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Seven Ships Maritime History launches. Floated on a dream.

Seven Ships Maritime History Series –

a Note from the author

In the summer of 2006, about five years before the Syrian Civil War began,

I spent a couple of weeks in Damascus. In theory I was doing some informal

research about Lawrence of Arabia, but in reality I mostly wandered the streets

and gazed at the buildings and was touched by the exquisite good manners of

the local people. In the afternoons, when the heat became oppressive for a pale

European, I went into the Umayyad Mosque – infidels are quite welcome there

– and squatted next to one of the pillars, and read the book I had brought with

me: a hardback edition of Livingstone Lowes’ The Road to Xanadu, which is a

wonderful exploration of all the travel narratives that fed the imagination of the

young Coleridge. It was delicious to escape from the uncomfortable warmth of

a Damascene summer and daydream about the snow and the icebergs and the

dark, chill waters that the ancient mariners had met when they ventured to the

far north.

The extracts from old diaries and letters and memoirs cited in this study

re-awoke in me that sense of wonder which the best sailors’ tales have always

inspired, especially in children. When I put the book down to daydream, I

began to think of how fascinating it would be for me to find out more about

maritime history, and to tell the stories of the greatest British ships over the

centuries of the Western maritime expansion. It was not hard to choose seven

famous vessels for seven books, each of which would have its own major

themes: Golden Hind (exploration, plunder), Mayflower (religion, emigration),

Endeavour (science, colonialism), Bounty (rebellion, survival), Victory (war,

heroism), Beagle (biology, genius) and Endurance (leadership, heroism, survival).

Each volume would be self-contained, but would also mark a chapter in the rise

and decline of British maritime power and the creation of the modern world.

The idea came to me whole, in a single dreamy afternoon, and I knew it was

what I wanted to do next. Now all I had to do was write my tales: the stories

of Seven Ships.

Kevin Jackson, 2020

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