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This book is a companion to Patrick O'Brian's sea novels, a straightforward exploration of what daily life in Nelson's navy was really like, for everyone from the captain down to the rawest recruit. What did they eat? What songs did they sing? What was the schedule of watches? How were the officers and crew paid, and what was the division of prize-money? These questions and This book is a companion to Patrick O'Brian's sea novels, a straightforward exploration of what daily life in Nelson's navy was really like, for everyone from the captain down to the rawest recruit. What did they eat? What songs did they sing? What was the schedule of watches? How were the officers and crew paid, and what was the division of prize-money? These questions and many more are answered in Patrick O'Brian's elegant narrative, which includes wonderful anecdotal material on the battles and commanders that established Britain's naval supremacy. Line drawings and charts help us to understand the construction and rigging of the great ships, the types and disposition of the guns, and how they were operated in battle. A number of contemporary drawings and cartoons illustrate aspects of naval life from the press gang to the scullery. Finally, a generous selection of full-color paintings render the majesty and the excitement of fleet actions in the age of fighting sail.


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This book is a companion to Patrick O'Brian's sea novels, a straightforward exploration of what daily life in Nelson's navy was really like, for everyone from the captain down to the rawest recruit. What did they eat? What songs did they sing? What was the schedule of watches? How were the officers and crew paid, and what was the division of prize-money? These questions and This book is a companion to Patrick O'Brian's sea novels, a straightforward exploration of what daily life in Nelson's navy was really like, for everyone from the captain down to the rawest recruit. What did they eat? What songs did they sing? What was the schedule of watches? How were the officers and crew paid, and what was the division of prize-money? These questions and many more are answered in Patrick O'Brian's elegant narrative, which includes wonderful anecdotal material on the battles and commanders that established Britain's naval supremacy. Line drawings and charts help us to understand the construction and rigging of the great ships, the types and disposition of the guns, and how they were operated in battle. A number of contemporary drawings and cartoons illustrate aspects of naval life from the press gang to the scullery. Finally, a generous selection of full-color paintings render the majesty and the excitement of fleet actions in the age of fighting sail.

30 review for Men-of-War: Life in Nelson's Navy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Cast off thy lubberly ways, matey! Men-of-War'll wet yer swab, unfurl yer sailorly grey matter and have ya shipshape and toppin' it the Age o' Sail scholar! I can't keep this up... Patrick O'Brian spent much of his life writing about the English Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. You may know him from his Aubrey/Maturin series, or perhaps from "Master & Commander," the movie based on it. The book series lasts 20 volumes, in each of which O'Brian spends plenty of time describing seamanship. So much s Cast off thy lubberly ways, matey! Men-of-War'll wet yer swab, unfurl yer sailorly grey matter and have ya shipshape and toppin' it the Age o' Sail scholar! I can't keep this up... Patrick O'Brian spent much of his life writing about the English Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. You may know him from his Aubrey/Maturin series, or perhaps from "Master & Commander," the movie based on it. The book series lasts 20 volumes, in each of which O'Brian spends plenty of time describing seamanship. So much ship detail and sailorly jargon is used that readers are often bogged down, some even bored. Yet, one need not understand all that stuff to enjoy the broader scope of the books. The period-appropriate dialogue, as well as narration to an extent, attention to historical detail, the thrilling action scenes at sea, and marvelous character development are more than enough to enthrall fans of this genre and time period. Having said that, if you wish to have a better grasp of ship life in the early 19th century English Navy, Men-of-War can help. It's like a Cliffs Notes or Wikipedia of information at your fingertips. I read O'Brian's whole series through twice before I read this book and still I found it useful!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Edward Fenner

    Short but interesting read. Very informative. I learned a great deal about ship types, configurations, crew ranks, pay, meals, duties, etc. Fascinating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    I came across this slim volume (91 pages, text) in a used bookstore quite by chance. It's a collection of essays about life at sea during the "golden age" of the British navy (say, 1750-1850): "The Ships", "The Guns", "The Ship's Company", "Life at Sea" and "Songs". It's by no means a comprehensive history but for fans of Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin who don't want to or haven't the time to read weightier tomes, it's a delightful companion to the series. I'm always amazed by the conditions thes I came across this slim volume (91 pages, text) in a used bookstore quite by chance. It's a collection of essays about life at sea during the "golden age" of the British navy (say, 1750-1850): "The Ships", "The Guns", "The Ship's Company", "Life at Sea" and "Songs". It's by no means a comprehensive history but for fans of Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin who don't want to or haven't the time to read weightier tomes, it's a delightful companion to the series. I'm always amazed by the conditions these men endured for low pay and little reward.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Had I read this beforehand, the first few books in the Aubrey-Maturin series might have been a lot more understandable. Patrick O’Brian delivers the essential information in a concise and accessible style, whereas Ronald Pickup’s narration of the audiobook is both clear and immersive. A necessity for readers of the series! Rating: 4.6/5

  5. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    If you've read the Aubrey/Maturin books, you've already learned most everything in here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Satine Dali

