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Book Review, NRJ 58.3

August 15, 2013 12:00 PM | David Eddy

Able Seamen: The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy 1850-1939

Brian Lavery

As in the two other volumes of this series, Lavery frames his work chronologically with care to address the historical processes of the time. His section on World War II, for example, details the training of recruits and the changing structure of the navy but is not centered on the great battles or engagements of this epic “people’s war.” This book is not a standard treatment of the British navy in war and peace. Other works will offer this perspective. Of course, Lavery does address conflict in Palestine, the Cold War, the Falklands, the Gulf Wars as well as terrorism and piracy. But these important engagements and issues provide the structure and not the content of his work.

Earlier in this review I suggested that these books would be welcomed by both general readers and scholars alike. They can be read from cover to cover or used as a reference to provide details of naval life during a particular period or to understand changes in the navy from its uniforms to ranks. More important are the extensive glossaries and bibliographies provided with each book. Both advanced scholars and general readers will benefit from his extensive lists of naval histories, memoirs, biographies, manuscripts, annuals, official publications, newspapers and even television series. These and other important sources will help guide future students of maritime and naval history to build on Lavery’s important work.

  • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011
  • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 352 pages
  • Illustrations, diagrams, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $41.95
  • ISBN: 9781844861408

Reviewed by Donald S. Parkerson, East Carolina University

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