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Nelson's Trafalgar : The Battle That Changed the World

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  746 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Unmarked book with light wear
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published August 18th 2005 by Viking Penguin (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-military
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
Feb 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: napoleon, history
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
Ken Angle
Jul 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
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
Steven Peterson
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent discussion of everything related to the battle and Lord Nelson: the people, the ships, the politics, the fighting. Battles fought at sea seem so horrific in our time, I suppose I can only just imagine what it was like from the description. A good read for those interested in the history of this battle and Nelson.
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
Hazel Mills
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book as it has a reference to Jane Austen's brother, Admiral Francis Austen, and just started to browse the first few pages but then could not put it down. This book is definitely not for the squeamish as some of the descriptions are quite graphic, but if you want a sense of what it was like on board the ships during this period it is absolutely necessary. The blood and gore is, however, tempered with a great deal of humour and Roy Adkins style makes history very readable. I partic ...more
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Ben Rothman
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The REAL "Master and Commander."
Tattered Cover Book Store
Well written and lively account of a truly epic moment in history.


Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very good read. This author provided excellent background on the period leading up to the great sea battle and on the conditions aboard fighting ships in the age of sail. Descriptions of the battle and of the terrific storm that roared through the ragged battle-torn fleet in the following days are as detailed as any found in the Patrick O'Brian or Hornblower series of stories and are supported by many detailed eyewitness accounts by English, Spanish and French officers and seamen from many of ...more
Jared Ure
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nelson's Trafalgar does what good history novels do: it identifies a (often obscure) historical event, piques your interest, and shows you its significance in context and in retrospect. I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of relevant detail, and tangential trivia that the author employed in telling the story, and I recommend the book to anyone interested in the world often forgotten between America's war for independence and the war of 1812.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had to read this in a university history course. To be honest I can't remember much clearly, but I did enjoy it. I enjoy reading about the age of sail and this filled that perfectly. The loss of a star is mainly as I was forced to read it.
Jacob Stevens
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is an absolutely delightful introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar, and a thorough treatment of life in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Era. I was so thoroughly fascinated by the subject matter and the minute-by-minute account of the battle, I could hardly put the book down.
Richard Barnes
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping stuff from start to finish. Adkins provides all of the background and potted biographies of the major players, and then tracks the action of the battle itself with great clarity.

What really brings the book to life is the testimony of so many of the battle's survivors which bring the action to more personal life than a dry account of the events.

May 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-read
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
This is a vivid, robust account of the battle, the build-up to it, and its aftermath and legacy.

True to form, Adkins uses lots of existing eyewitness accounts from all sides to tell the story, allowing us to see it through the eyes of those who were there. For getting a taste of how the battle was experienced, this is a great source. Adkins also gives a solid overview of the political and strategic context of the Trafalgar campaign, and of the dispositions of the opposing fleets. As well as sor
Mark Muckerman
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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,
Jul 07, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A superb book. It not only details the battle itself quite thoroughly, but also what the sailors, the captains, Nelson and everyone involved in it had to deal with before, during, after, and even, for those that survived, the end of their lives.

Every detail is worth noticing, and for me most gratifying was to read that one of my countrymen, a brazilian, was a crew member in no other ship but the HMS Victory at Trafalgar! Why was he there? what was his life story? was he press ganged? etc etc.. S
Martin Mostek
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written account about crucial naval battle. Accessible, using lots of contemporary account of admirals, officers and sailors involved in last great battle of sailing-ship era. As maybe could be expected from Adkins its not all naval warfare a strategy but reader learns a lot about daily-life on early 18th battle ship - or contemporary communication: when it comes to how long and complicated task it was to deliver despatches from sea off Cap Trafalgar to England. When you want to learn how B ...more
Bill Taylor
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Thorough and detailed account of the famous sea battle of Oct 21, 1805. The author relies on many eyewitness accounts to explain all aspects of this bloody engagement -- the preparation, the confusing fight itself, and the aftermath to include the mourning in England over the death of Nelson. Particular strengths of this book are its very precise descriptions of all aspects of life in the British navy of that period (for both officers and enlisted) as well as the shipboard armaments and methods ...more
Tom Darrow
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Roger Livesey
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
travis rigg
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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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...

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