Damned well done history, this has hook after compelling hook -- the first being its dismissal of the British as having the sea in their veins. They haven't, Howarth says -- nobody does, not the Vikings, the Venetians nor the Phoenicians. What they have in their blood is money, power, religion, fear of invasion -- real motives. What's amazing is that the British were such laggards that, despite the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, not until Elizabeth's reign did they bloom as a sea power. A late start! Some of the most fascinating pages here are about shipbuilding; the imagination enters with awe the high, great hulls being built to carry Harry V's archers to Agincourt. Famous battles at sea are drawn, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Nelson's victory at Trafalgar; the age of exploration and discovery; the pax Britannica, 100 years of peace on the high seas following Napoleon's defeat. The excellent bright old paintings used as illustrations are strikingly beautiful and join the text with point and poetry.