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Book Review, NRJ 65.4

November 20, 2020 12:31 PM | David Eddy

Feeding Nelson’s Navy: The true Story of `Food at Sea in the Georgian Era

Janet Macdonald

It is good to see that this fine book has been reissued and is again available. The subject is far more interesting than its bare title suggests, and the author Janet Macdonald writes in an engaging and very readable style.

As she points out, the ‘horror story’ of ships’ crews subsisting usually and continually on just rotten meat and weevilly biscuits cannot have been the accepted norm in the navies of old; a ship’s equipment and its armament were worked exclusively by muscle-power, for which regular intakes of calories for energy were needed as well as physical health. In the navy, food was at least plentiful, nourishing and served regularly, more so than could be said for that available to many categories of workers ashore. The whole story of what the foods were, how they were supplied, how the men and the officers ate, diet in health and sickness and how other navies than the British Royal Navy ate are covered in lively fashion. For any still intrigued to investigate further, an appendix of sea recipes for food and drink closes the book, from ship’s biscuit and salt beef through sea pie and lobscouse to rum punch.

An immense amount of research has gone into this work and the result is an account that is both entertaining and very informative to all who have an interest in the ships and seafaring of past eras.

  • London: Frontline Books, 2020
  • 6” x 9”, softcover, 224 pages
  • Illustrations, bibliography, index. $24.95
  • ISBN: 9781848327474

Reviewed by Roger Marsh, Killaloe, Co. Clare, Ireland

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