. But it really happened.

Cochrane was a flawed man who could not restrain himself from reckless attacks on powerful forces in the navy and the government generally. When he found himself entangled in an infamous stock exchange fraud (the leaders spread false rumors that Napoleon had died and then sold their shares when the market predictably spiked), he discovered that powerful men were only too happy to see him convicted and drummed out of the navy. Cordingly judiciously sifts the evidence of Cochrane's guilt or innocence from our vantage point nearly 200 years later.

In addition to his naval feats Cochrane also fought for reform causes as a member of parliament. His intemperate tactics and language did him little good. Of course, he was quite right in insisting that either the electoral system would be reformed from within or reformed with a vengeance from without.

After several years in the `wilderness', Cochrane sailed to South America and successfully aided the rebellion against Spain and Portugal. He eventually wore out his welcome there as well, in part due to fights over prize money. From there he went to the Greek Fiasco, as Cordingly aptly names it. He spent his remaining years fighting with some success to restore honor to his name. A sad dwindling away for this remarkable man.

A must read for fans of Age of Sail historical fiction and an excellent histroical biography.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cc42f54) out of 5 stars Relief for Patrick O'Brian withdrawal victims 13 Nov. 2007
By M. L. Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For those of us suffering from Patrick O'Brian withdrawal syndrome David Cordingly may well be the answer. His life of Lord Cochrane, the Real Master and Commander, is every bit as gripping as any O'Brian novel. What's more, details of British political life at the turn of the nineteenth century make Karl Rove and the Swift Boat crew seem like gentlemen and the UN Oil for Peace scandals small change. Cordingly brings history to life and I am now eager to read his earlier books.

lance Reynolds
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cc829f0) out of 5 stars Will the real Horatio Hornblower please stand up? 19 Dec. 2010
By Dana Stabenow - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Chances are you've already heard of Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, maybe even Frank Mildmay. But how about Thomas Cochrane, the real life British naval officer upon whose life and career all of these fictional characters are at least in part based?

That's what I thought. Don't worry, David Cordingly's Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander has got you covered.

The best biographies illuminate not only their title character but the time and place in which that character lives, and this book does that in spades, with some eye-opening revelations. For one thing, I had no idea that the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars were on the whole, well, pirates.

Oh yes, they were, and I'll tell you why. The British Navy was essentially a money-making proposition in those days. Whenever a British ship caught an enemy ship, it would be sent back to England where it would be assessed by the Admiralty and assigned a value, one-eighth of which was then shared among the officers and crew of the capturing ship. The more enemy ships they captured, the more prize money they made, and Cochrane, whose improvident father had cost the family the hereditary estate, was forever in a row with whoever was in charge about getting full value for the ships he captured.

An eye ever to the main chance Cochrane may have had, but he was also by everyone's account, even his enemies', of which he made many, a master mariner. Cordingly writes that some of Cochrane's actions, described in full in you-are-there prose, are still cited by naval historians as the best of their kind. He was his own worst enemy on land but at sea he was unsurpassed. He wreaked havoc with Napoleon's navy up and down the coasts of France and Spain, and not for nothing did the French call him "le loup de mer," or the Seawolf.

Ashore, though, he involved himself in radical politics and made enemies of people in power, especially in the Navy. He was intemperate and mouthy, which, allied with a burning and fatal desire to achieve better pay and conditions for his officers and men, started the downward spiral. The British Admiralty just wasn't there yet. When, inevitably, he made England too hot to hold him, he went to South America, where as, sequentially, chief of naval operations for both countries he assisted immeasurably in Chile and Brazil's wars of independence with Spain, and later and less gloriously in Greece's war of independence with Turkey.

He had a keen scientific curiosity and the patience for experimentation which caused him to spend a great portion of his aforesaid prize money on experimenting with, among other things, lamps, steam engines and bitumin (aka asphalt). He was a passionate and faithful husband to his not always worthy wife, and what money he didn't spend on scientific experimentation and petitions for reinstatement in the British Navy was employed to bail their worthless children out of hock.

This book is beautifully produced, with many detailed maps, marvelous cutaway illustrations of two of Cochrane's ships so you can practically walk the decks right next to him, three sections of contemporary paintings of friends and colleagues, including many portraits of Cochrane himself at every age, ships of his time, seascapes of sea battles and ports of call and scenes of engagement. There is even a glossary at the back to teach you the difference between bombarde and bumboat, and more illustrations throughout, such as a reproduction of the recruiting poster Cochrane had made up to entice a ship's crew to the Pallas. "My lads," says the poster, "The rest of the GALLEONS with the Treasure from LA PLATA are waiting half loaded at CARTAGENA...Such a Chance perhaps will never occur again."

That was appealing to their better natures, all right.

Cordingly's Cochrane is a rousing tale, all the more astonishing because it's all absolutely true. A wonderful read.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cc82ba0) out of 5 stars Cochrane, The Real Master and Commander 21 Dec. 2007
By David Mabry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am not an O'Brian fan but I do love C.S. Forester. This gripping true life narrative was an easy read and was more exciting than the fiction that used Cochrane as an inspirtation. This unfortunate tragic hero's life is told in gripping detail from his self-claimed sabotage as a naval officer to his failed career as a reformist politician in the Napoleanic Era of England. The scientific advances both in military and civilian pursuits are also touched on as scientific curioisty and their failure to commercially take advantage of their discoveries seemed to have run in Cochrane's family. For those who love those fictious sea tales of both O'Brian and Forester, this is the real thing.
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