Archive for February, 2016

Naval Ballads

February 18, 2016

Hundreds of ballads, starting  from 1632, are contained within the Broadside Ballads Online hosted by the Bodleian Libraries. Nelson and the Battle of the Nile are popular themes. You can search by topic, keyword, date range; you then are linked to a pdf version of the ballad in question. While some reproductions are poor in quality (because of the original’s condition), in no case are they unreadable. A standalone volume – Naval Songs and Ballads – can also be read with enjoyment.Read about the joys and terrors of naval life, and the life of a jack ashore!


Online Primary Sources: The Spanish Armada

February 16, 2016

We will not re-hash this event. We’ll leave that to the BBC and the Greenwich Museum. This will be a list in the making; it will grow over time. And I will limit my sources to English-language material or material translated into English. State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, volume 1 and volume 2 contains hundreds of documents from the domestic state papers series; all material is in English whether English was the original language or the sources were translated into English. Volume 1 of Tudor and Stuart Proclamations, 1485-1714 contains Elizabeth’s pronouncements with regards to the armada; the bulk are found between July 1588 and January 1589. In Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591 are found many relevant documents from Venetian ambassadors to France, the Low Countries et al, but none from England as Venice had no ambassador to England. Read the lively preface for additional information on the selection method. Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603 is a repository of letters/despatches from Spanish ambassadors. while the  Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth provides additional source material. Several relevant pieces of correspondence can be found in Letters of Queen Elizabeth and King James VI of Scotland. Volume 3 of the Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Honourable Marquis of Salisbury contains mentions of the armada; document 707b lists the names of the English ships that sailed against the Spanish fleet.((Hint: When searching any of these contemporary sources, use other terms as well, such as fleet, Spanish, armado(yes, I saw at least one example of this), ship, ships as many of the sources do not specify armada but use these other words or combinations of them.))

Sir Francis Drake’s memorable service done against the Spaniards in 1587 (first printed, 1863); State papers relating to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, anno 1588 (2 vols., 1894); The names of the nobility, gentry, and others who contributed to the defence of this country at the time of the Spanish invasion, in 1588. With a brief account of their spirited and patriotic conduct on that occasion (1588); The manuscripts of the Right Honourable . J. Savile Foljambe, of Osberton (1897); The Acts of the Privy Council of England; Papers relating to the Navy during the Spanish War, 1585-1587 (1898); News and rumor in Renaissance Europe; the Fugger newsletters (1959); Miscellaneous state papers from 1501 to 1726 (vol.1, 1778); and the Harleian miscellany (12 vols., 1808-11).

A survivor of the Armada relates his story here – Captain Cuellar’s Adventures in Connacht and Ulster (1897).

Material history also memorializes this event – contemporary paintings and commemoration medals were crafted.



Additional Biographies on Royal Navy Officers

February 9, 2016

Contained within the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1966 – ) are dozens of biographies of Royal Navy officers during the Age of Sail. Not content to just list Canadian activities, these articles discuss the entire careers of these worthies. Among those profiled are James Cook (with an interesting note on his writings), Lord Gambier, and Hugh Palliser. All the entries have bibliographies of primary and secondary sources as well as contemporary portraits. In addition, a separate section of this multi-volume work has biographical essays on mariners.

What Instruments Were in Stephen Maturin’s Medical Bag?

February 2, 2016

As a surgeon in the Royal Navy, Stephen Maturin would have had to have certain medical tools with him, inspected by the Company of Surgeons (existed 1745 -1800; then became Royal College of Surgeons). This article, with photographs of devices from that time – The navy surgeon’s chest: surgical instruments of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic War – offers a great deal of information on the practice of medicine onboard a ship. An 1806 treatise – The Naval Surgeon – provides an in-depth contemporary look on this topic. The Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Society has a special issue – (vol. 86#2, 2000) – devoted to Health in the Royal Navy during the Age of Nelson; its vol. 91 #2, 2005 also carries several articles pertaining to this. And this transcript of a lecture – Surgeons at Sea: The Naval surgeon and health of the seaman in the age of Nelson – is worth a perusal (scroll down the lecture list until you arrive at Tuesday, October 22).