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The War for All the Oceans: From Nelson at the Nile to Napoleon at Waterloo

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  229 ratings  ·  33 reviews
A brutal, action-packed account of the sea battles of the Napoleonic War by the author of the bestselling Nelson's Trafalgar

Roy Adkins (with his wife Lesley) returns to the Napoleonic War in The War for All the Oceans, a gripping account of the naval struggle that lasted from 1798 to 1815, a period marked at the beginning by Napoleon's seizing power and at the end by the W
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published August 16th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published 2006)
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The War for All the Oceans covers all major, and some less well known, naval actions from the latter part of the revolutionary war, to the end of the Napoleonic. As is always the case with the Adkins's work, it is meticulously researched, well presented and very hard to put down.

Although it is crammed full with information, and could certainly be used as one, I consider this more than just a reference book: the term conjurers up lists of details and dates that can make for dry, academic reading.
Gary Brecht
Essentially a chronicling of the major sea battles fought by the British navy during the years England contested Napoleon’s dream of world conquest, this book makes a perfect compliment to Patrick O’Brien’s historical fiction on the same subject. The central theme of this historical account is that the British navy, through discipline, technology, and strategic persistence combined with the superior leadership of its naval commanders, managed to thwart Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambition to rule the w ...more
Christopher H.
May 03, 2010 Christopher H. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Christopher by:
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Having said that though, it was not nearly as good as I had hoped. The Adkins have done a terrific job of collecting and organizing all of the personal vignettes and anecdotes associated with the Royal Navy's 20+ years of naval warfare with France and its allies during the Napoleonic wars. I think I might have liked a bit more of the strategy and tactics associated with the major fleet actions; and I think the book was badly served by leaving out a more detailed ...more
Having read dozens of overlapping, related historical fiction that exploits the Napoleonic era -- specifically O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series (covering the British Navy) and Cornwell's Sharpe's series (covering the British Army) -- it was quite interesting to read an organized, chronological work spanning the same period. Overall, the length of this one wore me down, but it's probably worth it. In the same genre, but a much earlier time period, I definitely preferred Crowley's Empires of the Se ...more
I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I came back to it to read again. The use of documentary sources is exemplary and brings alive the descriptions so that you really get a sense of what it must have been like to be a prisoner in Napoleonic France, for example.

Tom Schulte
This book treat's Napoleon's career as parallel to and spurring on a global war largely sustained by continuous naval action. Bookending this compelling narrative that includes the War of 1812 and the capture of the U.S. Capitol, is the really thrilling life story of Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith. It is of this British naval officer of whom Napoleon Bonaparte, reminiscing later in his life, said: "That man made me miss my destiny". Escaping French imprisonment with the help of royalists, dest ...more
An engaging and thoroughly fascinating read. The numerous excerpts from private journals, official reports, newspapers, and so on from all sorts from common seaman up to Sir Sidney Smith himself make it much more personal. If you are looking for a strictly military strategical history of this period, this is not the book you want for while it deals with various engagements both big and small, it has a broader scope and tells a more general tale. If you have some background already in the time pe ...more
Lindsey Brooks
An enjoyable and well-paced read telling the story of the major sea battles of the period and a good number of lesser known actions, largely through the writings of those who participated in them or were eye-witnesses. The authors add the background details and the analysis that seeing things from a greater distance in time allows, with illustrations and maps to help the reader understand what was going on. It is bound to interest any enthusiast of the history of the Napoleonic War (the Great Wa ...more
Michael M
The Royal Navy at its apogee in the age of fighting sail during the Napoleonic Wars.

So the RN took on and defeated the combined French and Spanish Fleets at Trafalgar and then nothing happened at sea for the next 10 years. Don't you believe it. This book is an excellent read covering all aspects of the war (the section on Trafalgar is very short in itself) as well as some of the land engagements (particularly the War of 1812 against the USA). It encompasses the living conditions of the sailors b
A very entertaining light read about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Written in a very readable narrative style, it's low on details but provides one riveting account after another. This book isn't really intended as a full history of the Royal Navy's activities, but as a highlight of noteworthy episodes throughout the war - both the widely-known and the more mundane, yet fascinating. If you're new to the subject matter, chances are that this book will serve as an excellent example of ...more
Lauren Albert
While I don't generally enjoy military histories, the Adkins did a pretty good job of engaging me. They show not only the victories and defeats of the British navy, but explain how and why they happened. Cultural issues like communication along lines of command were essential to British success and made the topic more interesting to me than straight battle scenes would have.
Detailed history of the men and battles of the British Navy around the turn of the 19th Century. I found the book too long, overly ambitious and filled with unnecessary accounts of minor individuals and details. True, Lord Nelson and Napoleon are featured, but so are a litany of minor figures from the times who you've probably never heard of before, and are unlikely to hear of again. If you're a true student of British Naval affairs, this is probably a good choice for you. If you're interested i ...more
For me, David McCullough has raised the bar on historical books, and since I read his John Adams, I judge history books differently. I expect them to flow, and tell a story, and not just be a collection of quotes from various sources, strung together. Unfortunately, the latter is what this book is.

