Archive for December, 2011

Naval War College Online Publications

December 21, 2011

The Naval War College is one of the premier research institutions of the U.S. Navy; among its first faculty was Alfred Thayer Mahan; (his autobiography). The College publishes many materials of interest and more than a few are online. Its main journal, the Naval War College Review, is entirely online. You can search by author, by issue/year, or subject from 1948 to the present; you will be rewarded by articles running the gamut from climate change to the Royal Navy. It also publishes the proceedings of the International Sea Power Symposium, a biennial meeting of the world’s chiefs of navies and coast guards to address issues of common concern. (A word of caution – these are slow to download, so be patient.) In addition, the Newport Papers, a monographic series whose topics range from Trafalgar to U.S. naval strategy, are also available. Other accessible works include China Maritime Studies, War Gaming Reports, and International Law Studies (Blue Book) Series.


Exploration Primary Sources: The Champlain Society

December 20, 2011

Since 1905 the Champlain Society has published edited and annotated works detailing expeditions and voyages of discovery that have a bearing on Canadian history. Its digital collection of over 100 volumes should not be ignored. Within this trove you will find: John Knox’s journal, the works of Samuel de Champlain, David Thompson’s narrative, selected British documents of the War of 1812, and the letters of John McLoughlin. You can search by author, title, or subject.

Online Primary Sources from the Navy Records Society

December 16, 2011

For over 100 years the Navy Records Society has published volumes of original documents that have a bearing on British naval history. Each volume is annotated and edited with a judicious hand. These invaluable tools are available by a subscription, via access to a major research library, or by one of the large free online book repositories (at least those published before the magic copyright cutoff date of 1922.) Both HathiTrust and the Internet Archive: Text  have many of the early volumes freely available online under the heading of “Navy Records Society.” Update 11-18-14: Here is a linked chronological listing, with titles, of all the volumes through 1922.

British Naval Biographies

December 15, 2011

There are more than a few online volumes that deal with biographies of naval figures, some more voluminous than others. But I think a first stop should be a  monumental biographical tool published at the end of the 19th century and, not counting supplements, comprised 63 volumes. I am speaking of the well-known Dictionary of National Biography, covering all manner of British figures from the earliest times until the present.(Of course, one of the criteria for inclusion is the subject has to be dead. A minor quibble if we are dealing with individuals mostly associated with The Age of Sail.) Happily, the entire run of volumes is available online for perusal. As is the index, but do not be fooled, the term index here refers to a one-volume alphabetical listing of the biographies with a scant bit of information attached to each entry. You cannot search the volumes looking for first lords or admiral or captain with any hope of success; you can, however, look up an individual by name and retrieve a biography written at a high level of scholarship. Here is how you access this great reference tool: firstly, come to this wikipedia entry which at the bottom has links to the volumes in various online book repositories; secondly, select the volume you wish to explore, for example, volume 11, which contains the biography of Thomas Cochrane; thirdly, having selected that volume, you would then choose what format you wish to view the volume in; fourthly, use the appropriate “find” or “read” command to locate a authoritative(at least for the late 1800s) article on Cochrane. It is a bit cumbersome, but at least you have access to a wonderful tool that was published until fairly recently. This work was succeeded by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 2004 and while this is NOT freely available online, many libraries either have an electronic version or its printed counterpart. What is available for you is the name index; if you search for Thomas Cochrane, here is what you get:

Oxford Biography Index entry

Thomas Cochrane

Cochrane, Thomas, tenth earl of Dundonald (1775–1860), naval officer

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

A much fuller biography is in the actual work itself, written by the esteemed naval historian Andrew Lambert.

Descriptions of the Admiralty

December 14, 2011

In volume 16 of the multi-volume Survey of London, there are separate  chapters on the  Admiralty and the Admiralty House. The Admiralty is the older of the two buildings that were the quarters of the First Lord of the Admiralty; it was replaced by the Admiralty House in 1788. Both chapters are accompanied by illustrations, are copiously foot-noted, and as a bonus, have brief biographical information of the holders of this office through 1841.(The biographies are appended in the footnote sections.)

US Naval History in Video

December 7, 2011

usnavyhistory is the official YouTube channel for the Naval History and Heritage Command of the U.S. Navy. Dozens of videos can be viewed, ranging from the American Revolution to Desert Storm. As far as I can see, the running times range from five to thirty minutes. This is an active site with new uploads added on an irregular basis. Another good source of videos can be found at the Internet Archive.

Pearl Harbor

December 5, 2011

As we approach the 70th anniversary of this raid, a few links of value. A simple naval dispatch said it all : AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL The next day, December 8, President Franklin Roosevelt (his Public Papers can be consulted, and special diplomatic files are available at his presidential library) addressed a Joint Session of Congress, delivering his famous “day of infamy” speech; within an hour, the United States was at war. More information is available at: Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941: Overview and Special Image Section, including numerous action reports(U.S. Navy); Ships Present at Pearl Harbor (U.S. Navy); Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships;  Remembering Pearl Harbor  (National Geographic); After the Infamy: Man on the Street Interviews (Library of Congress); Pearl Harbor (New York Times); Pearl Harbor (Time Magazine); Attack at Pearl Harbor, 1941: The Japanese View (Eyewitness to History); USS Arizona Memorial (National Park Service); Books on Pearl Harbor, including the multi-volume Congressional Hearings (HathiTrust); of particular interest is the two-volume Interrogations of Japanese Officials by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Naval Analysis Division; Pearl Harbor: A Rude Awakening (BBC); and Videos on Pearl Harbor (Internet Archive).

Online Naval Dictionaries

December 2, 2011

While there are several sites that come up with the above search string, I have found that most of them contain too many dead links to be of real value to the researcher. The following are sites that are currently available for those who wish to understand the terminology of the sea and those who sail her. Sea Talk: The Dictionary of English Nautical Language is an ongoing project that has thousands of terms already listed; it is accompanied by a very informative blog. For those who prefer a more near-contemporaneous exposure, I suggest Dana’s (he of Two Years Before the Mast fame) The seaman’s friend (5th ed, 1847; later editions also available), or Falconer’s A universal dictionary of the marine (1769). Dozens of additional naval dictionaries spanning time and languages are also available online.

Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia

December 1, 2011

The site for this three volume work, while not reproducing the entries, does provide an A-Z list of the articles and includes the supporting bibliographies, most of which have some annotations. From “Collections of Travel and Exploration” to the “Rocky Mountains,” a reader can readily identify the primary/secondary sources associated with each topic. In combination with a site such as HathiTrust, one can retrieve much of the original source documentation online. A good place to start one’s research.