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Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  511 ratings  ·  53 reviews
On October 21, 1805, as Britain's Royal Navy under the command of Horatio Nelson clashed with Napoleon's forces in an epic sea battle off the coast of Spain, the fate of Europe hung in the balance. Though the cost was high-and Nelson himself was killed-the British victory prevented Napoleon from invading Britain and paved the way for the eventual defeat of the French emper ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 18th 2005 by Viking Adult (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,165)
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happy
I found this to be a very good general audience look at the iconic battle of the “Age of Sail”. Mr. Adkins does an excellent job of setting the strategic stage for the battle, mainly Napoleon’s impending invasion of Britain. He follows Nelson as he chases the French Admiral, Villeneuve, from Europe to the West Indies and back to Spain. He goes into the pressure Napoleon put on his navy and the lack of trust Napoleon had in the Admirals and his lack of understanding of the navy in general.

In look
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Mike
This is an excellent introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar and I am giving it 3 Stars. The battle scenes are just terrific with good "maps" of the ship positions at various times of the battle. I thoroughly appreciated the many original letters and accounts used to tell the story. The roar of cannon, the terrible damage wrought on ships and men, the confusion, the unorthodox tactics used by Nelson and many other aspects of this battle are clearly depicted. This was my first exposure to this fa ...more
Colleen
A very good book--though not "the equal of Antony Beevor's Stalingrad" as the back cover claims.

I think actually what would have improved this to a 5 star rating would be if each chapter focused on the dueling ships in the battle, which is sort of does, but not cohesively. For example, chapters or minisections on just Santa Ana vs. Royal Sovereign, Belleisle vs. Fougueux, etc. Probably more my fault, and I guess it does reflect the general pell-mell of the battle, but by skipping from action fr
...more
Ken Angle
Excellent Read! You can hear the roar of the cannon, feel the concusive forces of strikes and smell the gun powder fill the air.

October 21, 1805 "The first broadside of the Royal Sovereign against the Santa Ana put fourteen guns of the Spanish ship out of action and killed or wounded many of the crew. The broadside had sent over one hundred cannon-balls plus grape shot and nearly 1 1/2 ton of scorching hot iron- ripping its way the whole length of the gun decks of the Santa Ana."

The statistics o
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Steven Peterson
Roy Adkins' book, "Nelson's Trafalgar," is a detailed well rendered version of the great sea battle that doomed any chance for Napoleon to claim control over the seas and invade Britain.

The book is a blow by blow account of the planning for the battle and how the plans for each fleet--the English fleet and the Combined fleet of France and Spain--were implemented. Nelson's battle plan was to break the line of ships organized by the French commanding admiral, Villeneuve. The French admiral wanted
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Matti Karjalainen
Roy Adkinsin "Trafalgar: The Biography of a Battle" (Abacus, 2005) on kiinnostava tietokirja lokakuussa 1805 käydystä Trafalgarin taistelusta, jossa Nelsonin johtamat britit antoivat pataan ranskalais-espanjalaiselle laivastolle. Se oli myös viimeinen suuri meritaistelu purjelaivojen aikakaudella.

Adkins käsittelee paitsi itse sotatoimia, myös ylipäätään elämää laivastossa 1800-luvun alkupuolella. Lukijalle tarjoillaan niin tanakka historiallinen katsaus aiheeseen kuin paljon kiinnostavia anekdoo
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Carrie
A highly detailed account of the battle, but one that was very good at giving the greater context -- the life of Nelson, what happened to many of the major figures. And the details of ships of the line in Nelson's navy -- it all flowed very nicely.

If I have one ding for the book, it's that while the lives of many of the major players were detailed, and even the service of HMS Implacable through World War II, and eventual struggle to scuttle her. But nothing on the story of the HMS Victory, easil
...more
Linda
This was a superb book, a biography of a famous battle, the story of the men (and women) who fought it and their ships. Adkins effectively weaves personal accounts of the battle with historical analysis as well as his own insights.

Ordinarily I don't like to read books of military strategy but Nelson's Trafalgar is so much more than that. It's the telling detail that bring it to life, the individual accounts and the author's knowledge of life aboard a ship-of-the-line.

If I were to only ever rea
...more
Jeff
Very interesting description of the the role and living conditions of the sailors as well as the conditions of the ships. I wish he would have cut down on the number of straight quotations during the description of the battle, but it was a very interesting book overall. This was a great shot of reality after having been tainted by the fake Hollywood sea fights. A very fun read after visiting London last year; Nelson's column was my favorite sight.
Al
An excellent recounting of the battle which had such a tremendous impact upon world history which includes an in-depth portrait of Lord Nelson whose death made the triumph so bittersweet to the British. The author relies upon a tremendous volume of eyewitness accounts from the actual officers and seamen who fought the battle for the British as well as French and Spanish forces.
John
Bought this after reading the review by Squirrel.

It's excellent... maybe even better than Sqirrel claimed.

As the man said... it read so well that it was like a historical fiction, rather than a historcal account.

I am lost to find the right superlatives... try this book... it's well worth it.
Cole Schoolland
One of the most fascinating history books I have ever read. Not only a play by play of the battle and its consequences, but an incredibly detailed look at the life aboard a man-o-war. Very entertaining and easy to read. Anyone could pick this up and enjoy it.
Tattered Cover Book Store
Well written and lively account of a truly epic moment in history.