It felt like it took forever to finish, and there is no sense of proportion, of what events had the greatest impact on the war, and on Britain's future naval supremacy and empire. If you haven't read
Manuel Calero
After reading books by authors keen on details highly relevant to the subject of their books, like Shelby Foote or Doris Kearns Goodwin, this book proved to be lacking the depth I was expecting implied by its title. Sections about the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo take but a few pages. Significantly more content is dedicated to prostitutes, life as a sailor, and being abandoned on a desolate island.
A lively, pacy and, strangely, often moving narrative of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. The stand out device is the host of snippets cut from biographies, diaries and articles of the time from ordinary sailors and officers alike. The final chapter in particular provides a fitting ending, as am escapee from a French prison returns to the continent to seek out the woman who expedited his escape.

Recommended for anyone interested even a little bit in the era, although don't expect details o
Scott Nuttelman
I would have rated it higher but was disappointed by the very cursory treatment of the battle of Trafalgar, which was one of, if not the, crucial sea battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The author simply refers you to another book dealing entirely with that battle. Also, while I generally liked the eye witness accounts interspersed throughout the book, sometimes there were so many that the narrative doesn't flow very well. All that being said, the book is well worth reading for anyone interested in n ...more
Gary Bacchus
Looked good based on some of his other works.

---EDIT 20 Oct 2010---

It took a while, but I completed this. The level of detail was quite good. It recounts tales of major historical events from a ground's eye view as opposed to the detached overview history books are wont to give. It was a good recount of naval (and quasi-naval) engagements through the Napoleonic era.

I wouldn't suggest this as a first work in this particular vein. But, it is good for fans of this particular era and facet of histor
Adam Robinson
I'm a fan of history books. But this one was only so so. While there's a loose narrative following the Napoleonic wars, the author doesn't do a great job of really showing you that structure. And then major battles such as Trafalgar get a couple pages while other lesser battles get a chapter's treatment. Perhaps he thought that battle had already been written about? Unfortunately I haven't read those so this was disappointing. I got through it but this was less than what I was hoping for.
I authors of this book,although they have gallons of evidnece write so dissrently from the style of their primary sources that I got thrown out of the text every time it switched between primary source and text.
This was unfortunate, because I am really interested in the topic.
The idea that the battle of Trafalgar merits two paragraphs, and a bunch of eulogies to Nelson is silly... but other than that, riveting account of POW escapes, high seas battles, and the origin of "A wife in every port", make this well worth reading.
Christina Dudley
The length of time I worked on this book should not reflect on how interesting and sometimes thrilling I found it. If you love the Napoleonic Era and the Royal Navy or even Horatio Hornblower, give this exhaustive history a go.
Grandpa Ellsworth
The Napoleonic Wars, with a dash of the War of 1812 thrown in, from the perspective of sea power and the Brittish navy. I liked the detail of the lives of people involved, both the rich, famous and titled, and the common folk.
Nick Caporale
Apr 24, 2013 Nick Caporale rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Joe Caporale
I enjoy reading history and I particularly liked this book as it contained much anecdotal information gathered from the sailors' and commanders' diaries and letters.
Rasmus Mencke
very long book about the wars on the oceans between Napoleon and Nelson, if you like history this is a good read. Except the part where the British bomb Copenhagen..
Excellent and very readable account of life and war at sea in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.
Sep 06, 2009 David marked it as to-read
"very readable" -- Financial Times; "...will go down well with Master and Commander fans" -- Daily Telegraph
Great book on naval history during the Napoleon era. Fast moving and engaging, highly recommended.
Way too long and too much detail for many of the minor events. Some interesting trivia though.
A good telling of a rollicking good story. The characters are amazing
An enjoyable book that focuses on the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.
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This book is duplicated 1 2 Jul 07, 2012 02:58AM  
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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 Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World Jack Tar: Life in Nelson's Navy The Little Book Of Egyptian Hieroglyphs The Handbook Of British Archaeology

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