Rose looks at every aspect of English naval power in the Medieval period, including the designs of ships and the methods used to construct them, the weapons they carried, their crews and the skills available to them, the bureaucracy (or lack of it) that controlled them, naval tactics, English naval strategy (when there was one) and the major battles of the period.
This is a period where most ships in Royal service were impressed for a short period, and direct Royal ownership of warships was rare and often short-lived. As a result Rose has to examine the merchant ships of the period, as these also served as the transports and warships when England went to war.
The author demonstrates a very detailed knowledge of many of the individuals involved in naval warfare in this period, from the ships captains who actually commanded at sea to the royal clerks with responsibility for organising the fleets or the many admirals who served during the period.
There is interesting material on how realistic medieval illustrations of warships actually were. This includes the 'banana' shaped boats often seen on many coins, which always look totally unconvincing but might have not been far off the mark for some smaller ships. Contemporary artworks are compared to the rare archaeological survivals and reconstructions to try and work out what sort of ships were being used at the time. The section on the ships also reminds us how difficult it can sometimes be to use medieval sources, with limited and often imprecise references to different ship types.
Rose demonstrates just how important the attitude of the king was to the strength of English naval power in this period. Perhaps the most extreme example is the end of reign of Henry V. Henry himself had built up a collection of Royal ships, including some very large warships, but soon after his death these were sold off as his son's regents lost interest in maintaining them.
There is also an interesting section on medieval seamanship, looking at the available navigational techniques and tools, the rules that governed ships at sea and how that may have affected military service.
This is an excellent study of a somewhat neglected period of English naval history.
1 - The Sources for Medieval History
2 - Strategic Imperatives
3 - The 'navy of England': Understanding the Naval Resources of the Crown
4 - Ships and Ship Types
5 - Shipbuilding and Shore Facilities
6 - The World of the Medieval Mariner
7 - War at Sea
8 - Corsairs and Commanders
9 - The Navies of Other European States
10 - The Legacy to Henry VIII
Author: Susan Rose