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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 9: The Sea •

The Sea

An old recruitment poster for the Royal Navy

Image courtesy of the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth


Select a publisher in the selection box below, or browse down the page.

This bibliography is taken from History Online, which provides bibliographic information on books and journal articles published by UK academic publishers. The selection below represents a brief selection of books on the study of the sea and history in History Online. Search History Online for other books and journal articles.

Additionally, a second bibliography provides a small sample of the huge number of titles catalogued and fully searchable on the RHS Bibliography.


The French and the Pacific World, 17th–19th Centuries Explorations, Migrations and Cultural Exchanges

Edited by Annick Foucrier

In The French in the Pacific World, Annick Foucrier has brought together an important set of studies on the French presence in the Pacific. The volume opens with a section on the context of the French expansion, including its rivalries with other European powers. Following studies treat patterns of trade, exchange, settlement and migration, looking at the French image of and reaction to the worlds round the Pacific.

Published 2005

Urbanization and the Pacific World, 1500–1900

Edited by Lionel Frost

Between 1500 and 1900 there was a constant growth in the numbers of large cities and networks of smaller towns throughout the Pacific world in which traders and primary producers did business. The essays in Urbanization and the Pacific World explore the increasingly complex economic relationships that connected cities in and around the Pacific world to each other, and pay particular attention to the impact that growing cities had on the economies of their hinterlands. The volume also contains articles that examine the problems that city growth created and the ways in which people were able to cope with them. Along with the new introduction, the essays cover all of the regions of the Pacific world in which city growth took place and will allow the reader to consider a wide range of common and contrasting urban experiences.

Published 2005

These books are part of The Pacific World: Lands, Peoples and History of the Pacific, 1500-1900 series. Other titles include:

  • Eds. Dennis O. Flynn, Arturo Giráldez and James Sobredo, European Entry into the Pacific (2001)
  • Ed. Juan F. Gamella, Drugs and Alcohol in the Pacific (2002)
  • Eds. Paul W. Blank and Fred Spier, Defining the Pacific (2002)
  • Ed. Jane Sampson, British Imperial Strategies in the Pacific, 1750–1900 (2003)
The World of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800. Studies in Economic, Social and Cultural History

M.N. Pearson

The essays in this volume describe the activities of people living on the coasts of the Indian Ocean, generously defined, during the early modern period. Most are based, at least in part, on Portuguese materials. A broad theme linking them all is the claim that in most areas of society and economy early modern Europeans and Asians had much in common, with the newly arrived Europeans having no particular advantage over their Asian interlocutors.

Published 2005

The Rodney Papers: Volume I, 1742–1763. Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney

David Syrett

Overbearing, avaricious and difficult, yet talented and ambitious, George Brydges Rodney was an original thinker and one of the great admirals of the eighteenth century. The contents of this volume, the first of three, document his career from 1742 until 1763, touching on both his private and political life.

Published 2005

The Malaspina Expedition 1789–1794: Journal of the Voyage by Alejandro Malaspina. Volume III: Manila to Cádiz

Edited by Andrew David, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Carlos Novi and Glyndwr Williams. Translated by Sylvia Jamieson

Among the voyages of exploration and surveying in the late 18th century, that of Alejandro Malaspina best represents the high ideals and scientific interests of the Enlightenment. In July 1789 he sailed from Cádiz in the purpose-built corvettes, Descubierta and Atrevida. On board the vessels were scientists and artists and an array of the latest surveying and astronomical instruments. The voyage lasted more than five years. On his return Malaspina began work on seven-volume account of the voyage, to dwarf the narratives of his predecessors in the Pacific such as Cook and Bougainville. But he became involved in political intrigue, was imprisoned and then spent the rest of his life in obscure retirement in Italy. He never resumed work on the great edition, and his journal remained long unpublished. Only now is justice being done to the achievements of what for long was a forgotten voyage.

