The Age of Sail is known in European terms to cover about 300 years, between the late 1400s to the late 1700s. It is the history of sailboats and ships as propelled by wind power, rather than by human power on boats with oars or paddles. Most notably, it marks the period when people and goods were transported and battles were fought on sailing ships. The most advanced sailing technology of each era constantly changed over the centuries, from the lugsail-rigged Chinese junk (about 200 C.E.) to square-rigged ships merchant ships (about 1860).
1. Commentaries on this history provide insight on the intricate relationship between the nations’ economies, their sovereignty and relative power on the world’s stage.
America and the Sea : a Maritime History / Benjamin W. Labaree. Published by Mystic Seaport, 1998. This book is about ships and the maritime history of the United States. It has a very broad and formal outline of “the relationship of America to the sea”, see Introduction. In this book you will hardly find ships plans or technical details about ship design, but rather an account of what happened in each era of the development of the United States in four parts. The first part begins with a description of native American use of boats, followed by European explorers; the fourth part describes ships and the maritime history of commerce and the military in the twentieth century.
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The Way of the Ship: America’s Maritime History Reenvisioned, 1600-2000. / Alex Roland, W. Jeffrey Bolster, Alexander Keyssar. Published by John Wiley and Sons, New York, 2008. The Way of the Ship charts the growth of maritime America and its strength in overseas trade and inland transport. There is also a glossary of shipping terms, chapter notes, and an index.
Is the book suitable for ready reference, or quick answers? Yes, to the extent that the book is chronologically arranged and its sections are listed with specific chapter headings. However, the subject requires reading essays to gain a sense of the history. So it is significant for the careful consideration by the authors in specific historical eras. The detail provided in this book of forty-six essays makes it a valuable resource for not only maritime but also social and economic history.
For more illustrations a visual encyclopedic reference can be found in Ship: the Epic Story of Maritime Adventure: it’s a reference work, a book you can open to any page for visual reference to historical fact.
2. Design and engineering reviews of ships in terms of their capacity to hold goods or achieve speed or to defend a nation provide visual and textual content that accurately describe ships at particular eras of change in hull and or motive power.
The History of American Sailing Ships ./ Howard Chapelle; with drawings by the author, and George C. Wales and Henry Rusk. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1935.
The History of American Sailing Ships by Howard Chapelle is considered a classic text on the history of ships. The author has provided line illustrations of the wide variety of wooden sailing ships. There are 81 plans and lines, the naval architectural drawings of ketches, sloops, revenue cutters, schooners, yachts; and plates, folded out drawings of frigates, packets, schooners and barkentines.
The History of American Sailing Navy. / Howard Chapelle. Published by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1949.
The History of American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle continues the author’s expertise in shipbuilding history and technology. Model builders consult Chapelle’s books for details not easily available otherwise.
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