Book Review of “Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle that Changed the World” by Roy Adkins

This is a very informative and entertaining book not only about one particular battle, but about sea warfare in general.


On one level, the book gives you the story of how Admiral Horatio Nelson led the British fleet to victory over Napoleon’s navy and thus ended any threat to England by Napoleon. It’s a terrific story.

But even more interesting to me was the extremely detailed depiction of life on one of these ships: how rum was added to water to disinfect it; how the status of the company’s bread was measured by the life cycle of weevils and maggots; how ships’ companies included goats, chickens, geese, pigs and cows to be eaten gradually (and how they were protected during battles); who got to have china and who got to have wooden vessels and drink from animal horns; the identification of the causes, symptoms, and treatment of scurvy; what sort of discipline was used on board and why; the barrels of sawdust spread on deck before battles so no one would slip on blood; what “tools” were used for amputations; the meaning and derivation of terms like powder monkeys, “the head,” and loblolly boys; what was done with a dead man’s possessions after he died at sea; and so much more.

This is one of the most interesting books I ever read!

Rating: 5/5

Published in the U.S. by Viking Adult, 2005

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott


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