Recent Posts

Gentlemen and Players: Further Thoughts from the State of Maritime Historical Research Conference 2017

18/09/2017

One of the issues floating around at the fringes of the Greenwich conference on 9 September, the thrust of which can be found in my previous blogpost, was that of the perceived division in maritime history between ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ practitioners. This came up in one form or another in some of the papers, but […]

A Very Palpable Hit: the State of Maritime Historical Research Conference 2017

11/09/2017

Greenwich, 0900, Saturday 9 September: will anybody actually come? will the speakers be any good? will the technology work? is this, the first conference that the Society for Nautical Research has ever staged under its own auspices, going to be a success? Greenwich, 1745, Saturday 9 September: yes, they did; yes, they were; yes, it […]

Dead Admirals Society Goes Rogue: Nelson Must What?

28/08/2017

I wasn’t going to get involved in the whole ‘Nelson Must Fall’ thing, which seems to me to be no more than a blatant piece of historically illiterate attention seeking by somebody clinging to the coattails of the ‘Confederate statues’ controversy across the pond: and anyway, my old chum Andrew Lambert has demolished this particular […]

Welcome to Llareggubshire County Record Office

21/08/2017

[With apologies to Dylan Thomas – I owe you a drink in the Pearly Gates Tavern, my friend.] The silly season, so time for a silly blog… The subject of record offices has cropped up here many times, most notably in the case of the byzantine saga of Carmarthenshire’s archives, and most recently in the […]

Authentic Headless Women Revisited, Now With Extra Tortured Cats

14/08/2017

The middle of August, so lots going on, almost none of it seriously work-related – lawns to mow, places to visit, etc. As an ex-teacher of many years’ drudgery service, I still have the mindset that August is pretty sacrosanct, even though that imperative doesn’t really work for writers. Even so, I suspect that many […]

How Not to Write a Tudor Novel

08/08/2017

A few months ago, I announced my exciting new project – three linked naval fiction stories, set in the Tudor period, which will eventually combine together to be published as one ‘traditional’ book by the splendid new imprint, Endeavour Ink. Since then, in addition to finishing off other projects, I’ve slowly been getting my research […]

UPDATE – The Battle of Northampton; or, Are You Carmarthenshire in Disguise?

02/08/2017

This afternoon, Friday 4 August, Northamptonshire County Council has announced that, in the short term at least, it’s backing down over the woefully misconceived and crassly announced scheme described in my post below. You can find a link to the full statement, and some clarifying remarks, here. While this is clearly welcome, the long term […]

It’s Yer Actual Orfenticity, Innit

31/07/2017

Last week, I went to see Dunkirk, which has been getting pretty much unanimous rave reviews from film critics worldwide. And I have to say I agree with them – this is one of the best war films I’ve seen (and I’ve seen rather a lot), totally gripping from beginning to end, and very unusual in […]

The Return of Ranty McRantface

24/07/2017

[Note: those not interested in naval stuff, or in a good old-fashioned rant, can look away now, watch repeats of The West Wing or Jeremy Kyle on daytime TV, and come back next week instead. On the other hand, if you’re not interested in naval stuff or good old-fashioned rants, what the heck are you doing here […]

Reviews

PRAISE FOR ‘THE JOURNALS OF MATTHEW QUINTON’

There is a welcome return, too [in Death’s Bright Angel], for Captain Matthew Quinton of Charles II’s navy. J D Davies is an expert on the 17th-century navy, and his series about a gentleman captain in the Age of Sail has won him keen fans…Davies knows his subject and wears his knowledge lightly. Death’s Bright Angel is the sixth book in a series of real panache. – The Times (review by Antonia Senior)

Great naval fiction…Hornblower, Aubrey and Quinton – a pantheon of the best adventures at sea – Conn Iggulden

Exciting, emotive and utterly convincing, the Quinton Journals lead the field in naval historical fiction – Sam Willis, TV presenter and author of Fighting Ships, The Fighting Temeraire, The Admiral Benbow & The Glorious First of June

Finely shaded characters, excellent plotting, gut-clenching action and immaculate attention to period naval detail…these are superb books – Angus Donald, author of ‘The Outlaw Chronicles’

Welsh born/English adopted J D Davies is a guy who knows about his subject. He’s an academic and historian with a doctorate in Reformation naval history. Therefore the details of things like the equipment, traditions and tactics in his Matt Quinton series are spot on; as are the pacing, adventure and thrills. (An ability that’s a little more unusual in academic circles.) In short this is as exciting as it is informative for naval history fans as a for those who don’t know one end of a ship’s cannon from another but just want a ripping read…From the prologue to the author’s wonderful notes at the back, this is an excellent read. – The Bookbag (review by Ani Johnson)

