Book Review: Shipping and Military Power in the Seven Years' War: The Sails of Victory


by David Syrett

Exeter: University of Exeter Press/Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Pp. xii, 179. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $69.95 hardcover. ISBN:0859897869

Shipping and Military Power in the Seven Years' War examines the bureaucratic, financial, and administrative processes that enabled Britain to organize and manage the sea lift needed to support its global reach in the mid-eighteenth century. 

The late Prof. Syrett, formerly of Queens College, CUNY, provides a look at the great skill and sophistication with which the Royal Navy and such agencies as the Navy Board, the Victual ling Board, and the Ordnance Board could approach operations which even today seem daunting.  The work consists of a series of chapters that discuss, in great detail, the process by which vessels were examined, contracts let, provisions procured, convoy movements organized, and costs managed, and the problems of inter-agency relations, illustrated with numerous examples and anecdotes. .

In the final chapter, Syrett brings together these threads in a concise overview of the capture of Havana in 1762.  This undertaking literally went from conception to completion in a few days more than eight months, and not only gives the reader an excellent look at the British ability to manage global logistics, but also provides some interesting lessons in the conduct of sea-borne operations that had to be relearned during the twentieth century; the diagram for the landings at Havana bears an eerie resemblance to one of the Okinawa operation some 180 years later. 

The work, a further demonstration of the late Prof. Syrett's extraordinary mastery of the sources and the nature of maritime operations in the age of sail, will be of value to anyone interested in logistics, amphibious operations, or naval warfare in the Eighteenth Century.

Note: At his untimely death in 2003, Prof. Syrett had several books in various stages of completion.  These have been appearing at regular intervals, edited by his wife, Prof. Elena Frangakis-Syrett.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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