Combining scholarship with readability, this collection of nineteen biographical essays has been written by a distinguished international team of naval historians in a style readily accessible to the general reader. It examines admirals of many navies, from the advent of the gun-armed sailing ship onward, who gave naval combat a recognizably modern form. The theme is leadership in war at sea. Each essay treats an admiral who held command in battle, exploring the combination of personal attributes and professional experience that shaped the admiral's leadership, and analyzing a battle in which that leadership can be observed in action.
Only admirals who flew their flags in battle are included. They are presented in chronological order, beginning with Drake, continuing with Tromp, Blake, de Ruyter, Hawke, Juel, Suffren, Nelson, Miaoulis, Farragut, Tegetthoff, Dewey, Togo, Jellicoe, Scheer, Cunningham, Yamamoto, Spruance, and Halsey. Complementing their biographies are nearly forty illustrations, including seldom-seen portraits, and more than thirty maps and charts drawn especially for the book. Six surveys by the editor trace the evolution of the instruments and conditions of naval warfare and link the admirals to their eras. As a whole, the work provides a panoramic treatment of command at sea under the changing circumstances of naval combat since early modern times.