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The Prize of All the Oceans Paperback – 18 Sep 2000
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From the Back Cover
The misadventures of Anson's voyage of 1740-44 make a dramatic story. Only one ship completed the mission, the rest were wrecked, scuttled or forced back shattered. Of the nineteen hundred officers and men who wailed form Spithead, almost fourteen hundred died, most from disease or starvation. Ravaged by scurvy and battered by relentless storms, by the times Anson reached the Chinese coast in November 1742 he was only left with one ship and a handful of men, some of whom had 'turned mad and idiots'. Despite this, he was determined to capture 'the Prize of All the Oceans', the legendary Spanish treasure ship making its annual voyage from Acapulco to Manila…The book's most lasting impression is of Anson's own fortitude against all the odds – a commander who watched helplessly while his crews died in their hundreds, who hauled ropes alongside his men and tended them when they were ill; but who never wavered in his determination to return home triumphant.
'Remarkable…never was there a tale which joined such horror and pity, disaster and triumph, such fortitude I adversity. Glyn Williams' narrative brings out all the drama of the story…an admirable retelling of a tragic and heroic tale. Nobody else could have done Anson justice as Williams has done, and no one will now need to do so again.
N A M RODGER 'TLS'
'Staggeringly good.. 'The Prize of All the Oceans' is the best book I've read in ages.'
About the Author
Glyn Williams has been Professor of History at Queen Mary and Westfield College since 1974. His main teaching interests are the history of exploration, the history of Europe overseas, and British imperial history. He has travelled and lectured in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies. He is Emeritus Professor of the University of London. He lives in Kent.
Top Customer Reviews
Poor Commodore Anson is sent off on an extremely ill-thought out mission to make inroads on the Spanish South American settlements and capture the annual treasure ship, laden with implausible amounts of silver. His mission is thoughtfully leaked to the Spanish, his military forces consist of a bunch of unfortunate Chelsea pensioners (some over 70 years of age) and he barely has a full complement of crew, even after pressing hordes of starved countrymen (it was a bad winter that year too - but in those days that meant people starved). Of the 1600 men who set off, barely 400 return alive - the majority killed off by disease (notably scurvy for which no-one has yet discovered a cure, and which is treated with a random variety of remedies - some involving sulphuric acid). But against all the odds - wrecks, mutinies, broken masts, mislaid islands (no-one has yet discovered a reliable chronometer either!) his handful of half mad crew take the fabled "Prize of All the Oceans" (manned by 500 healthy Spaniards) and make their fortunes (that much the greater, given the smaller numbers alive to share in the prize...).
Admittedly this is a story which has much to recommend it even without good writing. But Williams brings to it an excellent communicative writing style (you can tell that he has learnt how to hold an unwilling audience and how to stop attention flagging through his teaching!) and the absolute wealth of knowledge which is actually necessary to bring the story fully alive - since he treats of a very different world in terms simply of dstance of time, and the rarefied nature of maritime adventures. He even manages to make the contortions of the Prize system clear and interesting - and that really is high praise.
A wonderful read - and hugely informative.
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