This is the final volume of the series of three which presents Malaspina's journal for the first time in English translation and with commentary. It covers the expedition's return voyage from Manila, its visits to New Zealand, Australia, the Tonga Islands and the Falklands, and its arrival in Cádiz on 21 September 1794. Appendices contain Bustamante's survey of East Falkland Island, his visit to Puerto de la Soledad and his search for Islas Auroras, an account of Malaspina's arrest and the suppression of his report and details of the two corvettes with lists of their complement and of the scientific instruments and books taken on the expedition.

Published 2005

Buccaneers, Explorers and Settlers: British Enterprise and Encounters in the Pacific, 1670–1800

Glyndwr Williams

This volume studies how during "the long 18th century" British incursions into the Pacific transformed Europe's knowledge of that great ocean. Before the end of the century there were British settlements in New South Wales, Nootka Sound had become a centre of international dispute, and across the Pacific traders, whalers and missionaries were following the tracks of the explorers.

Published 2005

Sea Power and the Control of Trade: Belligerent Rights from the Russian War to the Beira Patrol, 1854–1970

Nicholas Tracy

The ability to influence world events through control of seaborne trade was profoundly affected by 19th-century developments in economic theory, commercial organization and naval technology, and by the growing power of the United States. In consequence the international law of belligerent rights at sea was repeatedly amended. Naval strategy in four wars reflected these changes in technology, power and law, and the ongoing process continues to influence international use of economic sanctions.

Published 2005

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Boydell and Brewer

War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Edited by John B. Hattendorf and Richard W. Unger

This volume is both a restatement of current interpretations of sea power in the middle ages and the Renaissance and a general introduction to naval and maritime history over four and a half centuries. The book offers broad conclusions on the role and characteristics of armed force at sea before 1650, conclusions that exploit the best current understanding of the medieval period. The examination of naval militias in the Baltic, permanent galley fleets in the Mediterranean, contract fleets and the use of reprisal for political ends all illustrate the variety and complexity of naval power and domination of the sea in theyears from 1000 to 1650. The detailed and closely coordinated studies by scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia show patterns in war at sea and discuss the influence of the development of ships, guns, and the language of public policy on maritime conflict. The essays show the importance and unique character of violence at sea in the period.

Published 2003

Nelson - The New Letters

Edited by Colin White

Nelson - The New Letters, presents around 500 of the most important letters uncovered during the course of the epic Nelson Letters Project, a five year search of archives throughout the world. Dating from 1777 and including the earliest extant Nelson letter, this collection shows us both Nelson the officer and Nelson the private man, and, uniquely among the plethora of new Nelson books, it records his life and exploits in his own words. Written in Nelson's free-flowing and conversational style, these letters introduce a very real and human figure bringing us much closer to an otherwise distant historical hero. Colin White's accompanying annotations and essays place Nelson's life and letters in full context. So alongside letters to the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV), Prime Minister Addington and dignitaries like the King and Queen of Naples, covering treaty negotiations, battle orders and campaign plans, we can also read warm missives to family and friends, informal notes and instructions to colleagues and subordinates and some eloquently passionate letters to Emma Hamilton. Other highlights include Nelson's account of the Battle of Copenhagen; detailed orders for the Trafalgar and Nile campaigns; notes of his careful diplomatic negotiations; his network of personal contacts; and his concern with his public image.

Published 2005

The British Navy and the State in the Eighteenth Century

Clive Wilkinson

The Royal Navy, prominent in building Britain's maritime empire in the eighteenth century, also had a significant impact on politics, public finance and the administrative and bureaucratic development of the British state throughout the century. The Navy was the most expensive branch of the state and its effective funding and maintenance was a problem that taxed the ingenuity of a succession of politicians, naval officers and bureaucrats. By the middle of the century the difficulties its growth created had become critical and the challenge this presented was taken up by Admiralty Boards led by Anson, Egmont, Hawke and Sandwich. Resolving these problems introduced reform in the navy's administration and in public finance (often pre-figuring later bureaucratic development), but there was a political price to pay when the management of the Navy and its apparent unpreparedness for the War of American Independence made the Earl of Sandwich and the Navy a focus for political opposition to an unpopular government and a disappointing war.

