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Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and the Battle of Trafalgar
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060753617, Unknown Binding)On October 21, 1805, the British navy crushed the combined fleets of Spain and France near Spain's Cape Trafalgar, thwarting Napoleon Bonaparte's planned invasion of England and leading to a century of British maritime dominance. There are many books on the Battle of Trafalgar, but this one is different in that Adam Nicolson focuses more on "the mental landscape" of those who fought than on the battle itself. In analyzing why the British scored such an impressive victory, Nicolson looks beyond tactics to study the collective psychology of the three navies, along with the social and cultural forces at work. Part of the study revolves around the concept of the hero at the dawn of the 19th century. The men who fought at Trafalgar "looked on battle not as a necessary evil but as a moment of revelation and truth" that played into their conception of purpose, honor, and duty to king and country--with violence seen as an integral part of duty. No one fit the classic model of the hero more than Admiral Lord Nelson, the "most feared naval commander in the world"; a man who saw himself as a "prophetic agent of apocalypse and millennium" destined to lead England to global dominance. Nelson became the model of the British hero for the rest of the century and beyond.
In addition to an in-depth study of Nelson's background and psychology, Nicolson discusses the cultural differences between the three countries. For instance, in England, a non-aristocrat like Nelson was allowed to rise to the top--an occurrence that would have been impossible in both France and Spain given their strict societal codes. Each nation's motivation was different as well. Spain's social system was based on aristocratic chivalry, while France was acting according to the authoritative whim of Napoleon. Britain, however, was motivated by trade, and Nicolson discusses how England was able to finance its powerful navy by taxing the growing middle class and their seemingly limitless desire for material goods, making Trafalgar "the first great bourgeois victory of European history." Seize the Fire provides an intriguing perspective on one of the great naval battles in history. --Shawn Carkonen
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:54 -0400)
A retelling of the Battle of Trafalgar profiles Horatio Nelson as a leader with a fierce sense of honor and duty, in an account that examines the ambitions, fears, and principles that contributed to the British Mediterranean fleet's victory.
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