Read The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649 by Nicholas A.M. Rodger Online


Throughout the chronicle of Britain's history, one factor above all others has determined the fate of kings, the security of trade, and the integrity of the realm. Without its navy, Britain would have been a weakling among the nations of Europe, could never have built or maintained the empire, and in all likelihood would have been overrun by the armies of Napoleon and HitlThroughout the chronicle of Britain's history, one factor above all others has determined the fate of kings, the security of trade, and the integrity of the realm. Without its navy, Britain would have been a weakling among the nations of Europe, could never have built or maintained the empire, and in all likelihood would have been overrun by the armies of Napoleon and Hitler. Now, for the first time in nearly a century, a prominent naval historian has undertaken a comprehensive account of the history and traditions of this most essential institution. N. A. M. Rodger has produced a superb work, combining scholarship with narrative, that demonstrates how the political and social history of Britain has been inextricably intertwined with the strength-or weakness-of her seapower. From the early military campaigns against the Vikings to the defeat of the great Spanish Armada in the reign of Elizabeth I, this volume touches on some of the most colorful characters in British history. It also provides fascinating details on naval construction, logistics, health, diet, and weaponry. "A splendid book. It combines impressively detailed research with breadth of perception....[Rodger] has prepared an admirable historical record that will be read and reread in the years ahead."—Times [London]...

Title : The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393319606
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 692 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649 Reviews

  • Ross
    2019-03-30 20:15

    This is a very large book with a great deal of detail and should appeal strictly to those with a lot of time on their hands and a burning interest in the history of the British Navy.The first part of the book up to 1509, when Henry VIII arrives, is just bits and pieces of trivia, so little is actually known. After that point quite a bit is known and most of it is a tale of gross incompetence and corruption.The British Navy, which in this first of two volumes is really the English Navy, was mainly run by Lords who bought their offices with the primary interest of stealing as much money as possible.We have Parliament to thank for the detailed knowledge of the corruption, due to investigations conducted and reports written to document the thievery. The monarchs would simply ignore the reports since they had sold the offices to the thieving Lords, fully understanding why the Lord was buying the office in the first place. Only Elizabeth comes off fairly well in the Author's opinion.I am not sure I will try to read Volume II covering the history from 1650 to the present day, since Volume I was so discouraging a read.Problem solved. Volume II is not available.

  • Dan
    2019-04-14 16:31

    This is a fantastic piece of history. I'll spare you the bad nautical jokes, but Rodger does a great job of demolishing a number of myths about the Britain and how it was shaped by the sea. One might say they run aground on shoals of his erudition. (I lied) It's not a book for everyone, but if you enjoy reading about victualing, norse ship names, and Tudor ship painting practices, than there's certainly no better book than this. Rodger is fantastically learned, and the book ably shows how British social, economic and political history was effected by the fortunes of its navy. I've read this book at least 4 times and I've learned something new and fascinating every time. The only problem is that Rodger ends his book on a cliffhanger, with the Royal Navy being driven from England by the parliamentarians, and I had to wait 8 years for the publication of Command of the Ocean to find out what happened next.

  • Lauren Albert
    2019-04-06 20:23

    The book was surprising to me because I hadn't realized how little of a navy they had for much of their history! For much of the time, ships were just "borrowed" from the (often merchant) owners. If they were damaged or destroyed in a battle, there was generally no compensation from the crown. There often weren't trained personel--just impressed persons and "gentlemen" to lead. The book didn't thrill me since there was (unsurprisingly) too much detail about ship building, maintenance, etc. That was my flaw though, not the book's.

  • Greg
    2019-03-29 22:43

    This is a magisterial work of naval history--part of a two volume set. The book begins with medieval England and ends with the English Civil War. Rodger covers technological innovation, how the navy was raised, and places naval engagement in wider historical context. In later chapters, the book addresses given periods in separate chapters on social history, administration, and operational history. The structure allows the reader to get a coherent picture of not only the Navy Royal but also the life of the sailor. The author focuses a lot of energy on administration, because it was a major source of power beginning with Henry VIII. The Island nation was able to out organize its more powerful continental rivals.