Published 2004

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Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press are offering In Focus readers a special 20% discount online on the following titles. You will be prompted to enter the code 12103Z at the 'view basket' stage. If you have any difficulty in processing the order, you can also order by phoning Customer Services on 01223 326050.

Technology and the Culture of Modernity in Britain and Germany, 1890–1945

Bernhard Rieger

This book examines the obsession for new technology that swept through Britain and Germany between 1890 and 1945. Drawing on a wide range of popular contemporary writings and pictorial material, it explains how, despite frequently feeling overwhelmed by innovations, Germans and Britons nurtured a long-lasting fascination for aviation, glamorous passenger liners and film as they lived through profound social transformations and two vicious wars. Public discussions about these modern wonders were torn between fears of novel risks and cultural decay on the one hand and passionate support generated by nationalism and social fantasies on the other. While the investigation focuses on tensions between technophobia and euphoria, the book also examines the relationship between responses to technology and the differing political cultures in Britain and Germany before and after 1933. This innovative study will prove invaluable reading to anyone interested in comparative cultural history as well as the history of technology.

Published 2005

Viking Empires

Angelo Forte, Richard Oram and Frederik Pedersen

Viking Empires is a definitive new history of five hundred years of Viking civilisation and the first study of the global implications of the expansion, integration, and reorientation of the Viking World. Offering an assessment of Scandinavian society before the 790s, the book traces the political, military, cultural and religious history of the Viking Age from Iceland to the Baltic States. The authors show that it is not possible to understand the history of the Norman Conquest, the successes of David I of Scotland or the relationship between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy without considering the impact of the history of Scandinavia. The book concludes with a new account of the end of the Viking era, arguing that there was no sudden decline but the gradual absorption of the Scandinavian kingdoms into the project of the crusades and a refocusing of imperial ambitions on the Baltic and Eastern Europe.

Published 2005

Archaeology and the Social History of Ships

Richard A. Gould

Maritime archaeology deals with shipwrecks and is carried out by divers rather than diggers. But this is by no means a marginal branch of archaeology. It embraces maritime history, analysing changes in ship-building, navigation, reconstructing the infrastructure of waterborne commerce, and offers fresh perspectives on the cultures and societies that produced the ships and sailors. Drawing on detailed and recent case studies, Richard Gould provides an up-to-date review of the field, and a clear exposition of new developments in undersea technologies. He also argues for the careful management of underwater cultural resources.

Published 2000

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Hodder Arnold

Horation Nelson: a Controversial Hero

Marianne Czisnik

Leading Nelson scholar Marianne Czisnik illuminates the life and reputation of Britain's most famous admiral in a fresh and groundbreaking manner. Some of the most controversial aspects of his life and career are explored, such as his involvement in the defeat of the Neapolitan revolution and his notorious love affair with Lady Hamilton. Along the way, new research is introduced that provides original insights into the character of this complex man and the way his image was developed by successive generations of biographers and naval historians. The second part traces how Nelson has evolved in the popular imagination during the two hundred years since his death. This includes an examination of visual imagery, propaganda and fiction, as well as treatments of the admiral from a French, Spanish and German perspective. In this distinctive contribution to Nelson literature, Czisnik expertly reveals how the real man has been obscured, distorted and misunderstood by those for whom the image was more important than the reality.

Published 2005

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Manchester University Press

Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic world, 1750–1820

Douglas Hamilton

'There is no comparable study and this book would find a welcome place on the reading lists of graduate students and historians of the Atlantic world.' - Professor Kenneth Morgan, Brunel University.

This is the first book wholly devoted to assessing the array of links between Scotland and the Caribbean in the later eighteenth century. It uses a wide range of archival sources to paint a detailed picture of the lives of thousands of Scots who sought fortunes and opportunities, as Burns wrote, 'across th' Atlantic roar'. It outlines the range of their occupations as planters, merchants, slave owners, doctors, overseers and politicians, and shows how Caribbean connections affected Scottish society during the period of 'improvement'. The book highlights the Scots' reinvention of the system of clanship to structure their social relations in the empire and finds that involvement in the Caribbean also bound Scots and English together in a shared Atlantic imperial enterprise and played a key role in the emergence of the British nation and the Atlantic world.

