Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Trafalgar by John Terraine

Title: Trafalgar
Author: John Terraine
First Published: 1976
ISBN: 1853266868

This book was both more and less than I expected. More, in that it gave a detailed overview of the lead-up to the battle, following the activities of the French, British and Spanish fleets from late-1803. Less, in that the battle itself was covered in only 30 pages focusing on a few significant actions. A better title would be "The Trafalgar Campaign" or similar.

Don't get me wrong, this is a very good book. The analysis is thoughtful and unbiased with no hero worship on either side. The successes and failings of all the major players (with the expected focus on Nelson) are spelt out in detail with no punches pulled, and the tactical analysis of the battle itself is scathing while paying credit to the consideration of seamanship and gunnery in determining the tactical approach.

Terraine ties the naval actions in nicely with the concurrent land actions and movements of Napoleon's armies. He also does a good job of showing the broader implications of the British naval strategy and why it was so successful against the French.

Overall this was a good book, but I think I will look for something that gives more detail as to the battle itself. I will certainly keep it in my collection as a reference work.

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