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The Evolution of Naval Armament

108 pages
Library of Alexandria
To attempt to trace in any detail the evolution of the sailing warship is a task, it must be at once admitted, far beyond the scope and intention of the present essay. The history of naval architecture is, of course, a vast and many-sided subject. Few are the writers who have dealt with it, and, for reasons which will appear, few of those have written in the English language. Such books as treat of it are too cumbrous and technical for easy reading; they are not written in the modern style; by the frequent digressions of their authors on matters of general history, high politics, battles, economics, commerce, and even sport, they bear witness to the difficulties of the task and the complexity of the subject. The history of naval architecture still remains to be written. In the meantime the student will find the monumental Marine Architecture, of Charnock, and the smaller Naval Architecture, of Fincham, invaluable fields of inquiry; among the historians the works of Nicolas, Laughton, Corbett and Oppenheim, will furnish him with the materials for the complete story of the evolution up to the end of the eighteenth century. The following pages give a sketch, drawn chiefly from these authors, of the progress of the timber-built sailing ship and of the principal influences which guided the evolution. Lessons may still be drawn from this history, it is suggested, which even in the altered circumstances of to-day may be of value in some other application. One lesson, long unlearnt, the great blunder of two centuries, lies clearly on the surface. The evidence will show how, by our long neglect of the science of naval architecture, the British navy fought frequently at an unnecessary disadvantage; but it will also show how, masters of the art of shipbuilding, we gave our fleets such a superiority in strength and seaworthiness as almost to neutralize the defects inherent in their general design.