Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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These publications form “… a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II.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 Although superseded by successive tomes that were based on years of scholarly research, these were at the time instructive and informative précis of major battles.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.

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French Voyages to Australia

June 27, 2018

While most of us think of the “discovery” of Australia to be solely a British endeavor, it must be pointed out that there was a French presence as well. According to whom you read, there is much controversy over the claimed fact that a Frenchman got to Australia first. (A very informative overview of French maritime exploration of Australia is found here.) The following are English translations of French expeditions to the land down under:

This three-volume compilation – Terra australis cognita : or, Voyages to the Terra australis, or Southern hemisphere, during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries (1766-68) – includes French voyages to Australia as well. This translated work was originally authored by Charles de Brosses in 1756 and includes a strong argument to develop the territory; it may have influenced James Cook.

Narrative of a Voyage Around the World in the Uranie and Physicienne…. is the 1823 translation of a voyage that lasted from 1817 to 1820; it was undertaken at the behest of the French Academy of Sciences. It is written as a series of letters home and includes much description of the various lands encountered. Of relevance here are the letters written from New Holland (Australia).

James Burney sailed with Cook and between 1803 and 1817 he produced his five-volume compilation A chronological history of the discoveries in the South Sea or Pacific Ocean that provides a very comprehensive listing of all forays made into this area. This was considered the standard work through the 19th century.

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A Recent Interview With Julian Stockwin

April 11, 2018

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Kydd series over the years. This interview with the author coincides with the release of the 20th novel in the series. BTW, if you do not subscribe to Quarterdeck, you are really missing out on news, reviews, and interviews.

Free Scholarly Books on Maritime Affairs

March 19, 2018

From the Dutch East India Company to Arctic explorations to the French naval presence in the Pacific, hundreds of scholarly monographs on maritime affairs are freely available. While some books are tangential to things nautical, there are enough ones of interest at this site to satisfy one’s curiosity. The ease of navigation and use of many filters aids in your search.

Free Audiobooks of Naval Fiction

October 18, 2017

More than one hundred audiobooks of naval and maritime fiction are available for your listening pleasure. While these books are in the public domain, there are many classic good reads that pre-date 1923. For example, here is the fourteen-hour audiobook entitled Thrilling Narratives of Mutiny, Murder and Piracy; this and other reads, such as some of the works of Frederick Marryat,  can be downloaded to your computer or a portable device. Enjoy the rousing adventures!

Online Texts of “Robinson Crusoe”

February 23, 2017

As most of us know, the exploits of Alexander Selkirk form the basis for Robinson Crusoe. For those not acquainted with Selkirk, please peruse these contemporary sources: Richard Steel’s 1713 piece in The Englishman; Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and around the world, perform’d in the years 1708, 1709, 1710, and 1711…. (1712); and Rogers Woodes’ A cruising voyage round the world: first to the South-seas, thence to the East-Indies, and homewards by the cape of Good Hope. Begun in 1708, and finish’d in 1711 (1712). A 2005 article from The Smithsonian gives us a modern précis of Selkirk’s adventures.

The telling of Crusoe’s sojourn on the island actually spawned an entire genre of fiction – the robinsonade. Daniel Defoe’s The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner… was first published in 1719 and went through several editions; the one here is the third edition. This book was been reprinted/republished many times; here you will find hundreds of renditions in English from 1719 to 1922. Many more in other languages can also be perused. This site –  the Digital Library of the Caribbean – boasts almost 200 volumes of this title; what makes it unique is that it carries full-text versions beyond the copyright date barrier (that would be another essay in itself) of 1922.

Another Seafaring Dictionary

February 15, 2017

Admiral William Henry Smyth had more than one career – he sailed on a merchantman, then entered the Royal Navy and had numerous exploits during the Napoleonic Wars, undertook a hydrographic expedition of Sicily and the nearby Italian coast, wrote multiple treatises, advanced astronomy to such an extent that he was elected to the presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society, co-found the Royal Geographical Society, wrote biographies, and also was a numismatist. What attracted me to this polymath was his The Sailor’s Word-Book (1867), a posthumous tome that exceeds seven hundred pages. He takes into account loan-words from other languages that English seamen would have been familiar with. Here is his entry from The Dictionary of National Biography written by none other than John Knox Laughton.

