- Created on Tuesday, 20 October 2009
- By David Hayes
In Pepys's Navy (Seaforth Publishing), David Davies examines every aspect of the English navy in the second half of the seventeenth century, from the time when the Fleet was taken into Parliamentary control after the defeat of Charles I, until the accession of William and Mary in 1689 when the long period of struggle with the Dutch came to an end. This crucial era witnessed the creation of a permanent naval service, in essence the birth of the Royal Navy.
Samuel Pepys played a pivotal role in the creation of a professional navy, first as a member of the Navy Board and later as Secretary to the Admiralty. His thirty years' service did much to replace the ad hoc processes of the past with systems for construction and administration. That, by 1690, the navy was ready for a century of struggle against the French owed much to Pepys's tireless work.
The judges, who included the inaugural winner of the Award, Claire Tomalin, were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to David Davies.
Speaking on behalf of the judges, Ann Sweeney (Chairman), commented,
"We expect Pepys's Navy to become an enduring work of reference. Very comprehensive and written with great authority, David Davies has shown his total knowledge of secondary sources balanced by his own research. The excellent descriptions of sea battles and the minutiae of ship-board life are supported by superb illustrations. This is an exceptional successor to his previous book Gentlemen and Tarpaulins. It is a book we would all like to have on our bookshelves."
J. D. Davies recently embarked on a series of naval and historical fiction, The Journals of Matthew Quinton, set in the seventeenth century. The first novel in the series, Gentleman Captain, was published in August by Old Street Publishing and will be published in the USA next year by Houghton Mifflin.
The author will be presented with a cheque for £2000 and a specially commissioned medal designed by Philip Nathan in memory of Robert Latham, the co-editor of the definitive edition of Pepys's diary. The award will be given at the annual Samuel Pepys dinner to be held at Apothecaries' Hall on 20 October.
The Samuel Pepys Award is a biennial prize and is given for a book that, in the opinion of the judges, makes the greatest contribution to the understanding of Samuel Pepys, his times or his contemporaries in the interest of encouraging scholarship in this area. The first award was given to Claire Tomalin's Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self in 2003 to mark the tercentenary of his death in May 1703. Frances Harris won the award in 2005 for Transformations of Love, for her vivid portrait of John Evelyn's ‘chaste but passionate' friendship with Margaret Godolphin, a maid of honour at the Restoration court of Charles II. In 2007, the Award was made to John Adamson for The Noble Revolt, an absorbing narrative of the period between the king's decision to fight the Scots in May 1640 and his flight from London in January 1642.
The Samuel Pepys Award 2009 was open to books written in the English language and published between 1 September 2007 and 30 June 2009. Eighteen books were submitted for the prize and the judges were
- Dr Richard Luckett - Pepys Librarian, Magadalene College, Cambridge with particular interest in the music and literature of the seventeenth century
- Ann Sweeney (Chairman of judges) - Chairman of the Samuel Pepys Club
- Sir Keith Thomas - historian and author of many works on early modern British history, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and former President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
- Claire Tomalin - writer, literary journalist and author of several biographies, most recently of Thomas Hardy, and winner of the inaugural Samuel Pepys Award in 2003
The Samuel Pepys Award was set up by the Samuel Pepys Club and is run and financed by the Samuel Pepys Award Trust. For more information, go to www.pepys-club.org.uk. The Club was founded "to do honour to the memory of Samuel Pepys" on the bicentenary of Pepys's death on 26 May 1903.