    ...If nautical nonsense be something you wish.. "Success to all brave sailors that enter now on board; A health to Captain Pellew, and all his sailors bold, Who value more their honour than misers do their gold." - excerpt from a song about the action between HMS Nymphe and the French frigate Cléopâtre in June 1793. This book is highly rated and recommended based on it's conciseness (it's a short one), the beauty of it's art (high quality prints of paintings displaying the ships and their battles), ...If nautical nonsense be something you wish.. "Success to all brave sailors that enter now on board; A health to Captain Pellew, and all his sailors bold, Who value more their honour than misers do their gold." - excerpt from a song about the action between HMS Nymphe and the French frigate Cléopâtre in June 1793. This book is highly rated and recommended based on it's conciseness (it's a short one), the beauty of it's art (high quality prints of paintings displaying the ships and their battles), and the fact that it is packed with nautical knowledge and insight on battle ships before the Industrial Age (pertaining to the Royal Navy).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gabrial Greenlee

    this is the tiniest coffee table book ever. I mean it does include quite a bit about the royal navy but is really a quick guide to help with the reading of his other books. I really enjoyed the cutaway drawings and diagrams, they were a big help in giving a mental picture to his books. I thought I new the basics of a ship but now I definitely do.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Fenske

    As someone who's only exposure to seafaring life has been a handful of pirate movies this is a quick introduction filled with nuggets of great information. Within the pages you'll learn about the ships, guns, crew, their lifestyles, and even their songs. Although I did feel overwhelmed at times with so much terminology.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Herb Hastings

    This is an excellent companion to the Aubery/Maturin novels. It is better described as a quick reference guide than as a historical text. That is not to say that it isn't packed with information about the rules and regulations, the armament, nautical terms ,and the living quarters of the the crew and the officers. To anyone with an interest in British Navel History, I highly recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Taylor

    This isn't a novel, its just a little info-packed treatment of life in the British Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. Patrick O'Brian was without question one of the world's leading experts and it shows in his absolute mastery of the subject. This is a must-have for any fan of sea novels, particularly those set at the time, and while its filled with info is still an enjoyable read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    A look at real life aboard a British Man of War in the Napoleonic wars and the War of 1812. It is a quick read but gives good insight into the real life that is part of the novels that the author wrote.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Bull

    Not the best I am reading Patrick O’Brian’s opus with Aubrey and Maturin and having a background is paramount. Dean King’s A Sea of Words is a much better guide. Nevertheless it is a some use.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Interesting details of British Navy of the early 19th century, along with some great art and drawings depicting naval battles and life at sea.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Numidica

    Excellent history of how the British kept Napoleon at bay on the oceans, but really this is the nuts and bolts of how men lived and died on board in that period.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lewis M

    For a short book it gives a good account of the time of Nelson and the world that the author writes about in the Aubrey Maturin series.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Duncan