 

Great Britain. Naval Intelligence Division. Handbooks

October 31, 2016

During World War I, the NID published dozens of “country studies” to acquaint planners with aspects of countries little-known or explored. In fact, some of the volumes, such as those on Saudi Arabia, were based on native sources (5). Each study contains information on geography, native plants, populations, languages, spelling, place-names, diseases, military forces, and importantly, routes through the country. These works were never intended for the general public so it is rare to find them. For a more inclusive look at the NID, please read this dissertation – Studies in British naval intelligence, 1880-1945.

Who Is Jack Aubrey’s Role Model?

September 23, 2016

I guess that depends on whom you read. Two names, however, rise to the top: Admiral Thomas Cochrane and Admiral Edward Pellew; both individuals possessed the prerequisite skills that would have attracted Patrick O’Brian. The former was more flamboyant and controversial, the latter is considered the greatest frigate captain in the Royal Navy.

The partisans for Cochrane can point to this article – The real master and commander – that certainly presents a strong argument for Cochrane being the role model for Aubrey.

The case for Edward Pellew, who, if you remember, was featured in the early career of Hornblower, is convincingly laid out in this article – The Master and Commander revealed: The real Captain Jack Aubrey, at your service.

I am of the opinion that it is both, but be that as it may, here are some primary sources (along with a few secondary ones) that support their cases.

 

Thomas Cochrane.

The trial of Charles Random de Berenger, Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, the Hon. Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, Richard Gathorne Butt, Ralph Sandom…1814 [Trial proceedings on conspiracy of stock fraud. See below]

 

The case of Thomas Lord Cochrane, K. B. : containing the history of the hoax, the trial, the proceedings in the House of Commons, and the meetings of the electors of Westminster (1814) [This deals with Cochrane’s supposed role in the Great Stock Exchange Hoax of 1814. This work is his rebuttal.]

An address from Lord Cochrane to his constituents, the electors of Westminster. (1815) (From his prison cell]

A letter to Lord Ellenborough from Lord Cochrane. (1815) [Ellenborough is the judge who sentenced him.]

Narrative of services in the liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese domination (2 vols., 1859)

 

The autobiography of a seaman [Thomas Cochrane] (2d ed., 2 vols, 1861) (NAM Rodger, in his Command of the Ocean, labels this work as “A mendacious work of self-justification….” 794)

The life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald; completing “The autobiography of a seaman.” ( 2 vols, 1869) [Written by his son, the eleventh Earl of Dundonald]

 

His speeches in Parliament. (use Cochrane or Dundonald, depending on the decade you are searching). You also have recourse to the Naval Chronicle and the London Gazette.

Edward Pellew

There does not appear to be a great deal of writing by Pellew available online. Here are his speeches in Parliament.

Some of his dispatches can be traced through his biographical memoir in the Naval Chronicle; others are available via the London Gazette.

Some works of interest:

A narrative of the expedition to Algiers in the year 1816, under the command of the Right Hon. Admiral Lord Viscount Exmouth (1819)

 

The life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth (1835) [With a few examples of his writings in an appendix.]

 

Types of naval officers drawn from the history of the British Navy; with some account of the conditions of naval warfare at the beginning of the eighteenth century… (1901) [Chapter 7 on Pellew]

 

Edward Pellew (1934) [A goodly number of letters both to and from him.]

Robert Southey’s “Life of Nelson”

August 22, 2016

Robert Southey’s Life of Nelson (first British edition, 1813; first United States edition, 1813) has been in print since it was first published; it stands as one of his greatest works. If you want to see the correspondence with his publisher and others over this work, then this selection of letters, well over one hundred, should satisfy.