The best books about the British Royal Navy 📚

Browse the best books on the British Royal Navy as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Female Tars: Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail

Female Tars: Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail

By Suzanne J Stark

Why this book?

This was the first nonfiction book I read that fired up my interest and started my research for my own historical novel. Stark gives a picture of the females to be found aboard ships in the British Royal Navy, most of whom were not posing as men but were wives of warrant officers. One chapter is devoted to women in disguise in naval crews. The last chapter is devoted to the crossdresser Mary Lacy, who passed as William Chandler, and worked as a shipwright. With illustrations and endnotes, Female Tars sheds light on the women who are seldom mentioned…

From the list:

The best books about 18th & 19th century crossdressers

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Book cover of London and the Georgian Navy

London and the Georgian Navy

By Philip MacDougall

Why this book?

This book focuses on the myriad ways in which Georgian London and the Royal Navy were intertwined. Thousands of Londoners contributed to work that helped to keep the navy at sea; all understood that the navy protected maritime trade, on which London’s prosperity depended. MacDougall looks at bureaucratic links between the navy and the City, and at the practical business of supplying the fleet; he explores key geographical locations in detail and uncovers colourful personalities.

From the list:

The best books on maritime London

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Book cover of James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition

James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition

By William Battersby

Why this book?

Although James Fitzjames left many letters little was known about his early childhood and family background until Battersby researched this biography. Fitzjames was a charismatic personality who won awards for bravely, led an expedition to survey a route through the Middle East and fought in China in the Opium War. He seemed destined for great things in the British Navy, but through it all he hid a dark secret about his parentage. Fitzjames’ letters are filled with humour, lively anecdotes and character sketches of his fellow officers. They inspired the novel, North with Franklin, and this book makes an…

From the list:

The best books on the Lost Franklin Expedition

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Book cover of The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy

The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy

By N.A.M. Rodger

Why this book?

This is by far the best book on the British Navy in the Age of Sail.  Meticulously researched and written in easily accessible non-technical language, N. A. M. Rodger — the foremost authority on this subject — draws the reader into this complex world with vivid, entertaining characters and rich detail on life above and below deck. The Wooden World offers the most complete portrait of naval life in any age.  For readers hooked on Patrick O’Brian’s fabulous 21–volume “Aubrey/Maturin” series, Rodger will be an indispensable guide for understanding the Royal Navy and how it functioned, as well as how…

From the list:

The best books on 18th century mariners

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Book cover of Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck

Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck

By Ludovic Kennedy

Why this book?

The author, Ludovic Kennedy, was a very junior officer aboard one of the Royal Navy destroyers in the thick of the hunt for Bismarck, which lends a palpable “I was there” immediacy to his account of one of the most dramatic episodes in the naval war on the North Atlantic in World War II.  His presentation is well-balanced, and his writing style makes for an easy but thoroughly engaging read, while the vignettes of shipboard life and the naval service, in general, are by turns fascinating, gripping, and sometimes tragic.

From the list:

The best books about naval battles in the Second World War

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Book cover of Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

By Gareth Glover

Why this book?

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy was the largest employer in the world. It maintained a fleet of close on 1,000 ships, including over 100 line-of-battle ships, and was responsible for the entire organisation of maintaining them at sea. Through his evocative selection of 100 objects Glover takes you back in time to share his admiration for a golden age when Britain ruled the seas.

From the list:

The best books to understand the Age of Sail

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