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Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle

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This is the true story of the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most significant sea battle, as seen through the smoke-hazed gunports of the fighting ships. In an atmosphere of choking fumes from cannon and musket fire, amid noise so intense it was almost tangible, the crews of the British, French and Spanish ships did their best to carry out their allotted tasks. For over fi This is the true story of the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most significant sea battle, as seen through the smoke-hazed gunports of the fighting ships. In an atmosphere of choking fumes from cannon and musket fire, amid noise so intense it was almost tangible, the crews of the British, French and Spanish ships did their best to carry out their allotted tasks. For over five hours they were in constant danger from a terrifying array of iron and lead missiles fired from enemy guns, as well as the deadly wooden splinters smashed from the ships' hulls by the cannon-balls. While the men manoeuvred the ships and kept the cannons firing, the women helped the surgeons tend the sick or helped the boys - the 'powder monkeys' - in the hazardous job of carrying gunpowder cartridges from the central magazine to the gun decks. Trafalgar set the seal on British naval supremacy, which became the mainspring for the growth of the British Empire, and in the short term not only prevented Napoleon from invading Britain, but also enabled Britain and its Continental allies to mount the campaign that would eventually defeat the French Emperor: without Trafalgar there would be no Waterloo.


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This is the true story of the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most significant sea battle, as seen through the smoke-hazed gunports of the fighting ships. In an atmosphere of choking fumes from cannon and musket fire, amid noise so intense it was almost tangible, the crews of the British, French and Spanish ships did their best to carry out their allotted tasks. For over fi This is the true story of the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's most significant sea battle, as seen through the smoke-hazed gunports of the fighting ships. In an atmosphere of choking fumes from cannon and musket fire, amid noise so intense it was almost tangible, the crews of the British, French and Spanish ships did their best to carry out their allotted tasks. For over five hours they were in constant danger from a terrifying array of iron and lead missiles fired from enemy guns, as well as the deadly wooden splinters smashed from the ships' hulls by the cannon-balls. While the men manoeuvred the ships and kept the cannons firing, the women helped the surgeons tend the sick or helped the boys - the 'powder monkeys' - in the hazardous job of carrying gunpowder cartridges from the central magazine to the gun decks. Trafalgar set the seal on British naval supremacy, which became the mainspring for the growth of the British Empire, and in the short term not only prevented Napoleon from invading Britain, but also enabled Britain and its Continental allies to mount the campaign that would eventually defeat the French Emperor: without Trafalgar there would be no Waterloo.

