Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt

October 16, 2018

This multi-volume work has been re-issued and re-published over the centuries. The version I am employing is a clean, easy-to-use rendition. This lecture –  “How to read Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations” – is a most bracing analysis.

The Hakluyt Society re-published this original work in a 12-part series between 1903 and 1905. Most of the volumes are here in sequential order; the only missing volume (#7) is here.

Hakluyt sold his work and unfinished manuscripts to Samuel Puchas, who continued in Hakluyt’s tradition and published Hakluytus Posthumus , or, Puchas his Pilgrimes.

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Early Naval Confrontations Between the British and the Spanish

October 9, 2018

This blog has already examined the Spanish Armada, but there were other engagements between these opponents in the late 16th century. Volume 7 of the Principal Navigations, is devoted to England’s Naval Exploits Against Spain; it details various encounters ranging from the Azores to Gibraltar. (The Armada is represented by a couple of sources as well.)

An Evacuation Larger Than Dunkirk

September 11, 2018

On this date seventeen years ago when the towers fell, 300,000 to 500,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by a rag-tag assemblage of boats, fishing vessels, Coast Guard cutters,  and ferries. The brotherhood of mariners is real. Please view this wonderful documentary on these events.

Online Primary Sources: British Naval Treaties

August 15, 2018

What I present here is not totally comprehensive, but these tools do give access to the full-text of multiple naval treaties extending back centuries; one is easy to navigate, the other is rougher sailing. (Puns intended)

The long-running British and Foreign States Papers is a veritable treasure trove of information that should be of interest to those devotees of the Age of Sail. Some of the primary sources located therein include treaties, correspondence, speeches, papers, declarations, manifestos, and conferences; the writings are arranged chronologically by state. This listing I am using has an almost complete run from 1812 – 1922. It takes a little effort to tease out what you want, but the time is so worth it. For example, there are several multi-year indexes published that will assist you; here is the index for volumes 1-42, that includes the years 1373 – 1853. (Yes, just like the heavily-used Naval Chronicle, prior years are included in the coverage; most of the earlier entries are found in volume 1.) There is a chronological listing of all documents that comprises the beginning pages of this tome; by scanning the list, one can pick out the treaties entered into agreement among Great Britain and other parties. For example, I picked out on page 2 of the index the peace/commerce treaty signed between Great Britain and Algeria. The reference was to volume 1, page 354, and I found the full text of the treaty there. It is a little awkward, but it does yield results. Another way of discovering pertinent sources is to search within the index volume by utilizing the “search in this text” box located on the upper right of the page. Using the text search results in over 400 hits for the word “peace” and numerous ones for “commerce” or “naval”.

A more direct approach is found through British Treaties Online that offers treaties enacted between 1835 and the present. It must be noted that this site does NOT present the full text of all the treaties but again, enough are present to satisfy most researchers. And if the treaty is not here, you are directed to a paper source that does have it. There are multiple access points to allow for very specific searching; using the term “naval” elicited over 50 hits, the word “maritime” garnered 111.

China’s Maritime Ambitions

August 8, 2018

This updated CRS report, almost 100 pages long, provides a great deal of information – China’s Actions in South and East China Seas: Implications for U.S. Interests—Background and Issues for Congress.

A List of Those Who Fought at Trafalgar

August 7, 2018

We owe a great deal to The Trafalgar roll : containing the names and services of all officers of the Royal navy and the Royal marines who participated in the glorious victory of the 21st October 1805, together with a history of the ships engaged in battle (1913; repr 1969) for its attempt to have a complete reckoning of all the officers who fought for Great Britain.

A more modern and inclusive approach is realized with Trafalgar Ancestors, an online, growing database containing information on the 18,000 men (and one woman) who were present at Trafalgar. Unlike the Trafalgar roll, this interactive resource has searched through disparate records to also include the ships’ crews as well. In addition, if any biographical information can be culled from these sources, this information is also provided. There are numerous access points into this database, allowing for sophisticated retrievals. For example, Cuthbert Collingwood’s service records can be traced from when he was rated as an able seaman in 1761 to when he served as Vice Admiral of the Blue at Trafalgar, and beyond. Active links direct you to the appropriate ADM files most of which are not available online, but this does provide you with an accurate inventory of what you might want to request at the National Archives. And speaking of able seamen, William Abraham’s records give an insight into his service as well; almost 3500 able seamen have their lives recorded here. A great resource allowing us a peek into ordinary seamen’s lives as well as fleshing out commissioned and non-commissioned officers’ careers.

 

 

18th Century British Assessment of European Navies

August 1, 2018

As more documents are placed online courtesy of the Georgian Papers Online project, the presence of European forces in the writings of the sovereigns and their correspondents becomes more evident. here are a few examples: “State of the Spanish Navy at the several periods undermentioned viz [1762-1764]”; “Les Armées Navales de Danemare [1764]; “Etat des Departements des Classes”[1752]; “A List of the Portuguese Fleet 1770”; “State of the Russian Navy June 1st 1772″; and “Armée Navale (French Navy) [1779].

You do not have to be an expert in diplomatics or paleography (I studied both back in the day) to tease out some valuable information from these documents, even those in French. Some of the documents reveal how sophisticated the intelligence-gathering apparati of the time were. For example, in some of the above, you can find out when a ship was built, where it was built, the wood used in its construction, whether it was “cut down” from an 80 to a 74, the captain’s name, and its current condition.

European Naval Forces in the 21st Century

July 25, 2018

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many European states downsized their naval arm along with their other military forces as their perceived major threat no longer posed a problem. However, if there is one thing that history teaches it is that a vacuum needs to be filled. The rise of non-state players, the resurgence of a Russian presence, and the increased visibility of China as a global player have all contributed to the need for re-establishing national security through the revitalization of armed forces. Into the Abyss?: European Naval Power in the Post–Cold War Era, Naval War College Review, 71(#3, Summer 2018) surveys the state of various European navies as new dangers arise. This article is based on the author’s The Decline of European Naval Forces: Challenges to  Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty  (introduction and part of chapter one here).

Also, European naval capabilities: strengths and weaknesses on show (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2017) is worth a read as well as European Navies Are Grappling with Aggressive Russian, Chinese Operations in Baltic, Mediterranean (USNI, 2018).

CIA Documents on the Soviet Navy

July 18, 2018

This collection – CIA Analysis of the Soviet Navy – contains dozens of documents (where necessary, translated into English) tracing the development of the now-Russian navy from the 1960s through the 1980s. Ranging from onsite eyewitness reports to National Intelligence Estimates, this trove follows changing Soviet doctrine through the Cold War. An explanatory booklet – Soviet Navy: Intelligence and Analysis during the Cold War – is a worthy read in and of itself.

U.S. Navy WW II Combat Narratives

July 11, 2018

These publications form “… a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes in this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of World War II.”

Originally printed in 1942-43, these slim volumes relied on available primary source materials augmented with selected interviews of the main participants. Although superseded by successive tomes that were based on years of scholarly research, these were at the time instructive and informative précis of major battles. The reprinted titles mostly deal with the Pacific war; a couple are in the ETO.