British Warships in the Age of Sail

British Warships in the Age of Sail

Front cover of British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817
Author Rif Winfield
Language English
Subject Sailing warships of the Royal Navy
Genre Maritime History
Publisher Chatham Publishing (orig.)
Seaforth Publishing
Publication date

British Warships in the Age of Sail is a series of four books by maritime historian Rif Winfield comprising a historical reference work providing details of all recorded ships that served or were intended to serve in the Royal Navy from 1603 to 1863. Similar volumes dealing with other navies during the sailing era have followed from the same publisher.


The books draw data from Admiralty official records to give details on the location of construction, dates of construction (ordering, keel laying, launch, commissioning and completion of fitting-out), principal dimensions and tonnage, complement of men and armament, machinery (for steam vessels) and fate of every ship of the Royal Navy over the period. Designed dimensions and tonnage are given for every class of vessel planned and built for the Navy, but in addition the actual dimensions measured for each individual vessel completed to those designs are separately given; this treatment has also been applied to the many vessels purchased or captured by British naval forces, and added to the service. The costs of building and fitting out each vessel are given (where known), as well as the costs and dates of major refits during each ship's life. Also included are details of their commanders with dates when each served, areas and periods of service, and significant actions in which the ships took part.

Each volume contains details of over two thousand separate vessels, and is illustrated by approximately two hundred black-and-white renditions of the design draughts, contemporary portrayals and other depictions of most classes of vessel covered.


The series comprises four volumes; the fourth volume in this series, covering the period 1817–1863, includes coverage of all steam-powered warships of this era (paddle-driven as well as screw-driven) as well as purely sailing vessels. The first of the series to be produced, the 1793–1817 volume, was first published in 2005 by Chatham Publishing. The remaining titles, and an updated edition of the 1793–1817 volume, have been published by Seaforth Publishing:

Pending availability of the fourth volume in the series, sailing warships after 1817 were covered (in somewhat less detail) by The Sail and Steam Navy List, 1815–1889, by David Lyon and Rif Winfield.

Similar volumes on other Navies

The series on British Warships have been followed by companion volumes covering other Naval forces on the sailing era.

The above-mentioned volumes dealing with Russian and French warships - like the equivalent (fourth) volume in the British Warships series - also cover steam-powered (both paddle-driven and screw-driven) warships constructed for those navies in the same period.

Other volumes dealing with the earlier French Navy (from 1626 to 1786), with the Ottoman Navy and with the Spanish Navy (from 1715 on) are in preparation.


Reviewing the 1793–1817 work, the Journal for Maritime Research wrote that 'It is well-researched, well-presented, easy to navigate and exhaustive in its coverage. It is a reference work that will be used by students and scholars of the sailing Navy for years to come.'[1]

When reviewing the 1714–1792 volume, the second work to be published, the South West Maritime History Society described it as 'frankly quite superb', and 'the most complete analysis of the ships of the Royal Navy ever prepared.'[2]

The third volume to be produced, covering 1603-1714, was likewise described by the South West Maritime History Society as 'In a single word "SUPERLATIVE"' and 'This book is frankly quite superb and deserves to be included in the library of anyone interested in this period of maritime history.'

Noted maritime historian Andrew Lambert commented...."there is no equivalent work dealing with the Royal or any other major Navy ...of the sailing age... the wealth of detail can be deployed in many ways. The development of ship types, officer careers, ship longevity, the role of foreign prizes in developing British design, the strategy and tactics of cruiser warfare and much more besides."

See also


  1. "Journal for Maritime Research book review". Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  2. Clement, David B. "South West Maritime History Society Book Review". Retrieved 2010-08-23.
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