Hawke, Nelson and British Naval Leadership, 1747-1805

Hawke, Nelson and British Naval Leadership, 1747-1805

Ruddock Mackay, Michael Duffy


Boydell Press



A discussion of the key leadership qualities which underpinned Britain's naval victories in the eighteenth century.
Unlike other books on eighteenth-century British admirals, which tell and re-tell the history of admirals' successful exploits, this book investigates what exactly were the qualities which made for successful naval leadership in this period. It identifies twelve key qualities, and discusses how far each of the many leading admirals of the period possessed these qualities. It argues that Hawke and Nelson were the outstanding naval leaders of the eighteenth century, outlining their respective careers and showing how both of them possessed, more than the other admirals, the key qualities of leadership. Moreover, it argues that British fleet tactics and blockade strategy reached a new high level in the middle of the eighteenth century; that Hawke played the leading operational role in achieving this; and that Hawke has been undervalued both in the history of the British navy and in public estimation of Britain's great military and naval leaders. Overall, the book provides a refreshing reappraisal of British naval warfare in the eighteenth century, enabling readers to relive key battles and other encounters, and appreciate how crucial, alongside other key factors which are also discussed, the leadership qualities of the admirals were in bringing about success, or, in some cases, failure.

Ruddock Mackay has published extensively on maritime history and taught at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth and the University of St Andrews. Michael Duffy, who was Director of the Centre for Maritime Historical Studies at the University of Exeter 1991-2007, has also published extensively on maritime history.

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October 2009
7 line illustrations
256 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843834991
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Hawke's Rise to Leadership
Hawke at his Peak: From Brest to Quiberon Bay in 1759
The Standards of Leadership Excellence in the Age of Sail
Hawke's Tactical Legacy Neglected, 1778-1797
Hawke's Strategic Legacy Lost and Rediscovered, 1778-1808
Nelson's Path to Glory


This book revises our understanding of British naval leadership in the age of sail and it will generate much more debate on this popular subject. NORTHERN MARINER

As is to be expected from two such expert historians, the insights they provide into the conduct of eighteenth century naval warfare will certainly be welcomed by students of the subject. MARINER'S MIRROR

Ruddock Mackay and Michael Duffy... have succeeded brilliantly in examining the chain of naval leadership that links Hawke with Nelson, the Seven Years War with the Napoleonic War and the evolution of the British strategy of blockade. [...] As an example of a comparative study this book cannot be bettered. MARS & CLIO
The authors have provided a very thorough analysis of the battle assumptions of the Royal Navy from the 1740s to 1805, and the shrewd comments on the abilities of numerous admirals are a delight to study. [...] Highly recommended. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY
This is one of the most sophisticated accounts of naval history to emerge in recent years, a worthy complement at the command level to Sam Willis's Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare (Boydell, 2008). [...] An important study from the perspective not just of naval history but also of military history, this well-written book underlines the need to assess the specifics of leadership qualities alongside structural factors. HISTORY