A splendid addition to nautical adventure, and a grand story, to boot!—Dewey Lambdin, author of the Alan Lewrie series of novels

J D Davies’s depiction of Restoration England and the British navy is impeccable, his characters truly live and breathe, and the plot kept me in suspense. Gentleman Captain is one of the rare books that I have read with a smile on my face from cover to cover. I could not recommend it more. — Edward Chupack, author of Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder

A beautifully written and masterfully told story…an excellent book, well researched, well written and thoroughly enjoyable…terrific characters, a thrilling adventure, and a wonderful sense of time and place…a delightful tale… a naval adventure that goes well beyond the usual outlines of the genre to paint a lively portrait of England in the 1600s…these are superb books…the best series of historical fiction I’ve ever read – From various reviews of the series

Reviews of ‘The Journals of Matthew Quinton’

WINNER OF THE SAMUEL PEPYS PRIZE AND LATHAM MEDAL, 2009

‘You will want to give this book to your favourite armchair seadog’ – James Srodes in The Washington Times

‘This superb book…not only an impressive technical publication to satisfy the dedicated researcher, it is also a jolly good read for the enthusiast’ – The Nautical Magazine

‘[A] magnificent and superbly illustrated volume’ – Professor Eric Grove in Navy News

‘This superb book…well written…beautifully illustrated throughout…this outstanding book is also very good value for money. Highly recommended’ – Marine News

‘Outstanding analysis’ – The Oxford Times

‘This great vade mecum…the research embodied in this work is excellent…no student of the late seventeenth century navy can afford to be without this admirable compilation’ – Professor David Loades in The Mariner’s Mirror

‘A book which should be in the bookcase of every student of Royal  Naval history…the author deserves huge congratulations for the expertise and knowledge so well recorded in this superb book’ – David Clement in South West Soundings

‘Fantastically detailed and comprehensive…an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the sailing navy’ – Janet Dempsey in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

Reviews of ‘Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89’

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MOUNTBATTEN MARITIME LITERARY AWARD, 2014

Davies’s aim [was] to produce a highly-readable and engaging account, and in this he has certainly succeeded. This book, then, is that rare beast, one that deals with academic ideas, but manages at the same time to communicate these to a broader audience. He writes with no little panache and considerable wit: there were moments where he had me smiling quietly and even a few occasions when I laughed out loud… The author’s sense of humour is evident throughout the book, raising it above the usual staid historical accounts that often favour plain, dour prose. At the same time, such comedy should not take away from the serious points which are made within the book’s 288 pages. This work demonstrates that the relationship between Wales and the Royal Navy was – for all its complexity – one of mutual reliance and interest. More broadly, he has greatly advanced the study of both Welsh and maritime history. For generations of Welsh people, the sea and more particularly the Navy were been essential to their lives, fortunes and sense of self. This was clear to many who heralded from Wales, not least the one Welshman to become Prime Minister of Britain: David Lloyd George. In 1925 he stood up in the House of Commons and noted that ‘there is no part of the Kingdom that, in proportion to its population, contributes more to the British Navy than Wales’. Lloyd George was not alone in realising the importance of the vital relationship between Wales and for the Royal Navy, and in turn, David Davies deserves considerable plaudits for telling this story in such a rich, accessible way. – Dr James Davey of the National Maritime Museum, International Journal of Maritime History

…it is perhaps deceptively easy for the uninformed to pass over the enormous contribution that Wales and the Welsh people have made to the story of British naval mastery over the years. Equally, the massive extent to which naval affairs and their influences have impacted profoundly on the lives of the Welsh people and on the country at large. is not at all as well understood as it very much ought to be, either in Wales or elsewhere in these islands. Well, J D Davies’s splendid new book will do much to correct the facile view that the maritime heritage of Wales is only about labouring tramp steamers…and it is therefore much to be welcomed, for it deals with a history and an experience of Welsh seafaring that has never hitherto been properly recounted.

The writer…takes the reader on a marvellous passage through 2000 years of Welsh seafaring endeavour…Handling a complex array of diverse and complicated sources with an enviable facility and writing in a polished prose which does justice to the depth and significance of this history, this is essentially a book about opening doors and windows and letting the light into a subject that has been unfairly neglected and largely ignored for too long, and that makes it a most valuable contribution to scholarship in modern naval history which can be strongly recommended. And a fine one it is…a good and important book. – Dr Campbell McMurray, Maritime Wales

 

Reviews of ‘Britannia’s Dragon: A Naval History of Wales’