Magazine article Sea Classics

The Nelson Touch: The Life and Legend of Horatio Nelson

Magazine article Sea Classics

The Nelson Touch: The Life and Legend of Horatio Nelson

Article excerpt

THE NELSON TOUCH The Life and Legend of Horatio Nelson By Terry Coleman 425 Ppgs, Must. 6-x 9.5'; Hardback. ISBN 0-19-5147471-3 - $35.00. Oxford University Press, New York; www.oup.com

What do you say about a book that dares to declare one of history's most intriguing heroes a war criminal? Is it blasphemy? Revisionist rubbish? At odds with conventional wisdom, or conscientious modem journalism? The reader can decide for himself. But, one thing is certain. Whether or not you ascribe to author Coleman's views, though it will infuriate many and cause much controversy about England's most popular naval hero, it is a treatise long overdue.

In Naples, in late June 1799, Horatio Nelson's actions led directly to the extrajudicial murder of 99 prisoners of war, after the British commander on the spot, Captain Edward Foote, had signed a treaty guaranteeing their safety. Nelson imprisoned the rebel leaders in British ships of war before handing them over to the Bourbon king's executioners and refused to allow one of the rebel leaders a Christian burial, ordering that his body be tossed into the sea. In his new biography, The Nelson Touch, Terry Coleman studies the historiography of the English, French and Italian accounts and concludes that both Nelson and Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to Naples, were guilty of what today would be called a war crime.

Using many primary sources, Coleman, a British historian, gives a vivid account of Nelson's life from his childhood and early career at sea where he quickly advanced to post captain - to gripping accounts of his greatest sea battles. …

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