The Ship of the Line: The Development of the Battlefleet, 1650-1850: 001 Hardcover – 1 Apr 1984
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To our age of Trident subs, Stealth Bombers, and the internet, the wooden sailing battleships of 200 years ago may seem like beautiful but primitive constructs of a former age. It is not easy for us to appreciate how much skill, research and effort over several centuries went into both the development and construction of these ships and the techniques and tactics to sail and operate them.
The ship of the line was by a considerable margin the most formidable mobile war machine which had existed at any point in human history up to its time, and was one of the most remarkable feats of engineering. It also required an entire self-contained society to crew and operate. The skill demanded of the captains, officers and crews of these vessels was such that many of the nations which maintained sailing battle fleets had to develop more meritocratic structures for their navies than they allowed in any other field of society.
An example to support that point; when the French Revolutionaries sent half the officers in their army and navy to the guillotine or exile for being aristocrats, they kicked off a period of triumph on land for French armies and disaster at sea for the French Navy. The aristocratic army officers removed by the "Committee of Public Safety" were easily replaced; the naval officers they purged may have been aristocrats but also had to be competent to hold their positions. Replacing them proved vastly more difficult than their army opposite numbers.Read more ›