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Publisher's Summary

To Rule the Waves tells the extraordinary story of how the British Royal Navy allowed one nation to rise to a level of power unprecedented in history. From the navy's beginnings under Henry VIII to the age of computer warfare and special ops, historian Arthur Herman tells the spellbinding tale of great battles at sea, heroic sailors, violent conflict, and personal tragedy - of the way one mighty institution forged a nation, an empire, and a new world.

This P.S. edition features extra insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

©2004 Arthur Herman (P)2016 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very entertaining though slightly biased

A little too much the view that the Royal navy had such à decisive role in history. Still, many little known details, and very complete. Very well read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb and easy to listen to.

Manages to bridge the gap between heavy intense history and a superb adventure story. One of the best general histories of the Royal Navy I have yet read. Much easier to listen to, and obviously less detailed than Massie's books but also far broader in scope.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Better Than Expected. Don't Miss it!

What made the experience of listening to To Rule the Waves the most enjoyable?

Balanced, intelligent, honest;

What other book might you compare To Rule the Waves to and why?

There are a host of books on the Royal Navy, some that go into significantly more detail; but the author of this one selects just the right balance of detail to show how the institution developed and what it has done to help create some of the better features of the current global system.

Which scene was your favorite?

Nelson at Trafalga.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It gave me a more nuanced appreciation of the Royal Navy as an institution.

Any additional comments?

I would like to take the author to dinner.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Sweeping historical overview, great telling

Great story telling and wonderful overview of the importance of the Royal Navy on the modern world. The author has a point he’s trying to make and often portrays events to make his point. Well done narration and great story telling.

Do check facts as they are sometimes bent to breaking to make a point. Example the author states that the Royal Navy captured Baltimore during the 1812 war, whilst in-fact the battle of Baltimore is the inspiration for the US National Anthem celebrating the fact Baltimore withstood the Navy’s assault.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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An excellent story, not often told

I'd always heard vague descriptions of the British Navy, but never been able to find any sort of in depth look at them, or if I have it's lacked the context for its meaning to have any impact.

This book not only touches on the important details of the navy's evolution, but also does so in the context of world events. In this way the author crafts a narrative which drew me in from start to finish.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Clark
  • Carmel, CA
  • 06-15-17

Fabulous if you're a nautical junkie. A favorite!

What made the experience of listening to To Rule the Waves the most enjoyable?

The author's absolute familiarity with a huge subject yet never tedious in the details. Riveting, but again, mainly for sailing ship/war/history junkies. Will make you want to read more about Drake, Hawkes, Bing, Nelson.

What does John Curless bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

It's like he wrote it, with an immense tapestry of interesting detail at his fingertips.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

How Britannia Ruled the Waves. And why Western Civilization owes so much to the Royal Navy.

Any additional comments?

Do you have more by this author?

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

good read, but very biased

Well written and entertaining, but extremely pro-british and tends to avoid talking as much as possible any battle the British navy didn't win, regardless of how important or anything unethical the navy was involved with.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

An interesting slightly biased overview narrative

The narrative starts with the Elizabethan "navy" of pirates and continues until the Falkland Islands War. The information is generally correct although the author is unambiguously pro-British and pro-navy. This dictates a lot of the material covered with victories covered exhaustively and defeats skated past like the Battle of the Chesapeake.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Deep affection for the British Navy

First, I downgraded the performance not due to the reader but at certain points the audio muffles, fades or has a few other problems. When there wasn't production problems the reading was great.

The book covers the navy from its beginning, when it really wasn't a navy, until the Falklands. You can tell the author has a deep abiding love and respect for it and a touch of bitterness for its course after WWII. He does not shy from some of its controversial past such as its role in conducting the slave trade before changing missions to end it. He also addresses a few of the myths.

Although the battles are not ignored or slighted the real meat of the book is how the Navy shaped Britain and its government and how the people shaped the Navy. He highlights how the Navy was, in so many ways, the defining institution of the country. While you have Nelson and Drake Cook you also get the men who shaped, cultivated, grew and protected the institution itself and how they did it.

He does not ignore the good fortune of geography that allowed a barbaric remote island to come to dominate the oceans and the world. He shows how even the different sections of the country responded better to the sea, and why, than others.

This is an excellent book, not a short one, but it is good from either the standpoint of general or military history.

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excellent book, compelling + thoroughly researched

great book and well performed. the narrative was compelling though thw author seems a bit wistful for the glory days of English sea power

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  • Michael Davison
  • 10-26-17

excellent book, well read.

Gives a great overview of the Royal Navy's history with additional detail on defining moments. With the Royal Navy being such an integral part of Great Britain's politics and policy this book also provides the reader with a great understanding of the history of Great Britain's geopolitics. I would highly recommend for anyone interested in global and British history, warfare, the Royal Navy, and geopolitics. This book may change your view on the world.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr T C
  • 09-08-17

Broad in content but with wonderful focus on the key turning points of the RN

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Authur Herman covered the 500+yr history of the Royal Navy in Great detail with enthralling focus on key characters and interesting facts.

I had google to hand so I could see the ships and men he spoke about.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-12-17

I thought i'd like this and boy did i ever.

as a British patriot who loves hearing about our history, i thought i'd like this. i loved it. i loved the focus on people and places and the well woven historical threds between them. sadly the naration was a bit ropy in places but i got the impression the narrator enjoyed himself and his pride in our heritage seemed obvious. If you've ever seen the documentary series "Empire of the seas" with Dan Snow you'll recognise many of the themes and stories but as that's among my favourite series i think that's no bad thing.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • A. D. Jones
  • 07-26-17

Great book. Good detail. A must listen!

Loved it. Listened to Thriceab. Fascinating and made me visit Portsmouth docks and the Victory

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Miriam Maughan
  • 03-19-17

Fabulous book telling a fascinating story

Tracing the development of the navy from Tudor privateers to the falklands war this unusual perspective on world history kept me fascinated. Wonderful detail and biographical sketches brings many extraordinary characters to life. I loved it

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • ashley
  • 05-04-17

Billiant

This book was very informative, interesting and well narrated. Made me want to keep listening at every twist and turn. A must read for historians of all types and layman alike

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Ward
  • 09-20-18

<br /><br />

Fine history of the RN one of the best I have "read" politicians trade their ineptitude in other people's blood and have done for the last 200 years but so much so in the last 100 years

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  • Eddie J Perkins
  • 08-10-18

Educational but still exciting

a very interesting book, although a long listen it never seemed to get boring. Would recommend

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-30-18

Good but not sensational

Fairly comprehensive history of navy. Story lacks continuity at times. But overall, worth a listen.

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  • David
  • 06-05-18

Excellent

Concise yet lots a small detail that I’d not heard of before.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the Royal Navy

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • spw
  • 04-13-18

great talr

a very good history well told ,brilliant telling of the RN, learnt quiet a bit and explained a lot of traditions l lived by as Jacktar

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  • David Henderson
  • 10-06-17

Loved this book

fantastic perspective and historical background to the rise and fall of the English Navy. The joy of this publication is the historical structure with intimate detail of major events.