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Nelson's War

In a series of major victories at sea against the French, the Spanish and the Dutch during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy gained for Great Britain what later historians termed the ‘Empire of the Seas’, that complete dominion over the seas and oceans of the world that allowed Britain to build a world empire.

This period culminating in the battle of Trafalgar, 1805, was notable for the emergence of several outstanding admirals, Howe, Jervis, Duncan and Nelson. Between them they revolutionised fleet tactics. Although very different in character, all were united in their determination to exploit the superior gunnery and seamanship of British ships’ companies over that of their enemies and press in close for the kill whatever the consequences.

Peter Padfield describes the great battles resulting: The Glorious First of June, St Vincent, Camperdown, the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar, and shows how traditional, usually indecisive line of battle tactics were discarded, to become in Nelson’s hands tactics of contempt. And he paints a lively picture of the sailors whose skill and phenomenal disregard for danger delivered these famous victories – together with one very dangerous mutiny.

Generously illustrated, Nelson’s War brings to life in fascinating detail the admirals, men and ships of the golden age of the Royal Navy and its inspiring genius, Horatio Nelson.


‘Has the authentic tang of the sea, salty, sharp, refreshing.’

Yorkshire Post

‘Viewing Trafalgar as the fitting finale to twelve years of hard fighting at sea, Peter Padfield selects and fights over again six crucial battles fought under four great admirals, Howe, Jervis, Duncan and Nelson, and shows them to be a series of battles in one outstanding war, which is quite rightly regarded as Nelson’s.’

Daily Telegraph

‘Clear, authoritative, readable and well-illustrated… The main interest of the book lies in its presentation of tactics in vivid, accurate and thought-provoking contexts… may be cordially recommended.’

The Mariner’s Mirror

‘Mr Padfield analyses each action and its outcome in a fresh and perceptive manner, salting all with glimpses of the social side of sea service. This easily readable work is generously illustrated.’

The Scotsman

Buy Peter Padfield