Publisher: Yale University Press (September 27, 2022)
Hardcover: 416 pages
The first account of Britain’s convoys during the Napoleonic Wars—showing how the protection of trade played a decisive role in victory
During the Napoleonic Wars thousands of merchant ships crisscrossed narrow seas and wide oceans, protected by Britain’s warships. These were wars of attrition and raw materials had to reach their shores continuously: timber and hemp from the Baltic, sulfur from Sicily, and saltpeter from Bengal. Britain’s fate rested on the strength of its economy—and convoys played a vital role in securing victory.
Leading naval historian Roger Knight examines how convoys ensured the protection of trade and transport of troops, allowing Britain to take the upper hand. Detailing the many hardships these ships faced, from the shortage of seaman to the vicissitudes of the weather, Knight sheds light on the innovation and seamanship skills that made convoys such an invaluable tool in Britain’s arsenal. The convoy system laid the foundation for Britain’s narrow victory over Napoleon and his allies in 1815 and, in doing so, established its naval and mercantile power at sea for a hundred years.
Roger Knight is curator emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He is author of several books including the prize-winning The Pursuit of Victory and Britain against Napoleon.