To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World
The 600+ pages of this excellent British maritime history, rather than just British navy history, covers the facets of the relationship of Britain with her neighbor the sea. It's a story basically of ships and the men who sailed on them. The narrative style in which the myriad of voyages are recalled gives a sense of continuity to the book, a good thing when so many stories are told along such a broad chronological frame. So there is no discontinuity. It must have taken a heroic effort to summarize so many stories of voyages, piracy, discoveries, naval battles, trading enterprises, and even mutinies and such, without getting entangled in the detail, and moving on fluently while conveying a general picture of the times as they changed in so many areas of the world, politically and economically. The ambition of the book is colossal, in view of the times covered, from the discovery of America to late 20th century; the diverse geographical areas of the world concerned with the stories, due to contact with the British Empire; the myriad of elements that made their influence felt on the outcome of the stories: new weapons, love affairs, national characters, sheer luck... Mr. Herman has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things maritime.
The greatest merit of the book is simply not being boring when, by the sheer scope and magnitude of its subject, it should logically have been so. The reason why I am not giving it 5 stars is only that I personally could not get myself interested enough in some passages.