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Book: Trafalgar: The Biography of Battle

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Book: Trafalgar: The Biography of Battle

Roy Adkins circa 2004


Thought I do this book review to add to @SirAlatriste great post from P.K Allan’s text



I got a signed copy as a birthday gift from Mum & Dad years ago due to my interest in the Napoleonic Wars. At the time it was land based conflict my focus and didn’t read the book for months. Although grateful I found the Patrick O’Brian novels dry so an Historical factual piece would assume be even worse. The better of two weevils so to speak...

That was my loss, it’s a brilliant read and not dry at all. I genuinely couldn’t recommend it enough.

The first part of the book covers what I’d call the ground work. Adkin sets the scene well with the Politics from all sides without the use of hindsight or bias. The real threat of a French invasion of the UK. He then goes on to flesh out life on board a blockading ship and the different types of ships and uses employed.

Nelson, is an obvious heavy detailed feature here but Adkin doesn’t go overboard drowning out the other participants. In fact, his view of Pierre-Charles Villeneuve I found interesting at the pre- order of Battle meeting he held with the Spanish Admiral Federico Gravina in the Cadiz port and change of mind the following day.

Adkin builds up the tension without slowing the pace or skipping details. The actual battle itself lasted somewhere around six hours and confusing at times. The author breaks the action down very clearly stage by stage into time sliced maps making it a clear moving scene. Normally everybody knows visually the two British lines crossing the T of the French/Spanish line map and that’s it…

The aftermath of the battle and the Hurricane all detailed. The delay in news reporting fascinating considering todays instant noodle fake stuff. The book also comes with ship list and Captains with Gun-sizes, High detailed Maps, picture plates and detailed battle maps.


In Closing…

Over all two thumbs or five stars. The one nagging thing I took away from it was this. Collingwood’s HMS Royal Sovereign hit the line first. This due to a new copper bottom fitting. However, it took an age for the back half of his line to join in or help…


Norfolk nChance

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2 minutes ago, Louis Garneray said:

And then there are the drawings of the battle plans from Magendie (capt of the Bucentaure).


This French/Spanish group absolutely knew and also Nelson's arrival to take charge. 

Villeneuve agreed to remain in port and allow the weather to play its hand first on the RN. He changed his mind the following morning not taking the easy choice!


Thanks for the notes on Napoleon. My 50th next year and the wife wants me to do this...


… while she goes shopping in Paris.




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Thanks you Norfolk.

I read some years ago a Trafalgar's book writed by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. He use a fictional ship to relate the battle. But it is a really nice book (like all Pérez-Reverte's books, always looking for historical fidelity) and a short and funny version of the battle.

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On 11/12/2018 at 4:17 PM, Louis Garneray said:

I'm sure you know Stefan Zweig who did a psychological portrait of Joseph Fouché, one of the best I ever read about a complicated man and I wish that he had done one on Napoleon.

The second i put it down i ordered every single book he has ever written. Excellent content, excellent writing: excellent author.


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