The Wooden World

The so-called Wooden World of the 18th century represented a global society based on seafaring.  Warships ranged from sloops, with perhaps a dozen cannon, to a first-rate ship of the line with a hundred or more.  These ships known as Men-of-war required educated officers and a skilled crews willing to live in the horrendous conditions on board.  The cramped space, spoiled food and rationed water being only a few of the difficulties.  Thus, a specialized culture of seamen was needed from which to draw crew.  Sailors where drawn from around the world, and crews where integrated.  A special naval culture developed, which was as cosmopolitan as its reputation for being vile.  European states developed naval schools and research institutes.  Non-Western cultures did not adopt fully-rigged warships, although they had the resources to do so.  This was perfectly rational since it was not their traders who where threatened on the high seas.  They let Europe pay the high bill for such navies.

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