The ship is one of the greatest accomplishments of the human race. That
we have used it to travel to new and mysterious lands, vanquish our enemies
and trade for exotic goods in distant ports make its history very rich indeed.
The purpose of this book is to present the informed reader, who has an interest
in ships, with a full account of both the technical and cultural development
of this most fascinating and influential invention. The author, Richard
Woodman, has drawn together the historical strands of each ship-type to
produce a thoroughly compelling account culminating in a summary of contemporary
developments and speculation about the future.
Whether for good or evil, we have used the ship in our struggle to dominate
the world around us, accomplishing spectacular feats of courage and exploration,
exploiting and destruction. From the development of the dugout canoe to
the very large container carrier we have created the largest mobile structures
on the planet. The book starts with descriptions of primitive craft, leading
to the early trading vessels and warships. From there the transition to
the first full-rigged ship, the carrack, is discussed. The introduction
of steam is clarified with details on how this gradual process, although
finally allowing the steamship to usurp the sailing ship in many of her
former roles, allowed sailing vessels to reach their final and prolonged
heyday in the colourful tea clipper races. The upheavals of the twentieth
century with the arrival of the big-gun battleship, aircraft carrier and
the nuclear submarine are given comprehensive coverage.
Throughout the book, the impact of technology on the evolution of the ship
is dealt with logically to put developments in their economic and political
contexts, and changes in the design of both warships and merchantmen are
outlined. Entwined with this history are the stories of the characters who
influenced ship design and the men who commanded them.
The book in general follows the arguments propounded in Conway's highly
praised History of the Ship series: these are underpinned with the author's
many years of seagoing experience and numerous fiction and non-fiction writings
on maritime topics. Whilst dealing with a hugely complex subject, the author
presents his truly international thesis in a highly readable and enlightening
manner. The book is complete with a full glossary and extensive bibliography.