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Nelson's Trafalgar

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Nelson's Trafalgar. The Battle that Changed the World. By Roy Adkins. (Penguin: 2006. Pg. 416.). ISBN: 0143037951

Reviewed by Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - February 24, 2006

October 21, 2005 marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. This was a momentous sea battle in which British naval forces, led by Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, battled against a combined fleet of Spanish and French ships, and won. The outcome of this battle was to have far reaching implications, both for European politics in general, as well as for Britain's imperial aspirations. In Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle that Changed the World, Roy Adkins offers a compelling and fascinating overview of the battle, including the strategies and technologies used, plus a look at the men who fought in it, and its outcome.

Many books have been written about Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar that are dour histories filled with 'just the facts' and little else. Adkins' book, however, offers a stirring account of the battle that is built upon a solid historical foundation that is infused with intriguing tidbits of information that you might not find in other books. For example, Adkins mentions that scurvy was a constant foe to sailors during the age of sail. Rats, however, are a source of Vitamin C and the sailors that ate rats were less likely to develop scurvy than their counterparts who refrained from this shipboard delicacy. These factoids and vignettes enliven the text and provide insights into the daily lives of nineteenth century seaman, as well as how sea battles were fought. The book is worth reading just for these diverting factoids alone. However, Adkins has also included excerpts from letters, diaries, and other personal accounts that give even greater insight into the men who fought on that dreadful day and which serve to reinforce the historical facts laid forth in the book.

Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle that Changed the World is written from the viewpoint of the British, with a heavy emphasis on the British side of the battle and the British commanders. Adkins also provides insights into how the battle was perceived 'on the home front' and why the British idolized Nelson and the efforts they took to honor him after his death during the Battle. Adkins also describes the mighty storm that almost decimated the British fleet as they sailed home after their victory. While the main focus of this book is on the British, Adkins also gives insights into the mind-set and military prowess of the French and Spanish fleets and the men who served upon their ships.

From beginning to end, Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle that Changed the World is a fascinating and riveting book that provides a vivid account of the Battle of Trafalgar. Adkins style of writing is exciting and gripping and at times it is easy to imagine that you are reading a novel - but you're not! This book is based upon rigorous historic methodology and is faithful to the facts. Adkins is a respected archaeologist who has written, along with his wife Lesley, a number of influential books on archaeology. For anyone interested in verifying Adkins' facts, or reading further on this historic battle, Adkins has included endnotes, a selected reading list, and a substantial bibliography that will keep you reading on this subject for years.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in sea warfare, the Napoleonic wars, British history, the Battle of Trafalgar, the Age of Sail, or who is simply looking for a fascinating and exciting book to read.

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