The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age – Senior Service, 1800-1815, Mark Jessop

The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age – Senior Service, 1800-1815, Mark Jessop

This book takes an unusual approach to naval history. Each chapter examines a particular aspect of the wars – from the work of the dockyards to the racial mix onboard ship – through the eyes of a series of fictional individuals. These range from a Danish pilot settled in Britain, forced to watch the bombardment of Copenhagen to a minor poet, from a ship-wrecked naval chaplain to sailors looking for work during the brief peace of Amiens. One loose theme is the impact of the wars on Plymouth, including the construction of the impressive breakwater, the development of the small settlement of Dock into Devonport, and ending with Napoleon’s visit to Plymouth Sound as a prisoner of the Royal Navy.

This is the sequal to a similar book that looked at the first period until the formation of the United Kingdom on 1 January 1801. This second book takes us from 1801 to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and looks at how Britain used and maintained her naval dominance in this period. This was the period of Trafalgar, but also of long spells of uneventful blockades, and of the unexpected defeats at the hands of individual American ships early in the War of 1812, which caused a great deal of soul searching in Britain.

I quite like this approach to the subject. It takes us into areas that aren’t always covered, and makes it stand out from the crowd of Napoleonic Naval studies. The focus on Plymouth demonstrates the impact the wars could have back in Britain, especially in the major ports, while the chose of characters means we spend most of our time either on the lower decks, or getting the civilian view of the wars.

1 – But Work their Woe, and thy Renown
2 – And Guardian Angels Sang this Strain
3 – The Dread and Envy of them All
4 – Britons Never will be Slaves
5 – And Eery Shore it Circles Thine
6 – Arose from out of the Azure Main
7 – Rule, Britannia! Rule the Waves
8 – All their Attempts to Bend thee Down
9 – Still more Majestic Shalt thou Rise

Author: Mark Jessop
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 180
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Year: 2019

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