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Britain and the Ocean Road (Paperback)

Shipwrecks and People, 1297–1825

P&S History > British History

By Dr Ian Friel
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: Integrated maps, figures and 1 x 16 pp of mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399000505
Published: 30th April 2024


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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, Breaking Seas, Broken Ships will take the story from the age of steam to the 21st century.

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About Dr Ian Friel

Dr Ian Friel is a maritime historian with an international reputation and wide experience of historical and archaeological work, including the 17th-century Swash Channel Wreck (which he successfully identified as the Fame of Hoorn) and studies of sunken First World War tankers for an environmental project. He worked in museums for many years, including the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Mary Rose Trust, and became an independent historian, museum consultant and writer in 2007. He has broadcast on TV and radio, and most recently undertook research for an episode of BBC TV’s Who Do You Think You Are? Ian is the author of The Good Ship, The British Museum Maritime History of Britain and IrelandHenry V’s Navy and Britain and the Ocean Road, along with many papers, reports and other publications.

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