Ryan

Ben Rothman
The REAL "Master and Commander."
Reuben
Good. Well written. Not the "equal of Stalingrad" as depicted on the cover but the book has similarities in structure and tone. The book was well researched and as their seems to be a limited amount of source material directly related to the battle (a lot of similar material is sourced to describe a ship during a battle) what does exist is thoroughly plumbed.

What some have noted as a strength of the book, the consistent use of direct quotation by sources, comes across as a severe liability to me
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Mark Muckerman
Everyone has heard of (or should have heard of) "Nelson" and "Trafalgar", but unsurprisingly, in the two centuries since the last great battle of sailing ships, very few outside of Britain truly know the story. Well-researched, Adkins does a fine job narrating the history into a compelling story, while effectviely interweaving actual accounts and documented tellings of the facts from participants.

Providing an hour by hour narration, Nelson's Trafalgar takes readers from the first hour of battle,
...more
travis rigg
This book varies in quality from being extremely interesting to be excruciatingly dull. Roy Atkins is at his best when he trusts his own writing and voice, and doesn't spend an entire chapter providing letters in full. All and all I liked this book, but then I love reading about the age of sail, and also about just boats in general. If you're not someone who is amped to hear about how a sailor has to hoist his dining table into the ceiling of his lower deck living space, this probably isn't for ...more
Saint No Stopping Us

Six out of ten.

A complete description of the events surrounding the Battle of Trafalgar from the British, French and Spanish perspectives interwoven with descriptions of all aspects of life in the navy - food, clothing, artillery etc. It also goes on to describe the events after the battle, including the news reaching various parts of the world, and the mixed reception in England: joy at the victory and grief at the loss of Nelson.

Extremely interesting.

Vince
I really enjoyed the first half of this, which taught me a ton about the political and military events that led up to the Battle. I also learned a bunch about life aboard a fighting ship back then... unhappy times, it seems, but in many ways no more miserable than being ashore. The author also talks a lot about the differences between the readiness of the British and French/Spanish crew and officers. The British had a ton of advantages going in, although they were outnumbered and outgunned on pa ...more
Luann
I found the book to be extremely interesting and hard to put down. The writing of Roy Adkins shows attention to detail through extensive research. I would highly recommend the book.
John Williams
A great change from war on land. The author does a great job in putting the reader aboard ship for the grueling life of a sailor during the time of the tall ships.
Arthur Fellows
I've read this multiple times and loved it each time. Very good portrayal of both the battle as well as the lives of those involved. Can't recommend this enough
Roger Livesey
A marvelous depiction of one of the most pivotal battles in naval history. I found the text engrossing and immensely readable, and provided so much substance in facts that it never became too academic to become boring. Adkins should be lauded for his excellent writing and organization of his account. The first-hand accounts written by officers, sailors, etc. never deterred from the reading. A wonderful book, I would highly recommend this to anyone that is interested in naval affairs after having ...more
Tom Darrow
One of the types of history books that I love to read. It's accurate, well-researched history but written like a novel. Adkins is meticulous about finding primary sources on both sides of the battle and spends enough time describing the basics of naval warfare to help a beginner understand, but not so much as to bog down the pace of the story. He also does a good job as placing this battle in the greater context of the war itself and describes, in detail, the storm that nearly destroyed the Brit ...more
Kristen
A very thorough account of one of the most significant naval battles of the 19th century. Since the battle was so important, there were a lot of contemporary accounts of it written by the participants. Adkins paints a vivid picture of the battle and weaves these accounts into his own narrative.
Michael Thimsen
This was a wonderful history. Not only does the author expertly describe the tactical decisions that won the day for England but he digs deeper to give the reader a true sense of what it must have been like to be a common sailor, giving all for king and country.
Keith
I'm picky with my history books as I don't really have the staying power to get through the drier ones but Trafalgar went by in a flash. Adkins' has superbly woven together naval fact, insight and impeccably researched eye witness statements to build a book that kept me going until the end. There's a fine balance at work here between bloody, chaotic battle on a large scale and deeply moving glimpses of humanity, kindness and bravery.

No matter the level of knowledge on the Napoleonic Wars, Nelson
...more
Simon
A good narrative which brings to life the horror and humanity accompanying naval warfare of the period.
Emily
I have always been interested in British frigets and sea faring books. I am still reading this book it is very interesting. But it is very detailed and so that is what is taking along time to read. But I am still enjoying it. I am now on chapter 5 and there are 15 in all.
I am almost finished with this book. It is very well done. But you do need to know the lay out of England and the area called Cornwall to get an idea of what all went on. I finished this book finely. I enjoyed it.
Mark
I selected this book wanting to learn more about Lord Nelson, and being interested in naval history, the Battle of Trafalgar. As other reviews show, I got a lot more than I bargained for - in a very good way. Adkins provides a detailed and often grisly look at the battle, the events leading up to it and the men (and women) who fought.

After reading this I'll never look at a sailing ship the same way again.
Very well written, recommended for anyone interested in naval history.
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Roy Adkins is a historian and archaeologist. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London.
More about Roy A. Adkins...
Jane Austen's England The War for All the Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy The Little Book Of Egyptian Hieroglyphs The Handbook Of British Archaeology

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