The Nation and the Navy: A History of Naval Life and Policy

The Nation and the Navy: A History of Naval Life and Policy

The Nation and the Navy: A History of Naval Life and Policy

The Nation and the Navy: A History of Naval Life and Policy

Excerpt

In writing this book I have had two aims in view: to provide a brief social history of the Royal Navy as a profession, and to show how it was used in the past as an instrument of national policy.

Descriptive chapters of naval life in Tudor, Stuart, Georgian and Victorian times attempt to answer the question, 'What was life at sea like then?' In these the reader will find some account of the emergence of a professional navy and the seaman's way of life: how the sea service was manned, the types of ship used, how they were navigated and how armed. Men and manners have been my chief concern, because there already exists a sufficient number of books on the evolution of the warship. I am well aware of the pitfalls which await the social historian who deals with subjects ranging from grog to beards, from the office of Lord High Admiral to the original of the Player's cigarette advertisement. But that is the sort of history which ought to be written, however obscure and controversial it is, and however dangerous it is to generalize about social conditions, particularly when what is true about one ship is not necessarily true about another.

My second object has been to write a general narrative which integrates naval with national history. There seems to be a particular need for this because naval history is commonly regarded as a technical subject lying outside the range of the ordinary historian. In the absence of academic encouragement, it has been left to the writers of the battle-and-the-breeze school, or to the small but enthusiastic band of naval archaeologists. The consequence is that many important aspects, such as the political and administrative sides of naval history, remain largely unexplored. Even in colonial history the part played by the Navy in the emergence of a Commonwealth admittedly 'founded upon the seas' has often been . . .

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