Book Review: Captain Cook's War and Peace: The Royal Navy Years, 1755-1768


by John Robson

Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2009. Pp. xiii, 216. Illus., maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN:1591141095

Capt. James Cook is justly famous for his voyages of exploration in the Pacific from 1768 until his death in 1779.  But before he became an explorer, Cook had served long years as a merchant mariner and in the Royal Navy, a period of his life which has attracted surprisingly little attention.

In Captain Cook's War and Peace, Robson, map librarian at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and author of two previous books about Cook, examines these overlooked years.

The book opens with a short look at Cook's early life, then picks up his career int eh Royal Navy from 1755, when the 26-year old Cook, already a seasoned mariner of eight years' experience in merchant vessels, enlisted in the Royal Navy as an able seaman. It traces his career through the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), during which he played an interesting role in the British conquest of Canada , and then into the years of peace that followed.  Cook rose rapidly to "master," the senior seaman aboard ship. In the process he acquired the skills as a navigator, surveyor, map maker, and explorer, that brought him command of what became his famous Pacific expeditions. 

In telling this story, Ransom also gives the reader a look at the life, work, and people of the Royal Navy in the mid-eighteenth century. A valuable read about the age of sail.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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