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Greetings everyone;

 

I have just finished reading 'Kings of the Sea', by J D Davis,  and I have to say that it is a real revelation.

 

This is very well written,  and every page makes it clear that the book is the outcome of many years of patient and very thorough research.  The subject is the influence of Charles II, and his younger brother, James, on the history and development of ships and the Royal Navy. 

 

A great deal of new material is included,  and the reader discovers just how deeply Charles was involved in even the day-to-day running of the Navy,  how important it was to him (and his brother) and how little of all this has been discussed in biographies of this king.  Charles shaped both the ships of the Navy,  and the ethos of the men who crewed and directed them,  far more than he has ever been given credit for.

 

The King's (and his brother's) role in the appointment of officers,  including many warrant officers,  is shown in detail,  as is his interest in, and control over, where they should be deployed,  and the orders given to the captains. 

 

Davis also brings a new consideration to the sources for the development of the Navy at this time,  mostly Samuel Pepys,  whose diary and journal have been mined many times for information.  The author gives an example of a meeting which Pepys described briefly,  giving an impression that things happened only because of his influence.  Nearly all the time,  Pepys is the only available source for such information,  leaving little choice except to take him at his word.  However,  in this case,  Pepys' own brother was also present,  and kept his own minutes,  which show that more people were present,  that there was a prolonged and lively debate,  and that Pepys played almost no part in the proceedings.  The brother's record is included amongst the great archive of material which Pepys left to Magdalene College,  Oxford,  where it still resides.  Davis seems to have read nearly all of it,  over the years,  and demonstrates that future authors should perhaps be more critical of Pepys' memoirs than has hitherto been the case.  Which is still not to deny that Pepys also played an important part for many years.

 

This book brings something new and important to the knowledge of the Restoration period's Naval history,  and I cannot but predict that even the most widely-read and knowledgeable reader will know and understand a great deal more by the time they reach the end of this most deserving work. 

 

All the best,  and happy reading!

 

Mark P

 

 

 

 

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