30 review for Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle

  1. 5 out of 5

    happy

    I found this to be a very good general audience look at the iconic battle of the “Age of Sail”. Mr. Adkins does an excellent job of setting the strategic stage for the battle, mainly Napoleon’s impending invasion of Britain. He follows Nelson as he chases the French Admiral, Villeneuve, from Europe to the West Indies and back to Spain. He goes into the pressure Napoleon put on his navy and the lack of trust Napoleon had in the Admirals and his lack of understanding of the navy in general. In look I found this to be a very good general audience look at the iconic battle of the “Age of Sail”. Mr. Adkins does an excellent job of setting the strategic stage for the battle, mainly Napoleon’s impending invasion of Britain. He follows Nelson as he chases the French Admiral, Villeneuve, from Europe to the West Indies and back to Spain. He goes into the pressure Napoleon put on his navy and the lack of trust Napoleon had in the Admirals and his lack of understanding of the navy in general. In looking at the battle specifically, Mr. Adkins uses firsthand accounts very well. He tells the story from both sides and from the lowest tar on the gun deck to the officers on the quarter decks. The reader can almost hear and feel the roar of the guns and the screams of the wounded. He tells the tale of Nelson’s death and debunks some of the legends that have arisen about his death. His account of the HMS Royal Sovereign’s approach to the French Fleet is well done. It was under fire for more than 15 minutes before it could return fire. He discusses the difference in philosophy between the French/Spanish and the British fleets in targeting and how this allowed the British to approach the French line relatively undamaged. This is not just a story of the battle, but a look at the lives of the men and women who manned the ships. From the lowliest tar to Nelson himself, the author does a good job of telling their story. The author does make clear that there were many women on the ships of the Royal Navy who actively played a role in the battle. They were the wives of Marines and mates, maybe 10 or 15 per ship. They were not shrinking violets when the battle was joined. They helped in the ship’s magazines, in the cockpit with surgeons and in some cases actually help man the guns. He also looks at how those manning the ships lived. From how they were recruited/drafted, their duties and training, what they ate and in general how they lived. It was not a comfortable life, but he makes the point of saying that the life a day laborer on land was not that great either. A tar in the British Navy made about as much as a day laborer and didn’t have to worry about clothes, food or a place to sleep. That said their lives were not easy. The food was often poor and shore leave was almost non-existent, even for the officers. Mr. Adkins states the Nelson’s second in command, Admiral Collingswood, spent the last 5 yrs of his life aboard ship not touching land. Nelson himself spent the two yrs leading up to the battle on the Victory with almost no shore leave. After the battle, Mr. Adkin’s telling of the great hurricane is also well done. I hadn’t realized that the great storm greatly hampered the British in getting there prizes back to Gibraltar. Of the 17 ships taken by the British only 4 successfully made it to port. The author has provides good maps in showing the positions of the ships during the various stages of the battle and the sea around the Cape of Trafalgar. I think this is a solid 4 star read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This is an excellent introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar and I am giving it 3 Stars. The battle scenes are just terrific with good "maps" of the ship positions at various times of the battle. I thoroughly appreciated the many original letters and accounts used to tell the story. The roar of cannon, the terrible damage wrought on ships and men, the confusion, the unorthodox tactics used by Nelson and many other aspects of this battle are clearly depicted. This was my first exposure to this fa This is an excellent introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar and I am giving it 3 Stars. The battle scenes are just terrific with good "maps" of the ship positions at various times of the battle. I thoroughly appreciated the many original letters and accounts used to tell the story. The roar of cannon, the terrible damage wrought on ships and men, the confusion, the unorthodox tactics used by Nelson and many other aspects of this battle are clearly depicted. This was my first exposure to this famous battle as I spend time this year to finally become familiar with the Napoleonic Era. I was completely unaware that a hurricane struck the battered ships shortly after the end of the fighting and was the cause of more destruction than the battle itself. I took away a 4th star because his thesis that we would all be speaking French if the British had not won is not well supported IMHO. That said, I heartily recommend this one if you are looking for an excellent intro to this last major battle between sailing ships.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jorel

    A superb book. It not only details the battle itself quite thoroughly, but also what the sailors, the captains, Nelson and everyone involved in it had to deal with before, during, after, and even, for those that survived, the end of their lives. Every detail is worth noticing, and for me most gratifying was to read that one of my countrymen, a brazilian, was a crew member in no other ship but the HMS Victory at Trafalgar! Why was he there? what was his life story? was he press ganged? etc etc.. S A superb book. It not only details the battle itself quite thoroughly, but also what the sailors, the captains, Nelson and everyone involved in it had to deal with before, during, after, and even, for those that survived, the end of their lives. Every detail is worth noticing, and for me most gratifying was to read that one of my countrymen, a brazilian, was a crew member in no other ship but the HMS Victory at Trafalgar! Why was he there? what was his life story? was he press ganged? etc etc.. So many questions i have now of that person's history. (though obviously that wasnt detailed in this book, because it was just a glimpse at the nationalities of the HMS Victory crew at the time). For the battle of Trafalgar, i felt this book suffices as that one you must read, and you will not end it feeling like a lot was missing on the descriptions and detailing the battle itself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ken Angle

    Excellent Read! You can hear the roar of the cannon, feel the concusive forces of strikes and smell the gun powder fill the air. October 21, 1805 "The first broadside of the Royal Sovereign against the Santa Ana put fourteen guns of the Spanish ship out of action and killed or wounded many of the crew. The broadside had sent over one hundred cannon-balls plus grape shot and nearly 1 1/2 ton of scorching hot iron- ripping its way the whole length of the gun decks of the Santa Ana." The statistics o Excellent Read! You can hear the roar of the cannon, feel the concusive forces of strikes and smell the gun powder fill the air. October 21, 1805 "The first broadside of the Royal Sovereign against the Santa Ana put fourteen guns of the Spanish ship out of action and killed or wounded many of the crew. The broadside had sent over one hundred cannon-balls plus grape shot and nearly 1 1/2 ton of scorching hot iron- ripping its way the whole length of the gun decks of the Santa Ana." The statistics of carnage was grizzly. The Britsh sank or captured 23/33 enemy ships. Without the loss of one ship. The overall death rate was 10% and wounded 8% for the British. Trafalgar was the last battle of sailing ships. It prevented the invasion of England by Napoleon. Adkins does a great job explaining the mecanics and language of sailing and 17-18 century warfare. For me it has provided a view of how the English empire was built and how pivoital history was during the first decade of the 1800 th century. Run like smoke and oak to find this book; and read. KGA

