BookPick: The Sloop of War 1650-1763
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Ian McLaughlan’s splendid book is the first study in depth of the Royal Navy’s vital, but largely ignored small craft – the sloop of war, like Kydd’s beloved Teazer. In the Age of Sail they were built in huge numbers and in far greater variety than the more regulated major warships, so they present a challenge to any historian attempting a coherent design history.
This book ably charts the development of the ancillary types, variously described in the 17th century as sloops, ketches, brigantines, advice boats and even yachts, as they coalesce into the single 18th-century category of sloop of war. In this era they were generally two-masted, although they set a bewildering variety of sail plans from them.
The author traces their origins to open boats, like those carried by Basque whalers, shows how developments in Europe influenced English craft, and homes in on the relationship between rigs, hull-form and the duties they were designed to undertake. Visual documentation is scanty, but this book draws together a unique collection of rare and unseen images, coupled with the author’s own reconstructions in line drawings and watercolour sketches to provide convincing depictions of the appearance of these vessels. A half dozen detailed appendices supplement the main text.
By tackling some of the most obscure questions about the early history of small-boat rigs, this book will be of interest to historians of coastal sail, practical yachtsmen, warship enthusiasts and Old Salts in general.
I look forward to perhaps a sequel that addresses that changes in sloop design that came after the end of the Seven Years’ War.
Published by Seaforth, 2014 ISBN 978 1 84832 187 8