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The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649
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The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660-1649 (A Naval History of Britain #1)

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  176 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Throughout the chronicle of Britain's history, one factor above all others has determined the fate of kings, the security of trade, and the integrity of the realm. Without its navy, Britain would have been a weakling among the nations of Europe, could never have built or maintained the empire, and in all likelihood would have been overrun by the armies of Napoleon and Hitl ...more
Paperback, 692 pages
Published November 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 1st 1997)
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Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is a very large book with a great deal of detail and should appeal strictly to those with a lot of time on their hands and a burning interest in the history of the British Navy.
The first part of the book up to 1509, when Henry VIII arrives, is just bits and pieces of trivia, so little is actually known. After that point quite a bit is known and most of it is a tale of gross incompetence and corruption.
The British Navy, which in this first of two volumes is really the English Navy, was mainl
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic piece of history. I'll spare you the bad nautical jokes, but Rodger does a great job of demolishing a number of myths about the Britain and how it was shaped by the sea. One might say they run aground on shoals of his erudition. (I lied) It's not a book for everyone, but if you enjoy reading about victualing, norse ship names, and Tudor ship painting practices, than there's certainly no better book than this. Rodger is fantastically learned, and the book ably shows how Britis ...more
Lauren Albert
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-british
The book was surprising to me because I hadn't realized how little of a navy they had for much of their history! For much of the time, ships were just "borrowed" from the (often merchant) owners. If they were damaged or destroyed in a battle, there was generally no compensation from the crown. There often weren't trained personel--just impressed persons and "gentlemen" to lead. The book didn't thrill me since there was (unsurprisingly) too much detail about ship building, maintenance, etc. That ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: navy
This is a magisterial work of naval history--part of a two volume set. The book begins with medieval England and ends with the English Civil War. Rodger covers technological innovation, how the navy was raised, and places naval engagement in wider historical context. In later chapters, the book addresses given periods in separate chapters on social history, administration, and operational history. The structure allows the reader to get a coherent picture of not only the Navy Royal but also the l ...more
Jon Klug
This is a great scholarly reference book for one of my research projects, but it is not for casual reading. It's dense and detailed in its examination of the naval history of Britain from 660 to 1649, including operational, administrative, and social aspects. A key theme of this book is the "slow process by which the peopled of the British Isles learnt, relearnt, or did not learn at all how to use the sea for their own defense." And this "process for learning to use the sea was not a matter of g ...more
James Spencer
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Superbly researched and densely detailed history of military use of naval vessels from the days of Alfred the Great up to the execution of Charles I. As Rodger points out, it is not really a history of the British Navy as we understand that term. Until the last half century covered by this book, there is no such thing. The "navy" consisted of privateers, commandeered merchant vessels, etc.

The first half the text(which totals only 434 pages, the other two hundred pages consisting of appendices wi
Nov 29, 2010 rated it liked it
A bit more in depth than my usual history reading. First of three(?) volumes on the British navy, including technology, social settings and administrative framework as well as actual naval operations (and each period is broken down into chapters focusing on the above).

I could imagine the book being five stars for a genuine history fanatic. But since the topic is the British navy only, this means that the casual reader (ie, me) gets a relatively large amount of detail on operations that are impor
David Cheshire
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous read. Rodger is an authoritative guide to the issues shaping the prehistory of the British navy and our commitment to becoming a naval power. His title it surely ironic, since he comprehensively destroys the image of Britain as "an island fortress". In reality, as Rodgers catalogues, frequent raids and attempted invasions made our coasts a perpetual danger not a defence. Naval power took a long time to emerge. Medieval naval warfare was ineffectual. Building a navy required hu ...more
JZ Temple
Aug 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
As the author notes, this is NOT a history of the Royal Navy. It is instead a history of naval activities by the government (or governments, at times). Interestingly the author breaks up the narrative flow to alternate chapters on operations with chapters on manpower and leadership, finances and ship design and building. It's not a casual read and there are parts which get tedious, but for someone seriously interested in the subject it does provide a very useful study. The author, a well known B ...more
Robert Hepple
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1998, The Safe Guard of the Sea is a detailed naval history of Britain for the years stated. This means that it looks at operations by Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as England for a refreshing change against a background of Viking incursions in the early years, whilst wars with France and Spain dominate the later years. The level of detail is immense, so much so that is very difficult to absorb at times, and all of this detail is properly supported by numbered citations ...more
John Knowles
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval-history
Excellent. The rise of the Anglo-Saxon state driven (in part, presumably) by need to finance defences, including naval forces, to counter Scandinavian attacks; Scandinavians in turn build up state to create navy that can overwhelm the English defences.
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting if you are into English Naval history.
Approaches the subject from very practical point of view.
Builders, material, personnel, pay rates, etc. A lot of
detail but, the author keeps it interesting.
Sep 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Both of the books by Rodger I've read clearly indicated their author's passion for the subject but, by the end, both felt like sex with the elderly: long, too much effort and oh so dry.
Aug 19, 2008 marked it as to-read
Mark Long
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, enlightening and evocative, but only for people who are really interested in maritime history.
Kevin Singh
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Oct 27, 2016
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Aug 05, 2011
David Long
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Nov 07, 2014
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Oct 15, 2016
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May 17, 2012
David Jelinek
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Feb 12, 2010
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Feb 04, 2017
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Exemplary, detailed history that busts myths, explains the unexplained and even cracks wise.
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Jul 19, 2009
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Jan 11, 2010
David Morley
rated it it was amazing
Jul 24, 2014
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Oct 07, 2015
Luke Strickland
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Jan 11, 2015
Marcus Cole
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Mar 10, 2010
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Nicholas Andrew Martin Rodger, FBA, is a historian of the British Royal Navy and Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.
More about Nicholas A.M. Rodger

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