Britain and the Ocean Road: Shipwrecks and People, 1297-1825

Written by Ian Friel
Review by Edward James

This is not a maritime history of Britain to 1825, nor is it really a book about shipwrecks. It is a set of eight case studies of different ships, all of which were eventually destroyed in one way or another, from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century, chosen to illustrate different aspects of English maritime activity.  Three of them predate the union with Scotland, so they are not strictly speaking British. There is a bit about each ship and then a short essay about the merchant marine or the navy at the time.

Some of the ships are well-known, others less so.  The case studies start with a little-known event, when an English invasion fleet intended for the continent turned on itself, the Cinque Ports contingent destroying the Yarmouth ships. Each chapter told me something new, but I would have preferred rather more about the individual ships and less background.