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Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  439 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Under the Black Flag, comes the definitive biography of the swashbuckling 19th century maritime hero upon whom Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower are based.

Nicknamed le loup des mers ("the sea wolf") by Napoleon, Thomas Cochrane was one of the most daring and successful naval heroes of all time. In this fascinating account of Cochrane's life,
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published July 1st 2004)
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Six Frigates by Ian W. TollIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickThe Pirate Coast by Richard ZacksLongitude by Dava SobelTwo Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Age of Sail Nonfiction
11th out of 125 books — 35 voters
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Naval Fiction
28th out of 54 books — 13 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,041)
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Dana Stabenow
Dec 18, 2010 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
Chances are you've already heard of Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, even Frank Mildmay. But how about Thomas Cochrane, the real life British naval officer upon whose life and career all of these fictional characters are at least in part based?

That's what I thought. Don't worry, David Cordingly's Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander has got you covered.

The best biographies illuminate not only their title character but the time and place in which that character lives, and this book does that i
David Campton
Apr 05, 2013 David Campton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
A biography of a naval figure overshadowed by better known contemporaries such as Nelson and Collingwood, at least here in the UK, but who was reputedly one of the inspirations for Hornblower and Aubrey. It reads as well as a Hornblower story and reveals a complex character who was both bold in battle and unusually careful for the lives of those under his command, despite a seemingly haughty demeanour. He was also somewhat paranoid (though perhaps with some cause) and had an obsession with money ...more
Le Loup des Mers deserves a better bio

I picked this book up on a whim, having recently become interested in the Napoleonic Wars but finding little else on the subject that I could check out from my county’s e-library. Furthermore, I have the first of Patrick O’Brian Aubrey–Maturin books on hold, so it seemed the perfect time to read about the man whom O’Brian’s stalwart fictional hero is modelled on, or as the subtitle tantalizes, “The Real Master and Commander.”

Alas, Cordingly is no O’Brian a
Monthly Book Group
Cochrane was a Scot who had led a quite remarkable life. He had fought highly dramatic battles in Napoleonic times, becoming much celebrated, but had also been accused of conspiracy and fraud. He had recovered to have a whole new and highly celebrated naval career in South America. His life was so exciting that he was the inspiration for much naval fiction, including the work of Captain Marryat who served under him, C.S.Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, and more recently Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubr ...more
Gilly McGillicuddy
Oct 29, 2008 Gilly McGillicuddy rated it it was amazing
As per usual, just copypasta from what I wrote in my LJ when I was reading it. Why yes, I am a Patrick O'Brian fan, why do you ask?


I'm trying to figure out just how much Jack and Cochrane's pre-commander careers overlapped. Both were lieutenants on the Resolution! The Reso, the good old Reso. Only for Jack it was at least his second time aboard her. And I love the little anecdote about the first lieutenant sawing his sea chest in half because it was too big to fit. AHAHA. Pwned.


Apr 22, 2009 Krista rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book to learn more about the remarkable man whose life provided the raw material for the tales of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. Cordingly's excellent historical biography deserves to be read on its own merits.

Lord Thomas Cochrane executed such stunningly audacious feats - successfully attacking much larger ships with his small sloop Speedy, leading an attack of fireships on the French fleet at Basque Roads, and helping Chile and Brazil establish their independence -
An interesting and well-written exploration of a relatively unknown figure, who nevertheless took part in or witnessed some major events of the 19th century. Cordingly, well-known for writing about pirates, reveals a polarising naval officer whose pride and unpopular political beliefs led him from command of his own ship and a position in Westminster to financial ruin and self-imposed exile in South America. The author carefully avoids taking sides in some of the more controversial elements of C ...more
Caleb Swaner
Jun 09, 2014 Caleb Swaner rated it really liked it
A solid, overall enjoyable biography of an astounding man.

Having read Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, it's strange to see that all the things and events that made 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey a great fictional character, are simply biographical for Thomas Cochrane.

I give it 4/5 stars because I think the author spoils (as much as a historical record can be) the naturally building drama of many of the events by telling you how it turns out before describing the action. I also felt his retelling of
Jan 20, 2011 Meg rated it it was amazing
If you enjoyed Master and Commander, or even just enjoy the stories of the British at sea during the peak of their empire, this is a great book for you. Few people know about Thomas Cochrane, whose life was the basis for the movie Master and Commander. Instead of being Crowe-esque, however, Cochrane was a giant ginger who worked his way as a midshipman - all while learning to scrub decks unlike most officers - to becoming one of the most revered captains of his day and to the downfall that follo ...more
Walter Dean
Dec 17, 2015 Walter Dean rated it it was ok
Certainly little doubt can remain that O'Brien drank from Cochrane's biography in deep quaffs to weave his tales of Aubrey and Maturin. Unfortunately, Cordingly's premise is established by dragging the reader through a narrative so academic, so lacking in romance, so devoid of ambiance, one is reminded why so many of us were ruined on the subject of history from the time of grade school.
Jun 02, 2016 Randy rated it really liked it
Terrific biography of the little known navel hero who was the model for Patrick O'Brian to base Captain Jack Aubrey upon.

Casey Mahon
Nov 15, 2015 Casey Mahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished listening to the audiobook Cochrane by David Cordingly, read by John Lee. Good book, it was more like a nautical adventure novel than a biography; helped by Admiral Cochrane's adventurous life and the narrator's use of accents to highlight the personal quotations. There are many life lessons to be learned from Cochrane's story, some good, others not so much. The biggest is the importance of perseverance. Whether it was a short sea battle or a decades long legal fight, he never gave ...more
James F.
Feb 19, 2016 James F. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fanatic for biographies based on in-depth and comprehensive research, this book will fulfill your greatest expectations. If you are strictly a fiction-lover, this book might be too dry and boring for you.

