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Nelson's Trafalgar


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About the Author

Roy Adkins is a historian and archaeologist. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London. His previous books include The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Dictionary of Roman Religion, and Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome.


This illustrious introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar from an archeologist and historian is one of the best in generations for the nonseafaring reader curious about the nautical epic, and it also handsomely rewards those whose study of the battle goes back a generation or two. The battle itself and its aftermath form most of the narrative, interspersed with details of gunnery, ship handling, discipline, construction, damage control and shipboard health and medicine (not for the weak of stomach). The author gives full credit to the heroism of both sides-the dismasted Spanish flagship Santa Ana; the crew of the British Belleisle, also reduced to a wreck; and the aptly named French Redoubtable, from whose tops a stray bullet killed Nelson. Also given in more than usual detail is the weeks-long aftermath of storms, which sank most of the British prizes and during which the British further distinguished themselves by rescuing and landing enemy survivors. "If blood be the price of Admiralty, Lord God we ha' paid in full," Kipling wrote decades later, and this narrative of one of the bloodier occasions in winning that Admiralty is fully worthy of its subject. (On sale Aug. 22) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

With a compelling mixture of historical narrative and quoted first-person accounts from Spanish, French, and British belligerents and with just the right amount of technical information, Adkins has produced the book against which all Trafalgar books will be measured. Here is a clear, unvarnished rendition of 18th-century naval warfare from the perspective of the gun deck and that targeted kill-zone, the quarter deck, where a French sniper's musket ball mortally wounded Nelson. Beginning with Napoleon's proposed invasion of England, Adkins brings the fleets together slowly, discussing naval practices and tactics until the first shot is fired. Then he takes readers through the utter savagery and violence of Trafalgar. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Captures the din, confusion, and sheer carnage of the battle. Mr. Adkins reminds us that 'in the cramped gun decks the noise of the battle could be felt as much as heard: a maddening sensation of pressure on the skull.'"
--The Wall Street Journal

"Wonderful. . . . Blazing . . . [Nelson's Trafalgar] is at least the equal of [Antony Beevor's] Stalingrad in blood, pace and detail, but it also boasts a welcome twist to the genre with a lacing of black humour."
--The Independent on Sunday (London) "Hugely satisfying. Those who share my appetite for particulars will delight in this book."
--The Boston Globe "Excellent. . . . Adkins is at his best on the nuances of seamanship and the minutiae of life within the wooden walls."
--The Independent "This illustrious introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar from an archaeologist and historian is one of the best in generations for the non-seafaring reader curious about the nautical epic, and it also handsomely rewards those whose study of the battle goes back a generation or two."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Masterful in explaining why Nelson's men were so much more efficient. . . . Adkins has written a compelling account."
--Bernard Cornwell, Mail on Sunday (London) "Well-written and makes good use of first-hand accounts."
--Literary Review "Vivid, scrupulous, immensely moving, this is a terrific yarn."
--Christopher Hirst, The Independent (London) "Adkins's painstaking digging, sifting, arranging and questioning take him everywhere on Nelson's fleet . . . His account of the battle is a gripping album of snapshots from the quarterdecks and gun decks of the ships themselves . . . A most eclectic but engaging book."
--The Spectator

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