Archive for the ‘British’ Category

Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt

October 16, 2018

This multi-volume work has been re-issued and re-published over the centuries. The version I am employing is a clean, easy-to-use rendition. This lecture –  “How to read Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations” – is a most bracing analysis.

The Hakluyt Society re-published this original work in a 12-part series between 1903 and 1905. Most of the volumes are here in sequential order; the only missing volume (#7) is here.

Hakluyt sold his work and unfinished manuscripts to Samuel Puchas, who continued in Hakluyt’s tradition and published Hakluytus Posthumus , or, Puchas his Pilgrimes.

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Early Naval Confrontations Between the British and the Spanish

October 9, 2018

This blog has already examined the Spanish Armada, but there were other engagements between these opponents in the late 16th century. Volume 7 of the Principal Navigations, is devoted to England’s Naval Exploits Against Spain; it details various encounters ranging from the Azores to Gibraltar. (The Armada is represented by a couple of sources as well.)

Online Primary Sources: British Naval Treaties

August 15, 2018

What I present here is not totally comprehensive, but these tools do give access to the full-text of multiple naval treaties extending back centuries; one is easy to navigate, the other is rougher sailing. (Puns intended)

The long-running British and Foreign States Papers is a veritable treasure trove of information that should be of interest to those devotees of the Age of Sail. Some of the primary sources located therein include treaties, correspondence, speeches, papers, declarations, manifestos, and conferences; the writings are arranged chronologically by state. This listing I am using has an almost complete run from 1812 – 1922. It takes a little effort to tease out what you want, but the time is so worth it. For example, there are several multi-year indexes published that will assist you; here is the index for volumes 1-42, that includes the years 1373 – 1853. (Yes, just like the heavily-used Naval Chronicle, prior years are included in the coverage; most of the earlier entries are found in volume 1.) There is a chronological listing of all documents that comprises the beginning pages of this tome; by scanning the list, one can pick out the treaties entered into agreement among Great Britain and other parties. For example, I picked out on page 2 of the index the peace/commerce treaty signed between Great Britain and Algeria. The reference was to volume 1, page 354, and I found the full text of the treaty there. It is a little awkward, but it does yield results. Another way of discovering pertinent sources is to search within the index volume by utilizing the “search in this text” box located on the upper right of the page. Using the text search results in over 400 hits for the word “peace” and numerous ones for “commerce” or “naval”.

A more direct approach is found through British Treaties Online that offers treaties enacted between 1835 and the present. It must be noted that this site does NOT present the full text of all the treaties but again, enough are present to satisfy most researchers. And if the treaty is not here, you are directed to a paper source that does have it. There are multiple access points to allow for very specific searching; using the term “naval” elicited over 50 hits, the word “maritime” garnered 111.

A List of Those Who Fought at Trafalgar

August 7, 2018

We owe a great deal to The Trafalgar roll : containing the names and services of all officers of the Royal navy and the Royal marines who participated in the glorious victory of the 21st October 1805, together with a history of the ships engaged in battle (1913; repr 1969) for its attempt to have a complete reckoning of all the officers who fought for Great Britain.

A more modern and inclusive approach is realized with Trafalgar Ancestors, an online, growing database containing information on the 18,000 men (and one woman) who were present at Trafalgar. Unlike the Trafalgar roll, this interactive resource has searched through disparate records to also include the ships’ crews as well. In addition, if any biographical information can be culled from these sources, this information is also provided. There are numerous access points into this database, allowing for sophisticated retrievals. For example, Cuthbert Collingwood’s service records can be traced from when he was rated as an able seaman in 1761 to when he served as Vice Admiral of the Blue at Trafalgar, and beyond. Active links direct you to the appropriate ADM files most of which are not available online, but this does provide you with an accurate inventory of what you might want to request at the National Archives. And speaking of able seamen, William Abraham’s records give an insight into his service as well; almost 3500 able seamen have their lives recorded here. A great resource allowing us a peek into ordinary seamen’s lives as well as fleshing out commissioned and non-commissioned officers’ careers.

 

 

18th Century British Assessment of European Navies

August 1, 2018

As more documents are placed online courtesy of the Georgian Papers Online project, the presence of European forces in the writings of the sovereigns and their correspondents becomes more evident. here are a few examples: “State of the Spanish Navy at the several periods undermentioned viz [1762-1764]”; “Les Armées Navales de Danemare [1764]; “Etat des Departements des Classes”[1752]; “A List of the Portuguese Fleet 1770”; “State of the Russian Navy June 1st 1772″; and “Armée Navale (French Navy) [1779].