This book, therefore, will be of interest to scholars and students of Scottish, British, Caribbean, imperial and Atlantic history.

Published 2005

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Oxford University Press

OUP are offering In Focus readers a discount on all the following titles. For details, see OUP's special offer page.

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy

J.R. Hill and Bryan Ranft

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy is the definitive one-volume history of the Royal Navy. The text has now been updated for this paperback edition to cover more recent events and developments including the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and the subsequent retaliation on terrorist bases in Afghanistan. From the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Anglo-Dutch Wars to the Battle of Jutland and the Gulf War, this highly illustrated reference book gives an authoritative and highly readable account of a unique fighting service and its people.

Published 2002

The Black Sea - A History

Charles King

The lands surrounding the Black Sea share a colourful past. Though in recent decades they have experienced ethnic conflict, economic collapse, and interstate rivalry, their common heritage and common interests go deep. Now, as a region at the meeting point of the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Middle East, the Black Sea is more important than ever. In this lively and entertaining book, which is based on extensive research in multiple languages, Charles King investigates the myriad connections that have made the Black Sea more of a bridge than a boundary, linking religious communities, linguistic groups, empires, and later, nations and states.

Available in hardback and paperback

Published 2004

Nelson's Surgeon: William Beatty, Naval Medicine, and the Battle of Trafalgar

Laurence Brockliss, John Cardwell and Michael Moss

In the lead-up to the bicentenary of Trafalgar a number of important new studies have been published about the life of Nelson and his defeat of the Combined Fleet in 1805. Despite the significant role played by the health and fitness of the British crews in securing the victory, little has been written hitherto about the naval surgeon in the era of the long war against France. This book is intended to fill the gap. Sir William Beatty (1773-1842) was surgeon of the Victory at Trafalgar. An Ulsterman from Londonderry, he had joined the navy in 1791. Before being warranted to Nelson's flagship, Beatty had served upon ten other warships, and survived a yellow fever epidemic, court martial, and shipwreck to share in the capture of a Spanish treasure ship. After Trafalgar, he became Physician of the Channel Fleet, based at Plymouth, and eventually Physician to Greenwich Hospital, where he served until his retirement in 1838. As the book makes clear in drawing upon an extensive prosopographical database, Beatty's career until 1805 was representative of the experience of the approximately 2,000 naval surgeons who joined the navy in the course of the war.

The first part of the biography provides a detailed and scholarly introduction to the professional education, training, and work of the naval surgeon. But after 1805 Beatty became a member of the service elite, and his career becomes interesting for other reasons. In the final decades of his life, Beatty was far more than a senior naval physician. As a Fellow of the Royal Society, director of the Clerical and Medical Insurance Company, and director of the London to Greenwich Railway, he was a prominent figure in London's business and scientific community, who used his growing wealth to build a large collection of books and manuscripts. His later life is testimony to the much wider contribution that some naval and army medical officers made to the development of the new Britain of the nineteenth century. In Beatty's case, too, the contribution was original. By publishing in 1807 his carefully crafted Authentic Narrative of the Death of Lord Nelson, he was instrumental in forging the myth of the hero's last hours, which has become a part of the national consciousness and has helped to define for generations the concept of Britishness.

Published 2005

India and The Indian Ocean World: Trade and Politics

Ashin Das Gupta

This omnibus edition brings together two classic volumes by the renowned maritime historian Ashin Das Gupta, Malabar in Asian Trade 1740-1800 and Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat c.1700-1750. The essays are introduced by P.J. Marshall, and accompanied by Irfan Habib's Memorial Lecture on Das Gupta and his work.

