The Ship Asunder appealed to me when I read the NetGalley description. Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity of an ARC. Another addition to my Non-Fiction Adventure.

The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

The Ship Asunder: A Maritime History in Eleven Vessels

By Tom Nancollas

If Britain’s maritime history were embodied in a single ship, she would have a prehistoric prow, a mast plucked from a Victorian steamship, the hull of a modest fishing vessel, the propeller of an ocean liner and an anchor made of stone. We might call her Asunder, and, fantastical though she is, we could in fact find her today, scattered in fragments across the country’s creeks and coastlines. 

In his moving and original new history, Tom Nancollas goes in search of eleven relics that together tell the story of Britain at sea. From the swallowtail prow of a Bronze Age vessel to a stone ship moored at a Baroque quayside, each one illuminates a distinct phase of our adventures upon the waves; each brings us close to the people, places and vessels that made a maritime nation. Weaving together stories of great naval architects and unsung shipwrights, fishermen and merchants, shipwrecks and superstition, pilgrimage, trade and war, The Ship Asunder celebrates the richness of Britain’s seafaring tradition in all its glory and tragedy, triumph and disaster, and asks how we might best memorialize it as it vanishes from our shores. (goodreads)

My Review

I like boats, and small ships, and sailing, and messing about by and in the sea. But whilst I appreciate Britain’s maritime history, I do not consider myself much of a seafarer. And I’ve never been good at British history–enough to tackle quiz questions, is about it.

So The Ship Asunder, Tom Nancollas’s gallop through several thousand years of Britain’s association with boats, is full of surprises.

The author takes us through the history of ships and British sea-faring by deconstructing boats and identifying the history within them. Who knew that there was a pre-Roman boat discovered in the mud at Dover, carefully preserved in the Ashmolean Musuem of all places – about as far from the sea as you can get in Britain. And a large trumpet used for inter-ship (and intra-ship) communication in pre-medieval times, salvaged from the muddy banks of the Thames, and now in the Museum of London?

Fascinating mix

Starting at the prows of the boats and ending past the propellers and back onto the land that provided the wood, Nancollas strings together a fascinating mix of archaeology, fable and record. He treads paths and describes ancient and modern side by side. I am tempted to try to locate the building in Caithness that uses the hull of a ship as its rafters. He does it by satellite mapping, and street view, and so can any of us, if we look hard enough.

Among the sea souvenirs there are plenty of human stories. Inventors, sailors, rich men, poor men, beggar men, some women. He also gives a clear account of Britain’s rich past in slavery. We got rich on this trade, no doubt about it. Just as we did on exploiting all the rest of the ‘Empire’ countries. We owe them big time.

Sometimes the text jumps about a bit. Abrupt changes of subject when you think it’s a follow-on. This may be the ebook, and the paperback layout may solve the problem. But I did have to stop several times to work out where the thread had gone. Nevertheless, it’s a good read, an artistic piece of delving, and a useful reference work too. For those who like to know how much of the ebook is references – 6%. Manageable 🙂 There are also useful footnotes in the text, too.

Book Review | The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas: 'a good read, an artistic piece of delving, and a useful reference work' #ships #maritimehistory #netgalley #TheShipAsunder Share on X

Book Review | The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

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