History is composed not only of facts, but also of dates and if one needs to pinpoint a chronological beginning to what is considered modern naval history, historians and naval experts all agree on 1616. It was precisely in 1616 that the Portuguese João Baptista Lavanha published the Livro Primeiro de Architectura Naval, a text which actually disappeared for several decades, but was rediscovered in Spain 250 years after its publication.

A shipyard on the river Guadalquivir in 16th century Seville: detail from a townscape by Alonso Sánchez Coello. ( Public Domain )

Lavanha’s is considered the first ever text on the subject. However, in 1670, 32-year-old Anthony Deane in England also published a book, Doctrine of Naval Architecture , and three years later, in France, the Jesuit Father Pardi published a treatise on naval tactics, for example describing for the first time the forces at play that would veer a vessel on a given course with the wind at abeam, with less advancement than would be the case with the inclination of the hull itself. A few years later, in 1677, another French treatise Architecture Navale saw the light of day, thanks to F. Dassie. The treatise analyzed nothing new compared to its predecessors, but it demonstrated the interest in the topic and the existence of a critical evaluation of the subject, especially in France, which would be at the heart of subsequent studies.

Superpowers Rising

Unfortunately, the 17th century was not without its conflicts, which changed the face of Europe as early as the beginning of the 18th century. At the end pf the 18th century the French Revolution changed the very structure of international relations as the European dynastic ambitions and the territorial expansions coveted by each sovereign became the backdrop for future social and ideological struggles during the following centuries. However, in Europe prior to the French Revolution , France’s power progressively and uninterruptedly expanded from 1616 until 1789, and Russia as well as the Habsburg Monarchy experienced a great rise in military power. France was certainly the forerunner in influencing the progress of science, mathematics, physics and naval design. Under the reign of Louis XIV, the ambition of naval supremacy reached unprecedented levels and the monarch endowed the royal navy with great prestige and power.

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Aaronne Colagrossi  obtained a degree in Geological Sciences from the University of Molise with a thesis in geological survey and paleontology. He is the author of several books including  Inferno Blu Cobalto (Storia di un pirata)

Top Image: Naval battle near Ter Heijde on 10 August 1653, during the First Anglo-Dutch War by Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraaten ( Public Domain )

By Aaronne Colagrossi



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