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Roy Adkins' book, "Nelson's Trafalgar," is a detailed well rendered version of the great sea battle that doomed any chance for Napoleon to claim control over the seas and invade Britain. The book is a blow by blow account of the planning for the battle and how the plans for each fleet--the English fleet and the Combined fleet of France and Spain--were implemented. Nelson's battle plan was to break the line of ships organized by the French commanding admiral, Villeneuve. The French admiral wanted Roy Adkins' book, "Nelson's Trafalgar," is a detailed well rendered version of the great sea battle that doomed any chance for Napoleon to claim control over the seas and invade Britain. The book is a blow by blow account of the planning for the battle and how the plans for each fleet--the English fleet and the Combined fleet of France and Spain--were implemented. Nelson's battle plan was to break the line of ships organized by the French commanding admiral, Villeneuve. The French admiral wanted to maintain his line and have a "mobile reserve" of ships at his disposal. His dispositions went awry and his battle plan never materialized. The book presents a number of attractive features: (a) detailed battle maps from hour to hour, so that the reader can see the progression of the battle; (b) a listing of the ships of each fleet, including number of cannons and commanding officers; (c) a detailed description of weapons and ships of the two fleets, to provide important context; (d) a description of key figures on each side; (e) excerpts from personal recollections by key actors in the battle; (f) extraordinary detail of the battle itself, including small details. The book also speaks of the aftereffects of the battle. Included is the possible murder of the failed French commander, Villeneuve, the cheapness of the English government in taking care of its brave victors (including ignoring Nelson's request that Emma Hamilton and his daughter be taken care of), the dominant role of the English navy after Trafalgar. This is a book that readers with an interest in this dramatic battle will find valuable. The detail gives a sense of the actual events of the time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    A very good book--though not "the equal of Antony Beevor's Stalingrad" as the back cover claims. I think actually what would have improved this to a 5 star rating would be if each chapter focused on the dueling ships in the battle, which is sort of does, but not cohesively. For example, chapters or minisections on just Santa Ana vs. Royal Sovereign, Belleisle vs. Fougueux, etc. Probably more my fault, and I guess it does reflect the general pell-mell of the battle, but by skipping from action fr A very good book--though not "the equal of Antony Beevor's Stalingrad" as the back cover claims. I think actually what would have improved this to a 5 star rating would be if each chapter focused on the dueling ships in the battle, which is sort of does, but not cohesively. For example, chapters or minisections on just Santa Ana vs. Royal Sovereign, Belleisle vs. Fougueux, etc. Probably more my fault, and I guess it does reflect the general pell-mell of the battle, but by skipping from action from ship to ship, I had to keep referring to the maps to get things clear in my head. Though since this battle was one or two ships slugging it out against each other, I think would have made the book more absorbing. Either way though, excellent book, chock full of interesting facts. Thought it very interesting after reading Seize the Fire, that the French concept of honor wasn't much different than the British. If Admiral Dumanoir hadn't rather cravenly ignored Villeneuve's orders, than the battle could have gone differently (English probably still would have won) or if the French focused their fire not on the masts but on the lower decks like the English, also a different outcome. I feel very bad for poor Villeneuve and want to know more about his "suicide" (aka murder by Napoleon, since his body was found in a locked room with a probably forged suicide note with six implausible stab wounds).

