The Royal Navy at the time of the Great Fire of London

The 1660s were a time of great turmoil in England. In 1666 the great fire of London had destroyed much of the country’s capital and just a year earlier the great plague had killed a fifth of the city’s population. In amongst this chaos the new King, Charles II, recently restored to the throne after the English Civil War, began to build an extraordinary navy. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards the capabilities of seapower dramatically and exponentially increased. European powers began to take up permanent positions in foreign countries laying the foundations for the subsequent colonialism that shaped the modern world. Whilst they vied for control of the new global trade that linked east with west, that rivalry led to some of the largest-scale fleet battles ever fought.

To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Richard Endsor, a world-renowned historian who has has dedicated his life to studying the structures and building processes of seventeenth century ships. Richard has written several award winning books including The Master Shipwright’s Secrets for which he was awarded the prestigious Anderson Medal for the best maritime book published in 2020.

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