'The seamen here are a generation differing from all the world. When one goes into Rotherhithe and Wapping, which places are chiefly inhabited by sailors, a man would be apt to suspect himself in another country. Their manner of living, speaking, acting, dressing, and behaving, are so very peculiar to themselves. Yet, with all their oddities, they are perhaps the bravest and boldest fellows in the universe.'
Sir John Fielding, 1776
Sailors is a vivid social and economic history of the lives of English merchant seamen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a period during which England rose to dominance in global commerce and became the greatest naval power in the world.
Drawing on primary documents, public records and private memoirs, acclaimed historian Peter Earle explores every aspect of the sailor's life: conditions of service, wealth and possessions, life aboard ship, the perils of the sea, discipline and punishment, sickness, desertion, mutiny and mortality, and the role of the sailor in times of war.
Evocative, scholarly and colourful, this story of England's 'bravest and boldest' reveals how life on the waves was not all storms and conflict, tyranny and revolt, but also one of comradeship, adventure, and 'the wonder how any can be such a lubber to stay on land'.
'Earle writes with the dramatic flair of an Alan Moorehead, his descriptions thrill like scenes from an Errol Flynn swashbuckler and the historical research appears impeccable.'