Published 2004

The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (2nd Edition)

I.C.B. Dear and Peter Kemp

The most comprehensive and authoritative reference book of its kind, The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea is a completely revised and updated edition of a classic volume that was first published in 1976 to huge acclaim, hailed as 'a beguiling book' (Daily Telegraph), 'marvellous' (The Times), and 'totally absorbing' (Financial Times). It brings together more than 2,600 entries on every imaginable aspect of the seas and the vessels that sail on them, from shipbuilding, yachting, diving and marine mammals, to tidal power, piracy and the literature and language of the sea. This second edition provides significant new material on topics that have come to prominence in recent times, such as oceanography and marine archaeology: key contributions on these subjects from marine expert Dr Martin Angel at Southampton Oceanography Centre include climate change, environmental issues, marine pollution and marine wildlife. Among the many brand new entries to this edition are up-to-the-minute articles on underwater vehicles, tsunamis, warfare at sea, marine pollution, the Economic Exclusion Zone and ship preservation.

This Companion also includes authoritative and fascinating entries on maritime history: its naval battles, including Pearl Harbor and Trafalgar; its great ships, from Noah's Ark and the Bounty to the Titanic and the Mary Rose; and its most famous individuals, both real and fictional, including Christopher Columbus, Horatio Nelson, and Robinson Crusoe.

Published 2005

Boats of the World: from the Stone Age to Medieval Times

Seán McGrail

Maritime archaeology, the study of man's early encounter with the rivers and seas of the world, only came to the fore in the last decades of the twentieth century, long after its parent discipline, terrestrial archaeology, had been established. Yet there were seamen long before there were farmers, navigators before there were potters, and boatbuilders before there were wainwrights. In this book Professor McGrail attempts to correct some of the imbalance in our knowledge of the past by presenting the evidence for the building and use of early water transport: rafts, boats, and ships.

Available in hardback and paperback

Published 2002

Maritime India: Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600–1800

Kenneth McPherson, the late Sinnappah Arasaratnam, and the late Holden Furber

Edited by Sanjay Subrahmanyam

This omnibus of three classic studies provides a basic grounding for scholars of India s maritime history. In an introduction written especially for this edition, Sanjay Subrahmanyam locates these classics in the extant literature in the area. He argues that these works, the older being a quarter of a century old, are still insightful to new entrants into the field of maritime history. Holden Furber's Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600–1800 is an account of European expansion in Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It tells the story of the rivalries of the East India companies and the growth of British maritime dominance, eventually leading to the Pax Britannica; Sinnappah Arasaratnam, in his Maritime India in the Seventeenth Century, supplements his own researches into the overseas trade of India and its commercial economy, with a thorough study of the current historiography of these themes; Kenneth McPherson's The Indian Ocean: A History of the People and the Sea argues for the existence of a distinctive Indian Ocean World constituted by trade links and commercial networks established over several centuries, and tells us about the peoples, cultures and economies of the Indian Ocean.

Published 2004

Spies in Uniform. British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War

Matthew S. Seligmann

Why did the British government declare war on Germany in August 1914? Was it because Germany posed a threat to British national security? Today many prominent historians would argue that this was not the case and that a million British citizens died needlessly for a misguided cause.

This book counters such revisionist arguments. Matthew Seligmann disputes the suggestion that the British government either got its facts wrong about the German threat or even, as some have claimed, deliberately 'invented' it in order to justify an otherwise unnecessary alignment with France and Russia. By examining the military and naval intelligence assessments forwarded from Germany to London by Britain's service attachés in Berlin, its 'men on the spot', Spies in Uniform clearly demonstrates that the British authorities had every reason to be alarmed. From these crucial intelligence documents, previously thought to have been lost, Dr Seligmann shows that in the decade before the First World War, the British government was kept well informed about military and naval developments in the Reich. In particular, the attachés consistently warned that German ambitions to challenge Britain posed a real and imminent danger to national security. As a result, the book concludes that the British government's perception of a German threat before 1914, far from being mistaken or invented, was rooted in hard and credible intelligence.

