Archive for December, 2014

Political Careers of Royal Navy Officers

December 22, 2014

Did you ever wonder what became of Royal Navy officers after they retired; did they enter Parliament? Did some of them actually hold political office while on a remote station? Some of these questions can be answered by the History of Parliament Online project that provides biographical information on over 21,000 members from 1386 to 1832. A very broad search under “navy” calls up almost 1500 hits. Find out the political careers of such luminaries as Lord Cochrane, Sir Edward Pellew, and Samuel Pepys.


Did the Sailors of the “Mary Rose” Suffer from Bone Disease?

December 22, 2014

And more importantly, did sailors in general in the 16th century suffer from debilitating bone disease such as rickets that is caused by Vitamin D deficiency? While this latter question is not addressed in this scientific paper, I think a little extrapolation might yield positive results. Be that as it may, The use of laser spectroscopy to investigate bone disease in King Henry VIII’s sailors, although technical in nature, does point out the prevalence of rickets among the bones exhumed from the Mary Rose wreckage.

Online Primary Sources: “London Gazette” and the “Naval Chronicle”

December 5, 2014

The London Gazette is still the newspaper of record in England; it has been published for over 300 years. The military term “gazetted” comes from being mentioned in this paper and was a sign of honor. Also, “mentioned in dispatches” comes from having your name put forward by a superior in recounting a military exploit in which you were prominently featured. Tens of thousands of issues can be searched.

Naval Chronicle. While not truly a newspaper, from 1799 to 1819 it was the place to find out about the British navy and its actions. It obviously covers the Napoleonic Era. Read biographies and first-hand accounts of every incident the navy was involved in. Bound into forty volumes. A brief index is available online.

Online Primary Sources: English Admiralty Law

December 2, 2014

Admiralty law is “A field of law relating to, and arising from, the practice of the admiralty courts (tribunals that exercise jurisdiction over all contracts, torts, offenses, or injuries within maritime law) that regulates and settles special problems associated with sea navigation and commerce.” (West’s Encyclopedia of American Law) Cases before the admiralty courts in Great Britain are summarized in these two volumes of original source documents: Select pleas in the Court of Admiralty. Volume 1 covers 1390 to 1545; volume 2 handles 1547-1602. Cases involve piracy, insurance claims, shipwrecks, business transactions and the like. Documents in foreign languages have been translated into the English of the time.

Reports on Ships in the Port of London, 1st – 17th Centuries

December 1, 2014

The Port of London contains dozens of wrecks of ships dated for the above time period. If you want to know how ships were constructed, what materials were used, how the wood was shaped, what the caulking was comprised of, two volumes from the English Heritage Archaeological Monograph series will be of great value: Ships of the Port of London: First to eleventh centuries AD. (1994) and Ships of the Port of London: Twelfth to seventeenth centuries AD (1996). While each volume is replete with technical detail, enough accessible information is given for an interested layperson to tease out relevant data. The volumes are each over 200 pages long, come with dozens of illustrations, glossaries, bibliographies, and appendices of interest. (N.B., the files are large so downloading may take a little time.)