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    Excellent discussion of everything related to the battle and Lord Nelson: the people, the ships, the politics, the fighting. Battles fought at sea seem so horrific in our time, I suppose I can only just imagine what it was like from the description. A good read for those interested in the history of this battle and Nelson.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hazel Mills

    I bought this book as it has a reference to Jane Austen's brother, Admiral Francis Austen, and just started to browse the first few pages but then could not put it down. This book is definitely not for the squeamish as some of the descriptions are quite graphic, but if you want a sense of what it was like on board the ships during this period it is absolutely necessary. The blood and gore is, however, tempered with a great deal of humour and Roy Adkins style makes history very readable. I partic I bought this book as it has a reference to Jane Austen's brother, Admiral Francis Austen, and just started to browse the first few pages but then could not put it down. This book is definitely not for the squeamish as some of the descriptions are quite graphic, but if you want a sense of what it was like on board the ships during this period it is absolutely necessary. The blood and gore is, however, tempered with a great deal of humour and Roy Adkins style makes history very readable. I particularly enjoyed learning the origins of many terms we use today such as 'being on the fiddle'. At the beginning I found the battle maps quite confusing but soon I was referring to them on a regular basis to get a feel of where all the ships were at a given time. I now feel far better informed about what was a pivotal moment in our history and thoroughly enjoyed the ride!

  9. 4 out of 5

    T.R. Cross

    The first two-thirds of the book deals with the runup to Trafalgar and the battle itself. The build-up is very interesting and provides some insights into Nelson, though I would have liked more. The description of the battle is very detailed and actually a bit riveting. Where the book falls short is the events after the battle. The hurricane descriptions are nice but then I feel it gets really bogged down in individual accounts that are frankly a bit boring. I had trouble getting through the las The first two-thirds of the book deals with the runup to Trafalgar and the battle itself. The build-up is very interesting and provides some insights into Nelson, though I would have liked more. The description of the battle is very detailed and actually a bit riveting. Where the book falls short is the events after the battle. The hurricane descriptions are nice but then I feel it gets really bogged down in individual accounts that are frankly a bit boring. I had trouble getting through the last hundred pages and it took me much longer to finish than normal simply because I wasn't that interested. The last chapter redeems a bit with some interesting analysis of the impact of Trafalgar on the Napoleonic Wars and the British Empire. Would recommend, but maybe skill a few of the late chapters.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    Roy Adkins of course explains here the leading to and then consequences of such a battle. Relying on the numerous and contradictory testimonies such an event left, he most importantly gives an insight into its frightful brutality, the violence of an enormous clash where heroism and ridicule went hand in hand and which involved more than 47,000 men and about 60 ships! Beyond, this 'Trafalgar' also is fascinating for its asides -the author taking time to describe sailors' daily lives while onboard Roy Adkins of course explains here the leading to and then consequences of such a battle. Relying on the numerous and contradictory testimonies such an event left, he most importantly gives an insight into its frightful brutality, the violence of an enormous clash where heroism and ridicule went hand in hand and which involved more than 47,000 men and about 60 ships! Beyond, this 'Trafalgar' also is fascinating for its asides -the author taking time to describe sailors' daily lives while onboard. There is a lot to learn, from hygiene conditions to brutal discipline and, the (in)famous press-gangs to medical practices (e.g. crude surgeries) of the time. Woving the little stories with the Big History, here's indeed a fascinating account to read avidly.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    A very good tale of the Battle of Trafalgar. It tells the events leading up to the battle. The major players on the English, French and Spanish sides. The sequence of the battle, as it can be best told and the aftermath. It also gives nice descriptions of what happened on individual ships. He also gives specific descriptions and blow by blow accounts of how a gun crew on a warship operated. What the surgeons did, were women really on board and what were there duties. Good read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