Published 2006

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Admiral Lord Nelson: His Context and Legacy

Edited by David Cannadine

Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was a colourful and complex character whose supremely successful naval career quickly attained legendary proportions. By 1803 he was Britain's paramount hero and already maimed with the loss of an arm and blind in one eye. He returned to war and spent a further two years at sea before cementing his mythical status in death and victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Today, two centuries on, the 'immortal memory' of Nelson shows no sign of fading. In this book, leading historians and Nelson authorities provide a radical reappraisal of key aspects of his life and legacy: the seamanship and leadership on which his immediate fame was built; his relationships with friends, shipmates, women and the British public as a whole; the construction and commemoration of the Nelson legend; his international reputation and its evolution down the years. Admiral Lord Nelson: Context and Legacy sheds fresh light on this most studied of lives and provides timely new insights into an enduring icon.

Published 2005

Receive a 20% discount on this title by quoting code WNELSON05a on the Palgrave website

The Royal Navy Since 1815. A New Short History

Eric J. Grove

This book fills an important gap in the literature on the history of the modern Royal Navy. Eric Grove provides the only up-to-date, single-authored short history of the service over the last two hundred years, synthesizing the new work and latest research on the subject which has radically transformed our understanding of the story of British naval development. Grove offers a concise and authoritative account of Royal Navy policy, structure, technical development and operations from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the close of the eventful twentieth century. Ideal for both specialist and general readers, this essential introduction explains how the Royal Navy maintained its pre-eminent position in the nineteenth century and how it coped with the more difficult problems of the twentieth, in times of peace and war.

Available in hardback and paperback

Published 2005

Receive a 20% discount on this title by quoting code WROYALNAVY05a on the Palgrave website

Doctors at Sea. Emigrant Voyages to Colonial Australia

Robin Haines

In this engaging tale of movement from one hemisphere to another, we see doctors at work attending to their often odious and demanding duties at sea, in quarantine, and after arrival. The book shows, in graphic detail, just why a few notorious voyages suffered tragic loss of life in the absence of competent supervision. Its emphasis, however, is on demonstrating the extent to which the professionalism of the majority of surgeon superintendents, even on ships where childhood epidemics raged, led to the extraordinary saving of life on the Australian route in the Victorian era.

Published 2005

Receive a 50% discount on this title by quoting code WDOCTOR05a on the Palgrave website

Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands

Virginia Lunsford-Poe

This exciting scholarly work examines Dutch maritime violence in the seventeenth-century. With its flourishing maritime trade and lucrative colonial possessions, the young Dutch Republic enjoyed a cultural and economic pre-eminence, becoming the leading commercial power in the world. Dutch seamen plied the world's waters, trading, exploring and colonizing. Many also took up pillaging, terrorizing their victims on the high seas and on European waterways. Surprisingly, this story of Dutch freebooters and their depredations remains almost entirely untold until now. Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands presents new data and understandings of early modern piracy generally and also sheds important new light on Dutch and European history as well, such as the history of national identity and state formation and the history of crime and criminality.

Published 2005

Receive a 50% discount on this title by quoting code WNETHERLANDS05a on the Palgrave website

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Yale University Press

Young Men and the Sea

Daniel Vickers

Westward expansion has been the great narrative of the first two centuries of American history, but as the historian Daniel Vickers demonstrates here, the horizon extended in all directions. For those who lived along the Atlantic coast, it was the East - and the Atlantic Ocean - that beckoned. While historical and fictional accounts have tended to stress the exceptional circumstances or psychological compulsions that drove men to sea, this book shows how normal a part of life seafaring was for those living near a coast before the mid-nineteenth century. Drawing on records of several thousand seamen and their voyages from Salem, Massachusetts, Young Men and the Sea offers a social history of seafaring in the colonial and early national period.

Published 2005

The British Seaborne Empire

Jeremy Black

Jeremy Black considers how the ocean affected British exploration, defence, trade, commerce and the role of the navy, as well as the attitudes and perceptions of the British people themselves.

Published 2004

Nelson: Love and Fame

Edgar Vincent

Edgar Vincent presents a full-length biography of Nelson, an enduring hero who remains as well known for his passionate private life as for his charismatic leadership and military ability. This portrait builds on a wealth of recent research as well as fresh analysis of the primary sources.

Published 2004

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