  • Jon Klug
    2019-03-22 22:38

    This is a great scholarly reference book for one of my research projects, but it is not for casual reading. It's dense and detailed in its examination of the naval history of Britain from 660 to 1649, including operational, administrative, and social aspects. A key theme of this book is the "slow process by which the peopled of the British Isles learnt, relearnt, or did not learn at all how to use the sea for their own defense." And this "process for learning to use the sea was not a matter of growing understanding. It was above all a process of growing capability."

  • James Spencer
    2019-04-12 21:41

    Superbly researched and densely detailed history of military use of naval vessels from the days of Alfred the Great up to the execution of Charles I. As Rodger points out, it is not really a history of the British Navy as we understand that term. Until the last half century covered by this book, there is no such thing. The "navy" consisted of privateers, commandeered merchant vessels, etc.The first half the text(which totals only 434 pages, the other two hundred pages consisting of appendices with lists of when ships were built, commanders, naval terms, and notes), covering up to the Tudor era is fairly dry and academic. There is little else that can be done with this part of the history: we simply don't have the details for Rodgers to be able tell tales of sea battles, commanders, and incidents at sea. But once Rodgers gets to the Henry VII and primary source materials include these details, while never losing sight of the goal of a serious academic history, he starts telling a tale worthy of any adventure story. The stories of Drake, Hawkins, and the characters on the Navy Board were great reading and set up the other parts of the book on other aspects of war at sea.Rodger rights his book as a series of chapters on these different aspects over specific periods of time. Thus he gives us chapters on the different types of Ships 1066 - 1455, Operations 1266-1336, Administration 1216 - 1420, and Social History 1204-1455, the latter discussing where both the commanders and the sailors came from. All of these subjects are essential to understanding how what would become the Royal Navy came to be.My only real criticism is that while the book contains a fair number of black and white plates mostly showing images of vessels as they were represented in their own times there is not much to show what the ships really looked like in any kind of proportional representation. I've build model ships, been to several naval museums with lots of models etc. so have a good notion of what ships of the 18th century and later were like but could not get any real sense of what the ships, galleys etc. of medieval England that Rodgers talks about were really like or even how big they were. There is one half page set of silhouettes comparing four ships from the 15th - 17th Centuries with the Victory which one can see in Portsmouth. But this a small portion of the subject matter of the book and the comparison is limited to the largest of the ships from this era: Henry Grace a Dieu (1514), Sovereign of the Seas (1637), Wasa (1628), Grace Dieu (1418). There is nothing depicting the smaller vessels to any kind of scale and for most of the period of this book, these smaller vessels were what English Naval History was all about.Still this is a small quibble and I enjoyed this enormously, recommending it highly to anyone interested in English history (specifically English, not British or European; the naval forces of Scotland, Ireland, and the continent are mentioned only insofar as necessary to understand what is going on the English) generally or naval history of any kind particularly in the age of sail.

  • Mark
    2019-04-02 17:22

    A bit more in depth than my usual history reading. First of three(?) volumes on the British navy, including technology, social settings and administrative framework as well as actual naval operations (and each period is broken down into chapters focusing on the above).I could imagine the book being five stars for a genuine history fanatic. But since the topic is the British navy only, this means that the casual reader (ie, me) gets a relatively large amount of detail on operations that are important only to naval history, and not directly significant to the larger picture; while the overall background of the war or reign is often brief. Makes sense, and I usually knew enough to keep up, but I was straining my memory at times.Some random notes:- The best use of naval maneuvers prior through the middle ages was really as a sort of cavalry: you could maneuver armies from point-to-point in ways that a land based army couldn't keep up with, and chances of interception (or even a warning reaching your target) were minimal. Hence the success of the Vikings as raiders.- With a couple exceptions, English kings were utterly incompetent as naval strategists from 1066 to Elizabeth. The best they did was realize ships could provide logistical support, but they constantly did idiotic things like landing troops in distant Aquitaine to fight the French, instead of threatening all of Normandy by landing at will. Rodger's criticism of Edward I's castle-building policy in Wales is so passionate it's phenomenally entertaining.- By 1588, the English navy had advanced so far that the Spanish battle plan for the Armada was quite literally to pray for a miracle. They knew the English were better, and expected to be slaughtered unless God gave them (being good Catholics and all) a sudden change in the weather at the perfect time to let them close with the English ships. It didn't happen, of course.

