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War at Sea in the Age of Sail [Hardcover]

Andrew Lambert
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 39.95
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting survey of a rich topic Sept. 2 2000
By J. Wan
Format:Hardcover
The War at Sea in the Age of Sail is part of the Cassell History of Warfare series, edited by John Keegan. Andrew Lambert, an expert in English naval history during the age of sail, takes on the formidable task. The age of sail is defined for the purposes of this work as being from 1650, [the start of the First Anglo-Dutch war, notable in being nearly exclusively a naval affair and one which blockade and control of merchant shipping was crucial], to 1850, when steam propulsion and iron plating began to appear. It has as its major strengths an excellent survey of the anglo-dutch wars, the organization of the British and French navies (the major navies of the day), and the great naval struggles between first Bourbon France and later Napoleonic France and Great Britain. It is well illustrated and a very attractive book. It would be ideal gift for the military history buff or the C.S Forester Hornblower, or Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin fan.
The weaknesses of the work are as follows. It is quite Anglocentric and much attention is given to English commanders. Arguably this is because many of the dominant figures of the era were English: Hood, Rodney, Howe, Cornwallis, Jervis, and most of all Nelson. The book is beautiful but the battle plans and maps are not that useful. They use a mixture of illustrations and tactical plans which end up being neither revealing nor artistic. They sort of look like what a small child would draw of a battle! The one exception is a well laid out map showing Villeneuve's attempt at a breakout and Nelson's pursuit from the Mediterranean to the West Indies and back to Spain.
Because of the limited space (~210 pages) many details are skipped over - we are told that Nelson played an important role at the battle of Cape St.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A pedestrian read for a landlubber Sept. 30 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book starts off by defining the scope of the coverage and laying down the general tenets of sea warfare. It covers the period from the Anglo-Dutch Wars up to the emergence of the steamship era as this period involved rather large naval engagements. What is surprising is the lack of coverage on the Tudor and Elizabethan era (the Spanish armada and the numerous engagements between the Portuguese and the Dutch). Weren't the Portuguese the first preeminent seafaring nation in the age of sail?
Some engagments are presented but tactical details are lacking as this is a broad coverage. If so, why bother to explain basic ship handling in the introductory sections as these are tactical matters? In addition, the text seems to have been written in a hurry and some examples of naval engagements do not tie in with the accompanying maps.
This series of books is really quite appealing in general scope and presentation but the contents in each volume vary like crazy.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Biased May 31 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
With so many other good books covering the glorious age of fighting sail, this work was perhaps bound to suffer by comparison. The pro-English bias reduces its rating further, however. Of all the frigate actions of the War of 1812, for example, the author treats in detail only the brief duel between the Shannon and the Chesapeake, for no better reason than because it was an English victory over an American ship. The author also repeats all the old English excuses for losing so many actions with the Americans, excuses which Teddy Roosevelt demolished one hundred years ago in his own naval history of the War of 1812. Not worth the money.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting survey of a rich topic Sept. 2 2000
By J. Wan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The War at Sea in the Age of Sail is part of the Cassell History of Warfare series, edited by John Keegan. Andrew Lambert, an expert in English naval history during the age of sail, takes on the formidable task. The age of sail is defined for the purposes of this work as being from 1650, [the start of the First Anglo-Dutch war, notable in being nearly exclusively a naval affair and one which blockade and control of merchant shipping was crucial], to 1850, when steam propulsion and iron plating began to appear. It has as its major strengths an excellent survey of the anglo-dutch wars, the organization of the British and French navies (the major navies of the day), and the great naval struggles between first Bourbon France and later Napoleonic France and Great Britain. It is well illustrated and a very attractive book. It would be ideal gift for the military history buff or the C.S Forester Hornblower, or Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin fan.
The weaknesses of the work are as follows. It is quite Anglocentric and much attention is given to English commanders. Arguably this is because many of the dominant figures of the era were English: Hood, Rodney, Howe, Cornwallis, Jervis, and most of all Nelson. The book is beautiful but the battle plans and maps are not that useful. They use a mixture of illustrations and tactical plans which end up being neither revealing nor artistic. They sort of look like what a small child would draw of a battle! The one exception is a well laid out map showing Villeneuve's attempt at a breakout and Nelson's pursuit from the Mediterranean to the West Indies and back to Spain.
Because of the limited space (~210 pages) many details are skipped over - we are told that Nelson played an important role at the battle of Cape St. Vincent, but there is no actual battle plan or description. The construction of naval ships is discussed in detail at the beginning of the age, but then little mention is made of later developments, prior to the advent of steam and iron. Such improvements in diagonal cross bracing for example are not mentionned. For these greater details, however, an excellent bibliography is supplied.
In short, a beautiful book, which surveys the era of the fighting sail. It is a bit Anglocentric, but forgivably so. Maps could be improved. An excellent gift choice for the military history buff or naval fiction fan, but not for the hard core experts.
The rest of the series should be interesting, especiallyt the forthcoming War at Sea in the Iron Clad Age, and War at Sea: 1914-1945.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Biased May 31 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With so many other good books covering the glorious age of fighting sail, this work was perhaps bound to suffer by comparison. The pro-English bias reduces its rating further, however. Of all the frigate actions of the War of 1812, for example, the author treats in detail only the brief duel between the Shannon and the Chesapeake, for no better reason than because it was an English victory over an American ship. The author also repeats all the old English excuses for losing so many actions with the Americans, excuses which Teddy Roosevelt demolished one hundred years ago in his own naval history of the War of 1812. Not worth the money.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A pedestrian read for a landlubber Sept. 30 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book starts off by defining the scope of the coverage and laying down the general tenets of sea warfare. It covers the period from the Anglo-Dutch Wars up to the emergence of the steamship era as this period involved rather large naval engagements. What is surprising is the lack of coverage on the Tudor and Elizabethan era (the Spanish armada and the numerous engagements between the Portuguese and the Dutch). Weren't the Portuguese the first preeminent seafaring nation in the age of sail?
Some engagments are presented but tactical details are lacking as this is a broad coverage. If so, why bother to explain basic ship handling in the introductory sections as these are tactical matters? In addition, the text seems to have been written in a hurry and some examples of naval engagements do not tie in with the accompanying maps.
This series of books is really quite appealing in general scope and presentation but the contents in each volume vary like crazy.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Misleading Title, But . . . Feb. 18 2006
By Pliplup - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is still a very nice history of the British navy up to the age of steam. This is a fairly brief span of time since an actual navy, as opposed to an occasional ad hoc assembly of ships for a particular purpose, did not come into being until Cromwell's time. Of course this narrow scope leaves out the Iberians, hence the misleading title. Yet this book does some things admiralbly.

It explains the purpose of national naval ambitions and activities and does a fine job of showing us stategic objectives. My grasp of British history is embarassingly thin, and this book helped me to understand a bit about the British Civil War and how this led to conflicts with the Dutch. As a matter of fact it does a fine job of showing us why many of the conflicts the Brits were involved in came about.

It did not do such a good job of helping me understand tactical aspects of naval history. I'm not sure if this is because of the book's shortcomings or if I'm just a hopeless wooden headed lubber who needs to see a video or have someone take me on a boat and explain things to me. I fear tis the latter.
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