I was entertained as much by the extensive notes which just precede the index of this history as I was by the narrative created by the author, David Cordingly. In addition, I found that the plates added a visual touch that was instructive.

Michael Thompson
Jun 02, 2015 Michael Thompson rated it liked it
I read this after finishing all of the, "Master & Commander" series. Who knew the main character in the fictional series did as much crazy stuff in a real-life person? He led one very interesting life. Cochrane was one very ballsy/lucky S.O.B. when it came to military matters and a naive babe in the woods when it came to money. The man also had an appetite for beautiful women, no matter how powerful their husbands were. You gotta love this guy.
Jason , etc.
Jan 04, 2010 Jason , etc. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's always fascinating to read biographies of individuals whose real-life exploits are so clearly the inspiration for fictional masterpieces. Lord Cochrane's life in both the British navy and his 'freelance' efforts in South America make for great reading (or listening in this case). What gives the book additional depth is the time spent detailing Cochrane's battle with personal and professional demons. It's a compelling story largely due to how, having fallen from grace through (debatably) no ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Audreyg rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! Exciting read about a man I've never heard of until now. Can definitely see from where O'Brian got a little of his material for Aubrey/Maturin.
Bas Kreuger
Feb 10, 2012 Bas Kreuger rated it liked it
Nice book on the life of Lord Cochrane, a naval hero in the wars against Napoleon and the South-American wars of liberation in the 1820's.
Well researched and written, it is a bit dry here and there, the extraordinary exploits of Cochrane not withstanding.
Not only gives it an very good example of a most humane commander, it also paints a picture of the social, economic and political life of the nobility in the late 18th and early 19th century. Cochrane is an example how the mighty can fall (and r
Simon Persico
Mar 06, 2016 Simon Persico rated it liked it
This is what happens when you spend too much time on the Kindle Store's "Books on Sale". Well-written I guess. But I'm still asking myself why I invested time into this book.
Mar 04, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it
This is a good book. It takes one back to the final days of the glorious age of sail. It tells the story of a man who accomplished much in his life. A man that while often larger than life, had an all to recognizable human side. It conveyed to me what can be achieved by taking a few risks in life. While often times these proved to be Cochrane's downfall, they no doubt convey the nature of why he is remembered so many years later. I recommend this book.
Lindsay Eaton
Jul 08, 2013 Lindsay Eaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book by a great author. This is the story of Lord Thomas Cochrane, later the 10th Earl of Dundonald, whose daring exploits as a naval captain during the Napoleonic Wars were the inspiration for much of the naval fiction of nineteenth and twentieth-century novelists, particularly C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey. Particularly well researched and written, this was a 'can't put down' book for me. Highly recommended
Alex Stinson
Jan 16, 2014 Alex Stinson rated it it was amazing
Great biography, and definitely does justice for the inspiration to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey Maturin series.
Mar 03, 2014 Benjamin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Politics never change.... And I want to be a Lord
Harry Lane
Dec 09, 2013 Harry Lane rated it liked it
A well written and researched biography of a little known British captain and admiral, who was also something of an inventor and political figure. Some of his seagoing exploits are quite breathtaking, and justify the subtitle to an extent. The real person, however, is a much more complex individual with some serious character flaws that adversely affected his career.
Sep 27, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, history, military
“Thomas Cochrane was born 14 December 1775. He was in good company that year. Jane Austen was born two days later at her father's rectory in Hampshire; with two brothers in the navy she would take a keen interest in naval affairs, and the life of Captain Francis Austen would cross the path of the future Captain Lord Cochrane on more than one occasion.” p12.
Feb 27, 2010 Burt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of the age of sail
Shelves: history
Lately I've been interested in reading biographies of the captains in the Royal Navy upon whom the likes of Hornblower, Bolitho, Aubrey, and Kydd were patterned after. This is the most recent. Cochrane was a very complex character. A hero among frigate captains in the Napoleonic era, he had a number of failings as a human being.
Jan (the Gryphon)
Jul 03, 2009 Jan (the Gryphon) rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jan (the Gryphon) by: Donna Jo
Shelves: biography
Thomas Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, was not the sort of man to suffer fools gladly. Therefore, he did not do as well politically as he did in command of a ship. Because of politics, he could not do well with his inventions. Yet he was a heroic figure, even in his own lifetime.

Russell Crowe did the material credit.
Patrick McFarland
Jul 19, 2013 Patrick McFarland rated it it was amazing
The fascinating story of the man behind the legend of Jack Aubrey. Cochrane was a brash, no nonsense Captain, loved by his crew but hated by his superiors. An unparalleled genius second only to Nelson in military prowess. A great story of a great man.
Nestor Jimenez
Jan 17, 2016 Nestor Jimenez rated it it was amazing
Great book! Cochrane is such a character and Mr Cordingly show us all the details of a life plenty of emotions on a period of history when many things were happening around the world and a man among them. Awesome!
Feb 28, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
Really good book. A "must read" for fans of Patrick O'Brian. Cochrane was a complex figure born of the aristocracy that spent his life crusading for liberty while trying to make a buck. Or should I say pound?
Feb 22, 2013 Tracey marked it as to-read
SDMB recco: carnivorousplant "A biography of Thomas Cochrane, Lord Dundonald, a British naval hero of the nineteenth century.
The characters Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey are based on him."
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David Cordingly is an English naval historian who is considered one of the leading authorities on pirates. He held the position of Keeper of Pictures and Head of Exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England for twelve years.

David Cordingly organised several exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum, including Captain James Cook, Navigator and The Mutiny on the Bounty. Perhap
More about David Cordingly...

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