You do not have to be an expert in diplomatics or paleography (I studied both back in the day) to tease out some valuable information from these documents, even those in French. Some of the documents reveal how sophisticated the intelligence-gathering apparati of the time were. For example, in some of the above, you can find out when a ship was built, where it was built, the wood used in its construction, whether it was “cut down” from an 80 to a 74, the captain’s name, and its current condition.

British Numerical Signals (1806 edition)

July 6, 2018

Buried in the remarkable Georgian Papers Online project is this 1806 British Numerical Signals volume. For those of us who read naval fiction and pay scant attention to the scenes where signals are being rapidly exchanged among ships, this tome is a revelation. Included in this tabbed book are five hundred different signals that form the lines of communication in both peace and war. For example, number 117 means “If the whole fleet to chace[sic], two guns” or number 251 denotes “The ships companies will have time for dinner or breakfast”. The initial pages are comprised of hand-colored signals, while the back pages list in alphabetical order the ships of the Royal Navy, each with its number of guns and its own unique numerical designation. I now have a new appreciation for the hard-working signals crew. I am gobsmacked!

Compare the above to Captain Marryat’s A code of signals for the use of vessels employed in the merchant service; including a cypher for secret correspondence (4th ed, 1826); while this work was intended for the merchant marine, all commissioned ships in the Royal Navy were required to carry a copy of this work. (Preface)

An Easy Way To Access the Hundreds of Naval Biographies in the Dictionary of National Biography (1885-1900 edition)

July 4, 2018

I have recently found out that the 900 naval biographies in this valuable resource were written by John Knox Laughton; this site lists his contributions along with a link to the individual entries.

Backgrounds of Royal Navy Surgeons

June 6, 2018

I have come across two recent studies by the same author that shed some light on the educational backgrounds of surgeons during the Age of Sail. Combing various archival and primary sources, Christopher H Myers has uncovered some fascinating data. Please peruse The Demography of Royal Navy Surgeons: Some Views on the Process of Prosopography, Journal of World-Historical Information, 2-3(#1, 2014-2015); and his Explaining the Socio-Economic Demographics of Victorian Naval Medicine.

1759 – A “Year of Miracles”

May 21, 2018

The Royal Navy in 1759 met with resounding success on several fronts during the brutal Seven Years’ War (the French and Indian War to those in the North American colonies). What follows are links to both primary and secondary sources on these important battles.

The Battle of Lagos, off Portugal in August 1759, foiled a French invasion fleet. This engagement effectively destroyed the French Mediterranean fleet. Unfortunately, this battle is overlooked for reasons I cannot fathom. Notices in the London Gazette can be perused for further elucidation.

The fall of Quebec began the erosion of French hegemony in North America. The British fleet played a major role in the taking of this fortress, but its contributions are overshadowed by the Wolfe/Montcalm dynamic. Contemporary sources are Naval Chronicle, vol.3, pp.420+; and numerous notices in the 1759 London Gazette. I would also recommend A Journal of the expedition up the river St. Lawrence [electronic resource] : containing a true and particular account of the transactions of the fleet and army, from the time of their embarkation at Louisbourg ’til after the surrender of Quebec. (1759; repr. 1868?).

The Battle of Quiberon Bay further diminished the fighting capacity of the French navy by defeating its Atlantic fleet. Sources include the  December 22, 1759 London Gazette; Naval Chronicle, volume 3, pp. 389+. For a fascinating look at the exchange of letters, orders, and reports to and from the Admiralty and serving officers off the French coast in 1759, I recommend dipping into the “Achilles Letters – 1759″ contained within the “Barrington Papers”.

The 1759 volume of the Annual Register contains a review of the war  – “History of the Present War” as well as “State Papers” – primary source documents.

A 1760 compilation of most of the gazettes that pertain to the above – An Authentic register of the British successes [electronic resource] : being a collection of all the extraordinary and some of the ordinary gazettes from the taking of Louisbourg, July 26, 1758 by the Hon. Adm. Boscawen and Gen Amherst, to the defeat of the French fleet under M. Conflans, Nov. 21, 1759 by Sir Edward Hawke…. -adds to the feeling of contemporary involvement with this string of victories.

Some other noteworthy secondary sources that cover the above include:

Battles of the British Navy, (new edition, revised and enlarged, 1853), pp.195+

British battles on land and sea, 4 vols, 1897. vol.2, pp.98+

Search the Royal Museums Greenwich collections for maps/charts, medals, commemorative badges, paintings, and the like for the above conflicts.

 

 

 

 

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.