Most works on the British Civil Wars concentrate on the fighting on land, which saw the famous set piece battles that decided the immediate outcome of the war. At the start of the war most of the Royal Navy sided with Parliament, and the Royalists and their supporters were never really able to assemble a battle fleet that might have been able to challenge that force. As a result there were no major naval battles during the war, but as the authors prove that doesn’t mean that there were no naval actions, or that the fighting at sea didn’t have an impact on the outcome of the war. As the author’s point out, Parliament’s control of the Navy allowed them to keep the port of London open, and thus generating vital income, and control of coastal waters played a major part in the campaigns in Wales and later in Ireland.
This is a key period in the development of British naval power. As the authors point out, just before the Civil Wars the Royal Navy was powerless to stop the Dutch attacking a Spanish fleet sheltering in British waters, but during the Commonwealth the Navy was capable of inflicting a series of defeats on the powerful Dutch fleet. This increase in power came about as a result of the fighting during the Civil Wars, so an understanding of the period is key to understanding that rise to power.
Much of the emphasis here is on how the fleets were organised, funded and manned, the changing political opinions of the sailors and their officers, as well as on the naval operations themselves. We start with an introduction looking at the nature of naval warfare in this period. The next two chapters look at the period leading to the outbreak of war and the First Civil War. The next two chapters look at the two sides - first Parliament’s Navy and then the various Royalist and allied forces. This is followed by two chapters looking at the second half of the wars - in particular the Second Civil War and the long conflict in Ireland.
This is a interesting book, looking at an unfamiliar aspect of the Civil War and an unfamiliar period of naval warfare, so doubly valuable.
1 - Warfare at Sea in the Early Modern Period
2 - The Outbreak of War, 1638-1642
3 - The War at Sea, 1642-1646
4 - Parliament’s Navy, 1642-1646
5 - Royalist, Confederate, and Scottish Naval Efforts, 1642-1653
6 - Revolution, 1647-1649
7 - Conquest, 1649-1653
Appendix 1 - Timeline of the Civil Wars at Sea, 1638-1653
Appendix 2 - Parliamentarian Fleets, 1642-1649
Author: Richard J. Blakemore and Elaine Murphy