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Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail

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Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the perilous Age of Sail

by Mike Rendell

Pen & Sword Books, 2019

142 pages, 16cm * 24cm

 

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This is an  enjoyable historical retelling of what would have been some of the headline news (for weeks – if it had had such coverage) items over the Georgian period. The author covers some widely differing disasters that can be grouped into three sections – castaways that could have influenced the writing of Robinson Crusoe (and the authors fascinating life), enormous storms and the damage caused and finally single ship disasters of varying natures. The Bounty Mutiny is also included but this strangely seems a unusual side-line perhaps included just because of its modern day fame. I was pleased to note that the author follows the current historical interpretation of those events (as best covered  by Caroline Alexander) and not the more populist view. That was the one event that seemed out of place though it might be due to the huge amount of popular research already existing on that specifically.

 

His style is very readable and reminded me (at least) of the military historian Gordon Corrigan in that there is a certain degree of humorous asides with regard to some of the people/events contained within though never to any extent to undermine the conscientious telling of some fascinating tales.

 

Most of the accounts relate to Georgians in the 17th century so mainly British ( though a large portion involve people living in what would become the U.S ). Some Dutch and French events are referenced in equal detail with one of the Dutch in particular being particularly shocking.

 

It is not a huge book but is nicely presented with decent quality paper (a pet peeve of mine on some prints) so it makes a pleasant light read and the author shows considerable mastery of his obvious interests. I found it both fascinating and readable any would recommend it to anyone with an interest in some of the more common disasters that could affect seafarers in those far off times.

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