Britain and the Ocean Road (Hardback)
Shipwrecks and People, 1297-1825
Britain and the Ocean Road uses new firsthand research and unconventional interpretations to take a fresh look at British maritime history in the age of sail.
The human stories of eight shipwrecks serve as waypoints on the voyage, as the book explores how and why Britain became a global sea power. Each chapter has people at its heart – sailors, seafaring families, passengers, merchants, pirates, explorers, and many others. The narrative encompasses an extraordinary range of people, ships and events, such as a bloody maritime civil war in the 13th century, a 17th-century American teenager who stepped from one ship to another - and into a life of piracy, a British warship that fought at Trafalgar (on the French side), and the floating hell of a Liverpool slave-ship, sunk in the year before the slave trade was abolished.
The book is full of surprising details and scenes, including England’s rudest and crudest streetname, what it was like to be a passenger in a medieval ship (take a guess), how a fragment of the English theatre reached the Far East during Shakespeare’s lifetime, who forgave who after a deadly pirate duel, why there were fancy dress parties in the Arctic, and where you could get the best herring.
Britain and the Ocean Road is the first of two works aimed at introducing a general audience to the gripping (and at times horrifying) story of Britain, its people and the sea. The books will also interest historians and archaeologists, as they are based on original scholarship. The second book, Black Oil on the Waters, will take the story from the age of steam to the 21st century.
Those readers who venture within the pages of this book will find it readable and, at times, engrossing. No prior knowledge of maritime history is needed, because Friel does a commendable job entwining the necessary background information with the maritime history. Britain and the Ocean Road is perfect for anyone seeking information on English history from less common perspectives. Along the way, don’t be surprised if you discover answers to questions that you’ve not uncovered solutions to in reading other maritime texts.Pirates and Privateers
Read the full review here
BOOK OF THE MONTHNautilus Telegraph, January 2021
Listed in the Spicy tales of Norfolk history featureNorfolk magazine, January 2021
The surprising thing about Ian Friel's book is how far back into the annals of our history it travels. The Viking invaders pre-1297 also had sailing boats, of course, and the British eventually copied their design and build, but this is a comprehensive and brilliantly conceived memoir of a seafaring nation from its earliest times to when it was time to use steam power for our naval craft. Absolutely fascinating!Books Monthly
Following Britain and the Ocean Road, Ian Friel expertly navigates the history of Britain and the sea from the Middle Ages to modern times. With Breaking Seas, Broken Ships, we follow the story of Britain’s maritime history through some of it’s most dramatic shipwrecks. From the country’s imperial zenith to the very different world of the early twenty-first century we encounter an extraordinary range of people, ships and events, including… the crew and passengers of a state-of-the-art Victorian steamship who vanished in the Atlantic; the sailors of a doomed collier brig in the dying days…By Dr Ian Friel
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