Ships and sailing reading list

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Ships and sailors - general

  • Earle, Peter

Sailors : English merchant seamen. London: Methuen, 1998

The author "has always had a passion for the history of ships and seamen. [This] book maintains his exceptionally high standards of both research and writing. He writes very fluidly and, in this book, gives the reader a vibrant account of life at sea in the merchant marine between 1650 and 1775. Inevitably, the book contains a great deal of material about life on board the East Indiamen, who plied back and forth between England and the Far East and, because it does, it is well worth reading. Taken together with some of the older works on life aboard the East Indiamen, for example The memoirs of William Hickey, Cotton and Fawcett's East Indiamen and Ann Maier's Free mariner, researchers and the general reader will enjoy a comprehensive account of life on board these ships. Peter Earle's book is highly recommended." The full review is on p. 33 of FIBIS Journal 1 (September 1999)

  • Morgan, Richard

An Introduction to British Ships in Indian Waters – Their Owners, Crew & Passengers (FIBIS Research Guide No. 2 - available from FIBIS Shop)

Richard Morgan's FIBIS Research Guide No 2 is in a class of its own. Information on various aspects of Marine Transport in Indian Waters is very fragmentary and it is a tribute to Richard's analytical powers and his assimilation of facts that a very worthwhile manual has been produced. This is yet another reference book published under the auspices of FIBIS and I [Lawrie Butler] have no hesitation in recommending the book to both members and the general public. Their time will be well spent. (Snippet taken from the Introduction)

  • Pope, John Adolphus

Free mariner : John Adolphus Pope in the East Indies 1786-1821, edited by Anne Bulley. London: BACSA, 1992

The ships owned or chartered by the East India Company for trading in the far east have received a good deal of attention and much is known of their commanders and their voyages. What is not always realised is that they typically called at only about 4 ports in Asia: Bombay, Galle (Ceylon), Madras, Calcutta, and Whampoa in China. There were huge numbers of other independent British ships ("Country Ships") in the far east which provided a feeder service for other ports both within India and in surrounding countries (mostly what is now Malaysia and Indonesia). By great good fortune a first-hand account of one of these voyages has come down to us. John Adolphus Pope sailed on the Princess Royal 1786-8 and wrote letters describing the places he visited and people he saw. John was an intelligent 16 year old and his observations are sharp and well expressed, and bring alive as nothing else can this vital but under researched area of British/Indian trade. By further good fortune this important journal has been edited by Anne Bulley, who has done more than anyone to investigate this area. The book comes with a perceptive account of Country Ships and their trade and rounds off the story of John before and after his voyages. [reviewed by Richard Morgan, FIBIS trustee]

East Indiamen (the ships of the HEIC)

  • Farrington, Anthony

Catalogue of East India Company ships' journals and logs 1600-1834. London: British Library, 1999

This compendium details no fewer than 4563 voyages by 1577 ships in the Company's service. Reviewed by Trevor W. Hearl on p. 31 of FIBIS Journal 7 (March 2002)

  • Farrington, Anthony

A biographical index of East India Company Maritime Service officers, 1600-1834. London: British Library, 1999

This "provides career outlines, with varying amounts of personal detail, of some 12,000 'commanders, mates, surgeons and pursers'". Reviewed by Trevor W. Hearl on p. 31 of [ FIBIS Journals|FIBIS Journal 7 (March 2002)]

  • Hardy, Charles

A register of ships employed in the service of the Honorable the United East India Company from the year 1760 to 1810, with an appendix containing a variety of particulars and useful information interesting to those concerned with East India commerce, by Charles Hardy ; revised by Horatio Charles Hardy. [Online version] London: Heseltine, 1811

This contains the names of the Indiamen, their captains, officers, surgeons and pursers, plus company regulations and instructions in a browsable and searchable format at Google Books

  • Sutton, Jean

Lords of the East : East India Company and its ships. New ed. London: Conway Maritime Press, 2000

"For a richly illustrated, authoritative and eminently readable account of the East India Company and its ships there has been nothing to touch Jean Sutton's Lords of the East since its first appearance in 1981. Now Conway Maritime Press has published an even more sumptuous second edition, revised and extended, with sixteen pages of colour illustrations, describing the building, manning, financing, sailing and operating of a fleet totalling, over the years, some 1240 vessels chartered in the Company's service, including steamers and warships..." The full review by Trevor W. Hearl is on p. 31 of FIBIS Journal 7 (March 2002).

see also East India Company reading list


Please see the Navy section in the Military reading list