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Recommended ‘Age Of Sail’ Reference Books, by Julian Stockwin

It was hard to make a selection from the vast range of wonderful titles out there, but here’s a clutch I plucked from my shelves that I think aspiring writers of historical naval fiction might find useful.

Seamanship in the Age of Sail by John Harland 

Harland’s work came out in 1984, and is a classic of its type. Every aspect of handling a man-of-war is detailed and illustrated with superb line drawings. A definitive guide as to how the ships were actually sailed.

The Seafaring Dictionary by David Blackmore 

This book is an alphabetical compendium of more than 9000 nautical terms covering the earliest days of seafaring right up to the twenty-first century.

Nelson’s Navy in Fiction & Film by Sue Parrill

Parrill has written a comprehensive guide to depictions of British sea power in the Napoleonic era. The book provides summaries and analyses of more than 250 novels and nearly 30 films and also examines the extent to which they  reflect the history, mores and manners of the period.

Falconer’s Marine Dictionary by William Falconer 

One of the enduring classics that have come down to us from Nelson’s time, wonderfully recreated from the original in its full detail. It contains marine technology, data on technical aspects of shipbuilding, fitting and armaments, and the Navy’s administrative and operational practices.

Empire of the Seas by Brian Lavery  

This book, produced to accompany a BBC television series, tells the story of how the Royal Navy expanded from a tiny force to become the most complex industrial enterprise on earth. Gloriously illustrated, the book explores themes such as the Navy’s relationship with the State and the British people and the tactics and initiatives that created such decisive sea victories.

Naval History of Great Britain by William James  

A comprehensive six-volume set that covers the operation of the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Nelson’s Navy; The Ships, Men and Organisation, 1793-1815 by Brian Lavery  

This work, written over ten years ago (and reprinted many times), deservedly remains a classic. Beginning with a background on the wars with France and naval administration, Lavery covers the design and construction of ships, training and organisation of officers and men and life at sea.

Nelson’s Ships by Peter Goodwin 

Written by the former Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory this is a superb history of all the vessels in which Nelson served from 1771 to 1805. Referring the ships’ logs, Goodwin also gives a fascinating insight into the reality of life at sea in the Georgian Navy.

Maritime Power and the Struggle for Freedom by Peter Padfield 

Padfield’s illuminating book charts the epic struggle between Great Britain and revolutionary and  Napoleonic France, revealing both the hidden forces beneath the  surface of events and the strategies and battle tactics which ensured  Britain’s final victory.


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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for the tips! As a confirmed non-sailor trying to write a naval battle I’d better start looking for Lavery and Harland straight away 🙂

    November 17, 2013

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