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In the bicentenary year of Trafalgar it is appropriate to remember that the history of Britain, its current situation and future prospects reflect an overwhelming geographical fact. Britain is a collection of islands at once alongside, but not attached to the European Continent.
Now is an appropriate time to consider the role of the British Navy and its cultural significance. 2005 marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the apogee of British naval glory. Trafalgar is a story of national tragedy as well as triumph, of course, as Britain’s stunning victory over the French came at a huge cost, namely the loss of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
For over forty years it has been all but impossible to begin an undergraduate lecture, a book or paper dealing with aspects of military conflict in the early modern period, without reference to the inaugural address given by Michael Roberts in 1956 on The Military Revolution 1560-1660.
'From the Sea of Perpetual Gloom to the Holiday Cruise'
'He probably knows more naval history than any English speaking man living. Pity he don't produce a great work instead of piddling about in the byways of naval history'. So wrote Alfred Thayer Mahan to Stephen Luce in 1890 about John Knox Laughton.