The triumphant story of the last and greatest war under sail, an intimate history of the turbulent decades of global conflict that embraced the passage from one century to another.
Following the acclaimed Frontiers, Noel Mostert's new book chronicles the first true 'world war'. In February 1793 France declared war on Britain and Holland. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars that raged for the next twenty-two years saw European powers manoeuvring for mercantile and political advantage, in a complex and ever-changing web of alliances and coalitions. By 1815 the world was a different place, age-old certainties were shattered, established dynasties and kingdoms overthrown, the United States had been established as a world power and a new age was dawning.
This was to be the longest, hardest, and cruellest war ever fought at sea -- on a scale comparable only with the Second World War. Methods of battle under sail, little altered for centuries, would be forced to change and develop at an unprecedented pace that brought with it the fearsome power of rockets, torpedoes and submarines. While the war on land saw the rise of the greatest soldier the world had known -- Napoleon Bonaparte -- the war at sea had the unprecedented genius of Horatio Nelson. Mostert writes with intriguing insight about the parallels between the two historic figures.
'The Line Upon a Wind' is also the story of the daily lives of the sailors on board the fighting ships, the blood and guts ferocity of engagement in an age of gentility, the struggles of the ships' surgeons to repair broken bodies and the daily efforts to keep the men fed, watered and free of disease. There are heroes and villains here, captains so harsh that crews were goaded to mutiny and those whose concern for the welfare of their crews changed life at sea forever. We see the awful power of the press gang and first-hand accounts of desertion and treachery. It is a story of ordinary men and extraordinary bravery, the building and navigation of fearsome ships of war and of a period of tumultuous conflict, change and innovation.
The Great War, as it was known to contemporaries, spanned generations and continents. In 'The Line Upon a Wind', Noel Mostert has achieved a work of unparalleled research, rousing descriptions and illuminating analysis -- maritime history at its very best.