Oliver Warner’s Battle of the Nile is an account of the critical sea battle at Aboukir Bay between the armies of Napoleon, and of the British under Nelson in August of 1798. The main objective of the British troops was to quell the ever-increasing power of the Napoleonic Empire. Napoleon’s troops were stationed in Egypt at this time, on their way to India to wage war against British occupiers. The British were concerned about these ambitions, as Napoleon had been moving across Europe and had already threatened their control of the Mediterranean. Admiral Nelson was employed by the British Empirical heads to engage a set of plans that would seek to locate, engage and destroy the French fleet, thus thwarting Napoleon’s efforts to drive Britain out of the war.
In the book, Warner argues that the actions the British took were necessary and justified, as Napoleon had been becoming more aggressive and was rapidly seizing territory throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa. The British were concerned at this point, that Napoleon would use these conquests to bolster his power and control, enabling him to forge an alliance with the Ottoman Turks. Working together, the British were certain that Napoleon and the Turks could prevent them from maintaining its dominance of the sea and cut off their colonies around the world, weakening them, and opening them up to potential attacks by Napoleonic forces, and others.
Warner supports his thesis by discussing Nelson’s passion for the history of the British military forces, and his criticisms of the way that the British had conducted themselves during, for example, the Seven Years War. Admiral Nelson was certain that he could greatly improve Britain’s opposition to France, with whom they had quite a weak track record. During the conflict with Napoleonic forces at this time, the British were using the Navy as back up troops for the battlefield, meaning that the sea was left weakened, and the French fleets could undermine the at-sea defense very easily. Nelson believed that it was necessary to take out the entire French fleet all at once. After that, the British land forces could overthrow the rest of the Napoleonic armies in their attempts at the other parts of the Empire. In the long term, these actions would protect British interests around the world and enable them to counter the threat Napoleon presented at large.
At the heart of Napoleon’s strategy, a utilization of the both land and naval forces was crucial in an attempt at overthrowing, or at the very least undermining, British force and power across the Empire. Napoleon’s aim was to reform the fleet by improving morale, and engaging with their professionalism and ability to directly engage with the enemy, thus making it easier to protect his occupied territories and rapidly expand into other areas around the globe. Warner’s explanation of these points makes for a very convincing argument for Nelson’s attack.
The book is very well organized, beginning with a brief but detailed history of the events leading up to the battle. This helps the reader to understand the threat that the British were facing, and how dangerous and stark the threat was from the Napoleonic Empire. It then focuses on how Napoleon worked to realize this vision through forging strategic alliances with Britain’s enemies (i.e. the Ottoman Turks) and moving further eastward, towards British occupied India. The arguments presented in the book, by Warner, convince the reader of the strength of Nelson’s desire, and of the forces he was utilizing in his attempt at creating this threat to the British Empire. Warner’s take on the subject matter is neutral and unbiased, making this book an important resource for all who seek further insight into this subject.