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Useful books on combat, sailing and naval history in the age of sail


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Here's a list of historical books found on Google Books or the Gutenberg project. As the their copyright is expired, they can be download free of charge in various file formats.


1. Naval history, tactics and historical battles


2. Ordnance and gunnery


3. Rigging


4. Navigation

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still i would recomand you to to jsut update the first post with an list of all of them insted of a single post for all maybe a mod will edit it or delete your other posts after you edited them to clean it a little bit up but still thanks

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Thank you for those numerous links !!


If devs are interested i can provide some files from this book http://b.rimlinger.free.fr/marine01.htm witch is about description of the Arts and Craftsmanships of French Navy ( XVIII ), the book is in french of course but there is some very nice "drawing boards" of ships, sails, anchor, ropes, etc... that maybe you can use for french ships ingame ?

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  • 5 months later...

I'm sure their are all sorts of threads relating to this but a few others books i would recommend.... not free unfortunately but all available on kindle:


The Admiral Benbow by Sam Willis is a great read on the early age of sale


The Fighting Temeraire again by Sam Willis is a fascinating look into the life of the first 2 ships to bear the name Temeraire and how they relate to Turners famous painting


Very similar to The Fighting Temeraire is Billy Ruffian by David Cordington. I read the two one after the other and unfortunately they are a bit too similar. I prefered the latter but both are worth a read.


"Commander" by Stephen Taylor is a biography of Edward Pellew and worth a look BUT another book i preferred by Stephen Taylor again heavily featuring Pellew is Storm on conquest, specifically about the war in the Indian ocean.


Sam Willis again.... this time The Glorious First of June, a in depth look at this specific battle and the early revolutionary war at sea.


Hearts of oak and souls of fire is a broad look at the entire naval war but is a bit spare on details, read it on holiday and it was pleasantly distracting, Ed Kernahan.


If you enjoy "The fighting Temeraire" and "Billy Ruffian" you can try HMS Amphion 1798 by Michael Feather which is a good look at the frigate war.


Possibly the best read i can recommend on this subject, but not specific to the naval war, is "The War of Wars" by Robert Harvey read it cover to cover a couple of times despite being a vast book. Covers a lot of subjects but the chapters on Sir Sydney Smith and Thomas Cochrane inspired me to do a lot more reading on these men.


Finally honorable mentions to "Overlooked Hero: a portrait of Sir Sydney Smith" and "Nelson, The Sword of Albion" but whilst there good reads they are little better than a dozen over biographies on these men.


You could also look at "The Men Who lost AMERICA" by Andrew O'Shaughnessy but again this only touches on the Naval war and focuses more on the land aspects of the American revolution.

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  • 1 month later...

Very similar to The Fighting Temeraire is Billy Ruffian by David Cordington. I read the two one after the other and unfortunately they are a bit too similar.

David Cordingly. He also wrote a book on Cochrane which I enjoyed and "Under the Black Flag", an account of piratical life.

No one's mentioned "The Line Upon a Wind" by Noel Mostert, a pretty solid account of the Napoleonic wars at sea (I thought)

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A treatise on naval gunnery by Sir Howard Douglas, first edition 1829


5th edition - [link]



The science of gunnery by Willian Greener, 1846


edition of 1858 - [link]




[ extensive study of the technology of British ordnance circa 1710 to the 1860s ]


1st edition - [link]



The Naval Chronicle, Original Publication Year 1805


( note: this one is composed of 40 volumes and apparently the most detailed document about the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom during the age of sail. I am unsure if all volumes are available online, found the 14th though. Entire work can be purchased from the archives though. )


The volume 14 is available online - [link]


Volume 14 (1805) contains the first reports of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, including a French one claiming victory, Nelson's outline battle plan, and a chart showing the positions of the fleet. It also includes the House of Commons proceedings against the First Lord of the Admiralty, Henry Dundas, Lord Melville, for misuse of public funds when Treasurer of the Navy.


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Ty a lot.

Damn  : "You have reached your quota of positive votes for the day"


But this topic would not be in a better in the "history" forum ?


Volume 14 (1805) contains the first reports of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson, including a French one claiming victor

It's supposed to be the translation of a press article published in a french newspaper.

But there is no way to find the original article in the french newspaper.

It seems quite possible the french article was never published, cause it was never written... :rolleyes:

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One of the things I like the most in history research is the cross reference of sources, be it events, equipment, etc.


Following leads is great fun. Sometimes is impossible to go throughout to the "truth" unless you are a invested researcher full time. Bills don't pay themselves with priceless old documents :)


I guess it was a good propaganda move if the article never existed. Everyone was looking to the event and whatever information they could find and why not create a hoax ? Gives even more visibility to the resounding victory achieved.

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The Archive.Org books linked below are publications which present the battles in the napoleon era through the ship logs that were possible to gather.


It is an amazing source of good information and above all the human factor that rules all engagements.


All sources from the Navy Records Society.


Blockade of Brest - 1803 -1805 


Great Sea Fights 1794-1805 ( NSR volume 16 )


Posted those two out of immediate interest (  a naval siege and a big naval battle ) but you can verify all volumes in one place [link]

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Don't know if anyone posted these but,


Here are some more good ones:


For a good reference and pretty detailed account of "everything" (And I mean everything) Royal Navy in the age of sail get:


"The Royal Navy, a History from the Earliest Times to 1900"  By Clowes. In 5 Volumes.  1900 first printing.  Available as reprints in paperback.


Vol. 3 -5 are best for NA info.   Details on Hundreds of single ship actions.  Dozens of large fleet actions.  With lists of combat ships, specs maps etc.  Also good info on, guns, crew, ship losses, captains lists, and on and on.

Vol 3 covers the American Revolution and wars with France.

Vol 4 covers the Napoleonic period to just before Trafalgar.

Vol 5 Covers Trafalgar to 1815.


Wicked good stuff!   


Vol 5 available here  (covers Trafalgar): http://www.amazon.com/The-Royal-Navy-History-Earliest/dp/1861760140

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I've found that "The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy" by N.A.M. Rodger is a very interesting read. It covers every bit of life from the common sailor to the Officers patronage whilst looking at manning, victualing, discipline et cetera.

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