East India Company Ships provides the researcher with a list of those ships in the service of the Company. It is a site under construction, but it is one that is continuously updated. Presently, one can look up vessels by their name and retrieve whatever extant information has been presented: type of rig, tonnage, years of service, number of voyages, etc. Also wrecked, captured, or missing ships can also be searched. The Calendar of State Papers: Colonial: East Indies, China, and Japan offer insights into this part of the world dating back to the 16th century. In addition, The English Factories in India, a multi-volume undertaking, is a fascinating read of the Company’s businesses between 1618 and 1660. The BBC offers a good overview of the EIC as does the Victorian Web.
Archive for November, 2011
This very informative site – Cruel Seas: World War 2 Merchant Marine-Related Nautical Fiction from the 1930s to Present – presents a remedy to this sadly-overlooked sub-genre of naval fiction. Pointing out the horrific toll of life just during the Atlantic convoy runs, the introduction makes a powerful case for such a thorough examination. Initially arranged by author, each entry provides the bibliographic information along with well-considered summaries of each work, whether a short story, a serial, or a novel. Additional features include a subject index, authors’ wartime experiences, and a fiction timeline. Information is current through 2004 with some additional updating. A well-done presentation representing a tremendous amount of work and diligence.
Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 7 – Navy Board Officials, 1660-1832 is an exhaustive compilation of the various offices, officials who held them, the years in service, and notes to supporting documentation. The volume also contains an alphabetical list of officials as well as an index of all the offices.
In this work, Fighting Instructions, 1530-1816 published by the Navy Records Society, you will find transcribed primary sources ranging from a 1530 translated Spanish treatise on sailing tactics to post-Trafalgar instructions. A very handy compilation of hard-to-find documents. Here is an article from the 1911 Britannica on Naval Strategy and Tactics.
I have already mentioned the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships in a previous post. That nine-volume reference work can be supplemented by Ship History/Command Operations Reports for vessels currently afloat. In essence, each ship must produce an annual operational and administrative document that details the year’s activities. The reports are arranged in alphabetical order by the ship’s names, and depending on the length of service, dozens of reports may be available. For example, the submarine Memphis has reports available from 1979 to 2003, while other ships have more recent documents available for perusal. Some reports are withheld because of their classified nature. But the reports that are accessible provide a look inside the daily life of a warship.
This long-published tile, dating back to 1696, reports on mercantile shipping news, losses (from natural and manmade causes, such as war), stock market prices, the coming and goings of ships at various English ports, along with wind directions for various locales in the country. A brief history of the paper is here. HathiTrust has a run of Lloyd’s and its variant titles as reproduced by the Gregg Press in 1969; it goes from 1741 to 1826 with certain years missing. A great deal of information is found within these volumes; i.e., the 11-29-1805 issue contains the final disposition of the Combined Fleet defeated at Trafalgar. Because this is a reproduction, some of the issues are not as readable as others, but since HathiTrust allows magnification, almost all details of every issue can be perused. Indexing for the “Marine News Section” that always appears on the first page and highlights news and losses is available here courtesy of the Guildhall Library; it covers 1740-1837. You can search via personal name, ship name, location, notes, or date. For a snapshot of merchant shipping during the Age of Sail, this source needs to be consulted.
As with all occupations, navies have their own unique vocabularies. (Do you know what a U-boat is in a supermarket?) For the Americans, we have NAVSPEAK or the Dictionary of Navy Slang Compiled from Various Sources. The British have Covey Crump, a compilation of slang, abbreviations, legends, and history put together by Commander Covey Crump, RN.
Searchable Sea Literature is a database devoted to American authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or plays that have rivers, lakes or seas as their main stage. Peer-reviewed biographies are included for the authors as well as links to their literature. Due to the vagaries of copyright, this list would appear not to contain many recent entries; i.e., there is no entry for Herman Wouk or Kenneth Dodson, but there is for Tom Clancy. Be that as it may, this list does provide a good start for anyone interested in American maritime authors.