Early Ships and Seafaring - European Water Transport

Author(s) Sean McGrail
Publisher Pen and Sword
Date 2015
Pages 192
Format epub
Size 3 Mb







It is a well-known fact that two-thirds of the surface of out planet is covered by sea while the remaining third has numerous lakes plus rivers which used to be pre-eminently early Man's 'highways'. Since the Stone Age, water transport on lakes, rivers and seas have been considered the prime means by which humans explored and further exploited the world, linking together its very dispersed populations, and sustained trade and exchange.

The rafts and the boats remained principle actors in that role until the advent of the aeroplanes in the early twentieth century. Boats are their own advertisement: there therefore was a tendency for the styles of boatbuilding and methods of propulsion and steering to spread around centers of innovation and become regional styles. The main objective of the present volume was to present what is now known about the water transport of two of those regions: the Mediterranean and the European Atlantic seaboard. The time span of the text extends from earliest days to the XV century AD when European ships had begun to be designed in a formal way, and technical descriptions and drawings of water transport were produced. A significant change in water transport occurred with the introduction of the ship - with all that increase in size implies for operational capabilities.

There is no clear distinguishing in the English language between the two, merely a range of characteristics of which the ship, generally speaking, has more than the planked boat. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the 'boat' as 'a small open vessel; the 'ship' as 'a large seagoing vessel. A distinction is thereby drawn between, on the one hand, a small, undecked vessel limited in range and by the weather, and using informal landing places; and, on the other hand, a large, decked vessel, capable of carrying a boat on board, relatively unrestricted in range or by the weather, and often operated from formal harbors with wharfs and jetties.

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