    Adkins gives an entertaining and thorough look at the Battle of Trafalgar in this excellent book. He starts by exploring the context of the battle and the realities of the navies that fought. Before he gets to explaining the battle itself, I had already learned a vast amount of information about the navies of that time, from the habits of the sailors, to the moldy food, to the ships themselves, and more! When describing the battle and its aftermath, Adkins clearly explains the tactics and the in Adkins gives an entertaining and thorough look at the Battle of Trafalgar in this excellent book. He starts by exploring the context of the battle and the realities of the navies that fought. Before he gets to explaining the battle itself, I had already learned a vast amount of information about the navies of that time, from the habits of the sailors, to the moldy food, to the ships themselves, and more! When describing the battle and its aftermath, Adkins clearly explains the tactics and the individual battles that occurred between pairs and trios of ships. I never felt lost or confused when reading about the battle itself. Moreover, he balances the distanced view of the battle with the terrible realities of what the men experienced. There are plenty of excerpts from memoirs that give the reader a taste of what the battle was like, or as much as we can imagine about it. Overall, this book is outstanding. The writing is clear, vivid, and entertaining, and the content is thorough and clear. If you want to learn about this momentous event, then look no further.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    I really enjoyed the first half of this, which taught me a ton about the political and military events that led up to the Battle. I also learned a bunch about life aboard a fighting ship back then... unhappy times, it seems, but in many ways no more miserable than being ashore. The author also talks a lot about the differences between the readiness of the British and French/Spanish crew and officers. The British had a ton of advantages going in, although they were outnumbered and outgunned on pa I really enjoyed the first half of this, which taught me a ton about the political and military events that led up to the Battle. I also learned a bunch about life aboard a fighting ship back then... unhappy times, it seems, but in many ways no more miserable than being ashore. The author also talks a lot about the differences between the readiness of the British and French/Spanish crew and officers. The British had a ton of advantages going in, although they were outnumbered and outgunned on paper. By the time the battle actually starts, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that it's going to be a slaughter. I skimmed through the last few chapters, which are a play-by-play of the 4-5 hour fight... it seemed pretty tedious and hard to follow. Not my cup of tea. But the first few chapters of the book are excellent, totally worth reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This was a superb book, a biography of a famous battle, the story of the men (and women) who fought it and their ships. Adkins effectively weaves personal accounts of the battle with historical analysis as well as his own insights. Ordinarily I don't like to read books of military strategy but Nelson's Trafalgar is so much more than that. It's the telling detail that bring it to life, the individual accounts and the author's knowledge of life aboard a ship-of-the-line. If I were to only ever rea This was a superb book, a biography of a famous battle, the story of the men (and women) who fought it and their ships. Adkins effectively weaves personal accounts of the battle with historical analysis as well as his own insights. Ordinarily I don't like to read books of military strategy but Nelson's Trafalgar is so much more than that. It's the telling detail that bring it to life, the individual accounts and the author's knowledge of life aboard a ship-of-the-line. If I were to only ever read one nonfiction book about the Napoleanic wars at sea, this would be the one.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Very interesting description of the the role and living conditions of the sailors as well as the conditions of the ships. I wish he would have cut down on the number of straight quotations during the description of the battle, but it was a very interesting book overall. This was a great shot of reality after having been tainted by the fake Hollywood sea fights. A very fun read after visiting London last year; Nelson's column was my favorite sight.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jared Ure

    Nelson's Trafalgar does what good history novels do: it identifies a (often obscure) historical event, piques your interest, and shows you its significance in context and in retrospect. I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of relevant detail, and tangential trivia that the author employed in telling the story, and I recommend the book to anyone interested in the world often forgotten between America's war for independence and the war of 1812.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

    Bought this after reading the review by Squirrel. It's excellent... maybe even better than Sqirrel claimed. As the man said... it read so well that it was like a historical fiction, rather than a historcal account. I am lost to find the right superlatives... try this book... it's well worth it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Al

    An excellent recounting of the battle which had such a tremendous impact upon world history which includes an in-depth portrait of Lord Nelson whose death made the triumph so bittersweet to the British. The author relies upon a tremendous volume of eyewitness accounts from the actual officers and seamen who fought the battle for the British as well as French and Spanish forces.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cole Schoolland

    One of the most fascinating history books I have ever read. Not only a play by play of the battle and its consequences, but an incredibly detailed look at the life aboard a man-o-war. Very entertaining and easy to read. Anyone could pick this up and enjoy it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tattered Cover Book Store

    Well written and lively account of a truly epic moment in history. Ryan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ben Rothman

    The REAL "Master and Commander."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Hargadon

    This book ebbed and flowed like the waves upon which the story took place. At times I was riveted and couldn't wait to see what Adkins would reveal next. In other places I felt more like I was forcing myself to get through to what was next. This is not to say that the book had major failings, instead I would assign it to the fact that Adkins did two things well. He presented the wide reaching implications of Trafalgar, and he constantly invited in the voices of those who lived through this time This book ebbed and flowed like the waves upon which the story took place. At times I was riveted and couldn't wait to see what Adkins would reveal next. In other places I felt more like I was forcing myself to get through to what was next. This is not to say that the book had major failings, instead I would assign it to the fact that Adkins did two things well. He presented the wide reaching implications of Trafalgar, and he constantly invited in the voices of those who lived through this time in history. Inevitably, some of the consequences were less interesting to me than others, and those sections were made no more interesting to me by the inclusion of primary sources cited to bolster Adkins' conclusions. It also was precisely because Adkins did such an excellent job switching between the details of the engagement and the wider milieu that I would recommend this book. Brush up on some of your nautical terminology before you start, but Nelson's Trafalgar is an excellent book that truly helped me comprehend the Hero worship of Nelson and appreciate the significance, tragedy, and lessons of Naval warfare in the early 1800s.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robin Kuritzky

