I picked up this book for cheap some time ago, and I’m quite happy to have finally gotten to it. This is definitely on the “layman’s” side of military history, but he does a very good job with it.

The background and aftermath make up fairly significant portions of the book, and serve the purpose well. Especially nice is the chapter where he goes into the construction and outfitting of HMS Vanguard (Nelson’s flagship at the Nile). This lets him talk about ship designs of the period, the “74”s (which the Vanguard was), and what went into outfitting a complete ship at the time. Its mostly things I’ve seen elsewhere, but it’s well-presented here, and a worthy diversion.

The central part of the book of course is about Nelson’s chase back-and-forth across the Mediterranean, reconstructing not only the lines across the map that the French and British fleets took, but the missed opportunities, the gaps in information that crippled Nelson’s initial attempts to find the French fleet before it got to Egypt.

One of Lavery’s main ideas is that the Battle of the Nile was the central hinge of the the wars of the period, and was more important than Trafalgar, which does have better heroic trappings. He makes a good case for this, but not an especially great case, and much of the extended aftermath portion where he tries to drive this idea home drags a bit. The immediate aftermath, with the victorious British fleet still greatly damaged and working its way back to friendly bases to spread the news is however, still very interesting, and a part you don’t get to see as often.