Books for Santa’s Sack, Part 1
I’m a bit of a bah humbug man when it comes to the commercialisation of Christmas – but there’s one thing that I fervently believe: a book is a present that, if well chosen for the recipient, will give hours of pleasure and be a lasting reminder in itself of someone putting thought, not just money, into a Yuletide gift. So do consider adding some of these fine books – all with a maritime, military or Georgian era link – to your present-buying list. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone in this somewhat eclectic selection…and if not, well, there’ll be more next week…
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Ate the Dog Yesterday by Graham Faiella
Here’s true-life dramas from the late 19th and early 20th century – the constant dangers ships and sailors faced at sea. There’s mutiny, murder and seaquakes – and great disasters including Sir John Lawrence: loss of all crew and 730 pilgrims; Camorta, sunk in a Bay of Bengal cyclone with 739 dead, and the sinking of Utopia at Gibraltar with over 500 lives lost.
Recounted mainly as original narratives compiled from Lloyd’s List, this book has a fund of amazing tales to keep a reader engrossed for many hours.
French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861 by Rif Winfield and Stephen S Roberts
I have a number of books by Rif Winfield and have great respect for his scholarship. This one is co-authored by Dr Stephen S Roberts, a leading American authority on French warships, and those of the nineteenth century in particular. In 1786 the French Navy had just emerged from its most successful war of the eighteenth century, having on many occasions it has to be said outfought or outmanoeuvred the Royal Navy in battle, and made a major contribution to American independence. The reputation of its ship design and fighting skills never stood higher, yet within a few years the effects of the French Revolution had devastated its efficiency. It was only after 1815 that the navy revived, espousing technical innovation and invention, to produce some of the most advanced ships of the age.
A fascinating account of the design, construction, careers and fates of French warships in the latter half of the sailing era.
A Pauper’s History of England by Peter Stubley
This book covers 1,000 years of poverty from Domesday right up to the twentieth century, via the Black Death and the English Civil War. It uses contemporary sources to give the reader an idea of just what life was like for the peasants, paupers, beggars and the working poor as England developed from a feudal society into a wealthy superpower.
I’m attracted to Peter Stubley’s meticulous research which conjures up the sights, sounds and smells of a compelling – and dark – part of English history.
In the Shadow of the Alabama by Renata Eley Long
The author looks at an allegation of betrayal made against a certain young British Foreign Office clerk, Victor Buckley, who, it was claimed, leaked privileged information to agents of the southern States during the American Civil War. As a consequence, the CSS Alabama narrowly escaped seizure by the British government and proceeded to wage war on American shipping. Victor Buckley’s background is examined against the hitherto erroneous belief that he was an insignificant member of the foreign office staff.
A riveting tale of Anglo-American intrigue!
Before the Ironclad by David K Brown
Originally published in 1990, this classic work has been reprinted, with more extensive illustrations. Beginning with the structural innovations of the gifted Robert Seppings, the book traces the gradual introduction of more scientific methods and the advent of steam and the paddle fighting ship, iron hulls and screw propulsion. It analyses the performance of the fleet in the war with Russia (1853-1856), and concludes with the design of the Warrior, the first iron-hulled, seagoing capital ship in the world.
A gripping and authoritative history of the transition from sail to steam in the Royal Navy.
Still looking for bookish inspiration?
Still time for overseas orders to arrive in time for Christmas!