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Naval stores

J. MEYER


Subject History » Military History

Key-Topics navy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631168485.1994.x


Extract

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, naval needs for timber, sailcloth, hemp, pitch, tar and linseed were enormous: no maritime nation could satisfy them without resorting to the Baltic supply. The Baltic trade played the same role, relatively speaking, as the Near Eastern oil monopoly does in our own time. Naval administrations had to be more closely involved in the purchase of these stores than in later periods, owing to the quantities required by the state. Holland and England depended almost wholly on such imports, and naval domination was therefore a question of life and death for them. Both France and Britain could meet some of their needs from their own forests, but intensive exploitation in the past meant that there were not enough large pieces of timber which were needed for the structure of a ship. Spain was reduced to using woods from the north-west, hence her recourse to exotic woods and the importance of Havana as a shipbuilding centre. Calabria and Dalmatia were available as sources, but quality was another problem – Pyrenean conifers produced masts which were very brittle. Costs of transport also influenced the trade towards northern Europe. The river system of the north European plain allowed great trees to be moved very easily, while in the French mountains a system of roads had first to be built, and land transport generally was poor. Finally, we can add ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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