  • David Cheshire
    2019-04-09 21:18

    This is a fabulous read. Rodger is an authoritative guide to the issues shaping the prehistory of the British navy and our commitment to becoming a naval power. His title it surely ironic, since he comprehensively destroys the image of Britain as "an island fortress". In reality, as Rodgers catalogues, frequent raids and attempted invasions made our coasts a perpetual danger not a defence. Naval power took a long time to emerge. Medieval naval warfare was ineffectual. Building a navy required huge long-term investment, financial, technical, human and institutional. For sheer difficulty it was on a par with the modern space-race. Britain was slow to commit to this investment. But our weakness exposed us to the danger of becoming the plaything of hostile neighbours. We were also lagging well behind the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch overseas empires. Thus during Elizabethan times there emerged for the first time a serious national vision of maritime expansion, thanks to a strong alliance between members of the political elite and ambitious merchant-adventurers. This was the moment of naval and imperial take-off. We learned from our enemies and rivals (often via immigrants). The naval investment was made. The national vision was embedded. The rest, literally, is history. Like Linda Colley, Rodger explores the paradox that Britain's rise to greatness was rooted in national weakness. Post-empire, still floundering, still lacking a role, it is a lesson we need to relearn.

  • JZ Temple
    2019-04-19 16:37

    As the author notes, this is NOT a history of the Royal Navy. It is instead a history of naval activities by the government (or governments, at times). Interestingly the author breaks up the narrative flow to alternate chapters on operations with chapters on manpower and leadership, finances and ship design and building. It's not a casual read and there are parts which get tedious, but for someone seriously interested in the subject it does provide a very useful study. The author, a well known British naval historian, shows how important control of the seas has been since the earlist days, even to the extent that land campaigns were very dependent on sea communications and supply in an era when there were almost no roads. He also shows how the tradition of a strong English navy actually was derived from the Scots, who in their own internal warfare relied heavily on control of the local waters.

  • Robert Hepple
    2019-04-11 15:36

    First published in 1998, The Safe Guard of the Sea is a detailed naval history of Britain for the years stated. This means that it looks at operations by Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as England for a refreshing change against a background of Viking incursions in the early years, whilst wars with France and Spain dominate the later years. The level of detail is immense, so much so that is very difficult to absorb at times, and all of this detail is properly supported by numbered citations or notes. Additionally, there are very large appendices itemising such things as ships constructed for naval purposes in the period, rates of pay, Admirals and of course an impressive bibliography section. Very impressive, and looking forward to the second volume one day.

  • John Knowles
    2019-04-13 14:26

    Excellent. The rise of the Anglo-Saxon state driven (in part, presumably) by need to finance defences, including naval forces, to counter Scandinavian attacks; Scandinavians in turn build up state to create navy that can overwhelm the English defences.

  • Erick
    2019-04-06 14:17

    Very interesting if you are into English Naval history.Approaches the subject from very practical point of view.Builders, material, personnel, pay rates, etc. A lot of detail but, the author keeps it interesting.

  • Tom
    2019-03-31 15:21

    Both of the books by Rodger I've read clearly indicated their author's passion for the subject but, by the end, both felt like sex with the elderly: long, too much effort and oh so dry.

  • Marc
    2019-04-07 22:27


  • Mark Long
    2019-04-19 20:16

    Wonderful, enlightening and evocative, but only for people who are really interested in maritime history.

  • David
    2019-04-02 22:30

    Exemplary, detailed history that busts myths, explains the unexplained and even cracks wise.