In Nelson's Wake The Navy and the Napoleonic Wars James Davey

Publication date:
30 Oct 2015
Yale University Press
440 pages: 235 x 156mm
42 color illus. + maps

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The Napoleonic Wars saw Britain immersed in a conflict of unprecedented scale and intensity. With France dominant on the European mainland, the fate of the British population rested first and foremost on the Royal Navy and the thousands of individuals who served on warships around the world. Most famous of all was Horatio Nelson, who won a notable victory over the French at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This victory did not, however, end the war at sea. Over the subsequent decade, the Royal Navy played a crucial role in the struggle against Napoleonic France, and helped ensure his final defeat.

In this compelling history, James Davey traces the numerous roles played by the Navy between 1803 and 1815. From battles and blockades to convoys and raids, he shows that British ships were a constant presence, thwarting Napoleon’s ambitions and helping to ensure a British victory. Dramatically narrating famous events alongside less well-known actions, Davey tells the story of the many individuals who followed in Nelson’s wake. From reckless officers and courageous sailors, to canny politicians and those who laboured in the Royal Dockyards, he shows how people from across Britain made a fundamental contribution to the war effort and, in doing so, helped shape British history.

James Davey is Curator of Naval History at the National Maritime Museum. He is the author of The Transformation of British Naval Strategy: Seapower and Supply in Northern Europe 1808–1812.

“James Davey, a curator at the National Maritime Museum, leads us into the world of Hornblower and Jack Aubrey, and he is a conscientious guide with an eye for arcane details”—Lawrence James, The Times

“Students of maritime will surely profit from reading this impressive book. For those coming fresh to the period, a timeline summarizes important events… Davey’s deep knowledge of the secondary literature, and great familiarity with a wide range of primary sources, both printed and in manuscript, is put to good use. His arguments open up new perspectives on the navy and its role as an offensive force in a war fought mainly on land.“—Stephen Conway, International Journal of Military History