    A very personalised book, recounting a large number of eyewitness reports and concentrating on the battle itself and the aftermath and storm. Quite repetitive, as if the author couldn’t bear to leave out many reports and letters even though they might add little. Very little about the chase from France/Spain through the med, then to the West Indies and back and regarding Nelson’s brilliance I’m guessing Villeneuve’s scheme. In fact, following the story in this book one is at pains to see why was A very personalised book, recounting a large number of eyewitness reports and concentrating on the battle itself and the aftermath and storm. Quite repetitive, as if the author couldn’t bear to leave out many reports and letters even though they might add little. Very little about the chase from France/Spain through the med, then to the West Indies and back and regarding Nelson’s brilliance I’m guessing Villeneuve’s scheme. In fact, following the story in this book one is at pains to see why was Nelson so brilliant? He appeared to (recklessly) direct his two columns of ships directly at the enemies line and cause his men to suffer incalculable losses and injuries. There’s certainly a huge amount that’s very interesting and vivid in all the personal accounts, and some very interesting facts about the burial: why St Paul’s & not Westminster, the coffin made of wood from the main mast of l’Orient, of the Battle of the Nile, in Wolsey’s sarcophagus! The coffin donated by a “Canadian” captain! (There actually wasn’t yet a Canada). All in all quite an interesting read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave Mills

    If you're a sailor and/or familiar with ships and nautical terminology, you might grumble at the relatively elementary information the author sometimes gives. For those of us who are landlubbers, this information is welcome. Mr. Adkins details clearly the battle itself, from the departure of the French and Spanish ships from Cadiz to the end of the sea battle roughly five hours later. He includes six plates of the various ships' locations during the battle. But Mr. Adkins provides a lot more sai If you're a sailor and/or familiar with ships and nautical terminology, you might grumble at the relatively elementary information the author sometimes gives. For those of us who are landlubbers, this information is welcome. Mr. Adkins details clearly the battle itself, from the departure of the French and Spanish ships from Cadiz to the end of the sea battle roughly five hours later. He includes six plates of the various ships' locations during the battle. But Mr. Adkins provides a lot more sailing information. He writes about surgery and medicine aboard ship, details of firing cannons, musketry, sanitation, food, grog, chain of command, rituals, burial at sea, scurvy, pensions, and Nelson's family and his legacy. Trafalgar was an incredible setback for France and Napoleon, but the war between Britain and France didn't end until ten years later, in 1815, at Waterloo. Mr. Adkin's final chapter covers this period and also Britain's emergence as a world power, principally because of its magnificent naval fleet and its skilled seamen. Quite a grand book, really.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chas Bayfield

