ISBN is

978-1-86176-233-7 / 186176233X

Feeding Nelson's Navy: The True Story of Food at Sea in the Georgian Era

by Macdonald, Janet

Publisher:Greenhill Books

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

The prevailing image of food at sea in the age of sail features rotting meat and weevily biscuits, but this highly original book proves beyond doubt that this was never the norm. Building on much recent research Janet Macdonald shows how the sailor's official diet was better than he was likely to enjoy ashore, and of ample calorific value for his highly active shipboard life. When trouble flared and food was a major grievance in the great mutinies of 1797 the usual reason was the abuse of the system. This system was an amazing achievement. At the height of the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Navy's administrators fed a fleet of more than 100,000 men, in ships that often spent months on end at sea. Despite the difficulty of preserving food before the advent of refrigeration and meat-canning, the British fleet had largely eradicated scurvy and other dietary disorders by 1800. This was the responsibility of the Victualling Board, a much-maligned but generally efficient bureaucracy that organized the preparing and packing of meat, the brewing of beer, the baking of ship's biscuit, and all the logistics of the Navy and on an industrial scale unparalleled elsewhere. Once aboard ship food and drink was subject to stringent controls to ensure fairness, and this book takes a fresh look at the tarnished reputations of Purser and Cook, before turning to the ways both officers and men were able to supplement their official rations, including the keeping of livestock on board. A chapter compares provisions in the other major navies of the time, and the book concludes with recipes for some of the exotic sounding dishes, like lobscouse, prepared by naval cooks. While Feeding Nelson's Navy contains much of value to the historian, it is written with a popular touch that will enthral anyone with an interest in life at sea in the age of sail.

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