Empire Of The Seas – Heart Of Oak

Written by Rachel on December 30th, 2009

Empire Of The Seas – Heart Of Oak Ep 1/4
Friday 15 January
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO

For centuries, the Royal Navy has strived to help make Britain one of the world’s great maritime superpowers. In Empire Of The Seas, historian and avid sailor Dan Snow goes beyond battle tactics to reveal a surprising naval history. The series reveals an indelible bond between seafarers and the people of Britain and charts how the Navy shaped modern Britain.

In the first part of this landmark series, Dan uncovers the defining role the nascent Navy played in Britain’s emergence onto the world stage. He explores the Navy’s metamorphosis, from a rabble of Tudor West Country freebooters and a few Royal ships, to a recognisably modern institution.

Beginning with a dramatic re-telling of 16th and 17th-century history, Dan looks at how victory over the Armada proved a turning point in Britain’s national story. England was transformed into a seafaring nation whose source of future wealth and power lay on the oceans.

Ships poured out of England. They founded the Colonies and the beginnings of what would become Britain’s future Empire. In 1652, General at Sea Robert Blake produced the Navy’s first ever set of regulations, which offered a blue print for structure and discipline at sea that would later be applied through all areas of government.

By the time of the Restoration, the Navy took up 25 per cent of the national budget and was the country’s largest industrial enterprise – but it was also a chaotic mess. Dan reveals the man who turned it around, Samuel Pepys. His vivid diary reveals a man who was a genius organiser. He overhauled the Restoration Navy, introduced exams, stamped out corruption and ultimately laid the foundations for Britain’s modern civil service.

Despite Pepys’s innovations, the question of how the Navy was funded and controlled continued to create ongoing divisions between the King and Parliament. As trouble loomed on the political front, the Navy’s key role in the Glorious Revolution cemented its place as a central pillar of state.


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