    Admiral Adam Duncan and the battle of Camperdown

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    A nice quick read and is indeed a great companion to the novels. Very interesting information about the prize money too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    This book is not generally as well known as the series of books written by Patrick O'Brian under the heading of the "Aubrey-Maturin" canon. That series took off in the early 1970's, and was less than half-way completed when O'Brian wrote this book. It pointedly doesn't reference his fictional sea-captain hero, Jack Aubrey, being subtitled instead as "Life in Nelson's Navy". This references the historically factual navy that O'Brian uses as a backdrop for the exploits of his fictional characters This book is not generally as well known as the series of books written by Patrick O'Brian under the heading of the "Aubrey-Maturin" canon. That series took off in the early 1970's, and was less than half-way completed when O'Brian wrote this book. It pointedly doesn't reference his fictional sea-captain hero, Jack Aubrey, being subtitled instead as "Life in Nelson's Navy". This references the historically factual navy that O'Brian uses as a backdrop for the exploits of his fictional characters and emphasizes the tribute aspect of his best-selling series of novels as being dedicated to the real, great hero of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic era, Admiral Horatio Nelson. We all know Nelson as the leader who gave his life while leading the Royal Navy to victory against Napoleon's French-Spanish armada at Trafalgar in October, 1805, making him a worshipped figure in Great Britain since that time. During the next ten years after his death, the Royal Navy and its wooden sailing ships would still be accurately described as "Nelson's Navy." Patrick O"Brian did a service to the rapidly growing legions of readers of his expanding numbers of "Nelson's Navy" titles by producing this slim, but nicely detailed book. It contains chapters on the construction of the wooden ships, the methods of gunnery used in battles, the various types of sailors and their skills, and the type of life they led at sea. There is even a short section devoted to sea songs. Lots of useful illustrations are included, and the writing is not technical. All in all, this is a book that can be read rather quickly in order to get a solid orientation to understanding books on early-nineteenth century sea war, whether written by O'Brian or someone else. The downside is that the pleasure of reading about this subject passes quickly due to the book's shortness, but that leaves more time to pick up and read the next novel in the twenty-book series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Haven't read any of O'Brian's fiction yet, but I can already tell he knows his way around a story. He has an easy, narrative style even as he lays out the minutia of the ships, the sails, the officers, the seamen, the guns, the watches, etc. He obviously has such expertise and passion for this period, and I was impressed by what detail he's able to pick out of the art selections. It's worth just paging through this book for the art and the anecdotes in the captions. I read straight through this Haven't read any of O'Brian's fiction yet, but I can already tell he knows his way around a story. He has an easy, narrative style even as he lays out the minutia of the ships, the sails, the officers, the seamen, the guns, the watches, etc. He obviously has such expertise and passion for this period, and I was impressed by what detail he's able to pick out of the art selections. It's worth just paging through this book for the art and the anecdotes in the captions. I read straight through this nifty guide and will keep it at hand while I listen to the audiobooks for the Aubrey-Maturin series.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    The way the author brought you back into the time period by making up a character on the spot and bring you through the journey of him becoming a member of the ship was really cool and fun to read. He also wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of the French and British ships. He told the reader about what the weapons were but also about how they were used and what purposes. He also explained the similarities and differences of the ships and maneuverability. The book was so fascinating in The way the author brought you back into the time period by making up a character on the spot and bring you through the journey of him becoming a member of the ship was really cool and fun to read. He also wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of the French and British ships. He told the reader about what the weapons were but also about how they were used and what purposes. He also explained the similarities and differences of the ships and maneuverability. The book was so fascinating in this way that it was one of my favorite books and I was able to read it without ever getting bored because of all the facts of the ships that there was to offer.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Patrick O'Brian is famous for his Aubrey and Maturin adventures set during the Napoleonic Wars. One of the hallmarks of his books is historical accuracy, and this, really should call it a booklet, is an example of the care and depth of his research into the British navy. As a little bit of a history buff I appreciate his research, and it added a little more understanding and appreciation for other (Stuart and Forrester) British naval fiction I have read. I think I can now remember where the orlo Patrick O'Brian is famous for his Aubrey and Maturin adventures set during the Napoleonic Wars. One of the hallmarks of his books is historical accuracy, and this, really should call it a booklet, is an example of the care and depth of his research into the British navy. As a little bit of a history buff I appreciate his research, and it added a little more understanding and appreciation for other (Stuart and Forrester) British naval fiction I have read. I think I can now remember where the orlop is on a ship.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I've had this book for a while, to look at and get a better idea about the wonderful details in O'Brian's Aubrey/maturin series. This was a very helpful, but still entertaining guide to the major ideas of the books - the ships themselves, types, sails,gunnery; the officers and men, ranks, duties; the typical day; The illustrations and diagrams really added to the book, and O'Brian used them effectively, pointing out different things in the same painting. The only drawback is remembering O'Brian is I've had this book for a while, to look at and get a better idea about the wonderful details in O'Brian's Aubrey/maturin series. This was a very helpful, but still entertaining guide to the major ideas of the books - the ships themselves, types, sails,gunnery; the officers and men, ranks, duties; the typical day; The illustrations and diagrams really added to the book, and O'Brian used them effectively, pointing out different things in the same painting. The only drawback is remembering O'Brian is now 'sailing the further seas.'

  23. 4 out of 5

    SchirmWorm

    Men of War: LIfe in Nelson’s Navy Overall this book was pretty good except it wasn’t really a story. It was more of a descriptional book that explained what it was like to be in the navy in the 1800’s. The book explained famous historical scenes throughout the book and it showed the weapons they used, and how the ships were made explaining what ships were first class, second class, and third class. The book also has brief pictures of battles, ships, and equipment. The author should of added a st Men of War: LIfe in Nelson’s Navy Overall this book was pretty good except it wasn’t really a story. It was more of a descriptional book that explained what it was like to be in the navy in the 1800’s. The book explained famous historical scenes throughout the book and it showed the weapons they used, and how the ships were made explaining what ships were first class, second class, and third class. The book also has brief pictures of battles, ships, and equipment. The author should of added a story of a sailor in the story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luana

    Patrick O'Brian's obvious enthusiasm for the details of the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy is positively infectious - it's a shame that the book wasn't a little longer or in-depth, but as a starter for learning about the period, it's very informative.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Eppenstein

    A useful little primer for any reader interested in books about the age of fighting sail. It will introduce the reader to the routine of sailing in that era and to some of the terminology but not a great deal beyond that.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lois

    This is a short account of the Royal Navy of Nelson, and other famous and not so famous British seamen. It provides concise historical background for Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, and the detailed illustrations are particularly interesting and helpful.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This slim volume goes a long way in explaining how the Royal Navy operated during the time period. Not entirely necessary in order to enjoy the Aubrey-Maturin novels, but certainly gives a greater understanding and enhances the pleasure.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Easy to read, however the print is small. Very interesting if you want to know what happened aboard ship during the late 18th century. Nice drawings and photos.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric Hines

    Nice little book on the Nelson-era navy. Not exhaustive by any means, but would be a good companion for the person just venturing into the Aubrey novels.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Good if you really, really want a quick synopsis of the Royal Navy. For what's essentially a little historical pamphlet, it's quite well written.

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