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23 March 2014 @ 04:24 pm
The Command of the Ocean  
The Command of the Ocean is the second of Rodger's books on the History of the Royal Navy, following on from The Safeguard of the Sea. Despite the fact the history has now reached the period I was particularly interested in (that involving baggy shirts and dapper waistcoats) I didn't enjoy this instalment nearly as much and, in places, found it something of a slog to get through.

I suspect a large part of the problem here is that Rodger has such a wealth of material to draw upon for this period. Considerably more time is spent on the details of operations and administration but the net result was that admirals, politicians and civil servants began to blur together in my mind. It probably didn't help that I never did the 18th Century at school and so had no real framework in which to place events - it was something of a relief when Wellington and Castlereagh popped up at the end as the booked edged into the period I studied at O level. However, I was already feeling a certain amount of confusion in the 17th Century parts for which I have no real excuse having done those at A level though mostly I think I had just blanked the Dutch wars from my mind for some reason.

Rodger's sense of personality continues to pervade this book and his biases are still in evidence. Napolean comes across, for instance, as a deluded fantasist of almost comic ineptitude which seems… unlikely… although the evidence definitely seems to be against his having a good grasp of naval matters. However Rodger has been forced to concede that land battles can occasionally be won when the administration has a poor grasp of naval matters and vice versa. There is a thoughtful conclusion at the end of the book which cautiously puts forwards some theories for the role the navy played in the industrial revolution and the growth of empire.

I still enjoyed this book, and it is hard to criticise it for the scholarly attention to detail it brings to its subject matter. However, I suspect, that the level of detail available for the 17th and 18th centuries moves it more towards an academic audience and away from a general one when compared to its predecessor.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/113232.html.