- Mark Jessop
- ARRSE Rating
- 3 Mushroom Heads
I have a problem with the presentation. In order to tell his story Jessop invents anonymous fictional characters to whom are ascribed actions and thoughts which are used to illuminate and link the narrative. I found this intrusive and unwelcome; sometimes the boundary between fiction and fact seemed somewhat blurred. This is such a pity because Jessop's analysis and grasp of detail is absolutely excellent.
Removing these passengers might have made room for some of the footnote material (not the direct source citations) to find its place in the main text - but it was a relief, for once, not to have to run a second marker at the back of the book for extraneous titbits. The bibliography is extensive, the eleven black and white illustrations I thought well-chosen, and the ten maps are well conceived.
Jessop's subtitle is 'The Birth of a Superpower'. His theme is that it was in this particular period that Britain emerged as a superpower. I'm not sure that the case is made. There had been two competing powers in the previous two centuries, Spain and France, and the Royal Navy had put both back in their box in several wars before this one. We did not emerge totally victorious and triumphant until 1815 brought us the Pax Britannica, dearly bought on our bloodstained gundecks, by when we had wiped the deck with all competitors. The process of getting there can be traced back to Drake, who and whose successors imbued the Royal Navy with the necessary belief that victory was ours by right. I think Jessop's claim over-eggs the cake, which is a pity as his story happily stands alone as valuable naval history without that gloss.
My criticisms apart, the book is still a welcome addition to my naval history library.