Brian Lavery, the pre-eminent historian of the Royal Navy, turns his astute and wide-ranging analytical eye on to its 'lower deck' - the world of the seamen as distinct from the officers of the 'quarterdeck'.
If not totally overlooked in the grand narratives of the Senior Service the lower deck is often only noticed when it is a problem.
Seamen are difficult to recruit, sometimes they mutiny on board ship, they are liable to drunkenness and venereal disease, they tend to desert or behave in a feckless manner.
For the first time in a dedicated volume The Royal Tars of Old England presents the authentic voice, life and social history of the lower deck - how, in the confines of a fighting ship, the men asserted their independence of authority and, as part of this, established a vivid culture with its own values, language and rituals.
The volume conveys the character of the seaman, from the early medieval navy through to the post-Trafalgar long peace, his attitudes to those above him and the navy's regulations, and the experience of battle as seen from the gun deck or the fighting top.