    What an incredible book. I picked it up out of blind curiosity, feeling the need to know what happened and why there is a massive column in Trafalgar Square, and I learned so much. I learned about diet, personal hygiene, healthcare, surgery, language and life on land as well as on board ship in the early 1800s. The French and Spanish are given plenty of airtime and the battle is described in real time. Nelson genuinely seemed to be an incredible strategist and leader and the nation's last great What an incredible book. I picked it up out of blind curiosity, feeling the need to know what happened and why there is a massive column in Trafalgar Square, and I learned so much. I learned about diet, personal hygiene, healthcare, surgery, language and life on land as well as on board ship in the early 1800s. The French and Spanish are given plenty of airtime and the battle is described in real time. Nelson genuinely seemed to be an incredible strategist and leader and the nation's last great sea battle properly comes to life. I loved the account of two captains' race against time to get news of the victory to the admiralty, the way Nelson's last moments were recorded by men who seemed to genuinely love him, the tragic way Emma Hamilton and her daughter were treated and the rapid rise of hero worship back in Britain. This a vivid, beautifully written book that never gets too dry, academic, geeky or partisan. I loved it. Thank you Roy Adkins!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    A very good read. This author provided excellent background on the period leading up to the great sea battle and on the conditions aboard fighting ships in the age of sail. Descriptions of the battle and of the terrific storm that roared through the ragged battle-torn fleet in the following days are as detailed as any found in the Patrick O'Brian or Hornblower series of stories and are supported by many detailed eyewitness accounts by English, Spanish and French officers and seamen from many of A very good read. This author provided excellent background on the period leading up to the great sea battle and on the conditions aboard fighting ships in the age of sail. Descriptions of the battle and of the terrific storm that roared through the ragged battle-torn fleet in the following days are as detailed as any found in the Patrick O'Brian or Hornblower series of stories and are supported by many detailed eyewitness accounts by English, Spanish and French officers and seamen from many of the ships involved. There are ample charts detailing the region around Cadiz and Cape Trafalgar and the position of the combatants at various times during the battle. Beyond the battle the author presents plenty of detail on public reaction to the battle and the loss of Nelson and his funeral, the continuing war with France and countless other details. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Absolutely brilliant. If you have an interest in history, particularly European or military or maritime history, you must read this book. Let me start with what it is not. It is not a biography. The various figures central to the conflict are briefly profiled, but certainly not in any depth. It is not about politics. Or economy, or the history of the war, the causes of conflict, or even about any of the land battle related to Napoleon. It's about the Battle of Trafalgar. It's about the weeks immedi Absolutely brilliant. If you have an interest in history, particularly European or military or maritime history, you must read this book. Let me start with what it is not. It is not a biography. The various figures central to the conflict are briefly profiled, but certainly not in any depth. It is not about politics. Or economy, or the history of the war, the causes of conflict, or even about any of the land battle related to Napoleon. It's about the Battle of Trafalgar. It's about the weeks immediately preceding the conflict, followed by an incredibly detailed account of the events of the battle itself, drawn from primary sources and supported with charts, maps, and portraits of the people involved. And then it's about the consequences of this battle. It is everything I wanted and nothing I didn't want.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Neil

    Adkins' account of Trafalgar is a well-researched and very deep account not only of the battle and of Nelson's part in it, but many other things besides: the legacy of the battle, including the impact it had on the rest of the Napoleonic Wars and the development of the British Empire, and not only how sailors lived and spent their time but how they were treated in the years after the battle. The main strength of Trafalgar is the number of first-hand accounts inside: numerous letters from office Adkins' account of Trafalgar is a well-researched and very deep account not only of the battle and of Nelson's part in it, but many other things besides: the legacy of the battle, including the impact it had on the rest of the Napoleonic Wars and the development of the British Empire, and not only how sailors lived and spent their time but how they were treated in the years after the battle. The main strength of Trafalgar is the number of first-hand accounts inside: numerous letters from officers and seamen help bring the story to life, and give a real depth and specificity to the tale of the pre-events, battle, subsequent storm and legacy. Nothing is rushed over, but the pacing of the book is still excellent. Overall a great account of the facts and ramifications of the battle of Trafalgar.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This is a masterful account of the Battle of Trafalgar. Roy Adkins is able to present naval warfare in a way that first-time readers of the subject will understand, and does so without overwhelming such an audience with an expansive glossary or lengthy footnotes. More experienced (perhaps even academic) readers shouldn't mistake this for the Beginner's Guide to Trafalgar, as I believe that more advanced audiences will strongly appreciate the abundance of primary sources Adkins employs in his acc This is a masterful account of the Battle of Trafalgar. Roy Adkins is able to present naval warfare in a way that first-time readers of the subject will understand, and does so without overwhelming such an audience with an expansive glossary or lengthy footnotes. More experienced (perhaps even academic) readers shouldn't mistake this for the Beginner's Guide to Trafalgar, as I believe that more advanced audiences will strongly appreciate the abundance of primary sources Adkins employs in his account.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Hopkins

    The first third of the book was very strong and interesting. The author has exceptional knowledge about life for the average people in these times. The battle—for all the bloodshed—lacked forward movement and basic dramatic elements. The final third was tedious. For readers who are diehard fans of the British Navy, this book will be a favorite. For anyone learning about thus period for the first time, it was disappointing after the first third.

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