Despite covering the earliest period this is the third entry in a series of books looking at the warships of the British navy in the age of sail, following on from volumes covering the periods 1714-1792 and 1793-1817.
This is an important period. We begin as memories of the Armada fade into the past. Domestically this was a period of change, including the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, while at sea the Navy fought in the three Anglo-Dutch Wars and the War of the Spanish Succession.
This was also the period that saw the evolution of the familiar ship of the line and the frigate, the ships that dominated the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the period that saw the real beginnings of British naval power.
The book is split into sections based on the ship's ratings. These are then subdivided into four sections - ships in the Navy at the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, ships acquired between 1603 and the restoration of 1660, between then and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and finally between 1688 and the death of Queen Anne in 1714.
For each group of ships we are given a general background and description. This is followed by sections on each individual ship with information on construction, dimensions, crew, armament, a list of captains where possible, and a brief summary of the ships career. Major reconstruction work is dealt with separately, and in just as much detail.
I have one slight niggle with the excellent index. When a ship is rebuilt it gets a new index entry. This allows the index to include details of dates, ratings and guns carried, but it can sometimes make it unclear how many ships are being discussed (as with the four Expeditions in the index, one of which is an early fourth rate and three the same ship when new and after two reconstructions).
This is an excellent piece of work and a truly invaluable reference work for anyone interested in the early Stuart, Commonwealth or Restoration navy. Winfield had included a massive amount of information, including orders of battle for every major battle of the period, construction costs for selected ships, and a series of lists of ships in the navy at particular dates.
1 First Rates - 'Ships Royal'
2 Second Rates - the 'Great Ships'
3 The Third Rates - 'Middling Ships'
4 The Fourth Rates -'Small Ships'
5 The Fifth Rates
6 The Sixth Rates
7 Unrated Vessels
8 Hired Vessels
A English naval vessels engaged in the action against the Armada 1588
B Construction Costs for English Warships, 1659-70
C Lists of Ships in the Navy as at various dates
D Dockyard Launchings 1603-1714
Author: Rif Winfield