By 1809 the Indian Ocean was the final battleground for Nelson's Navy and the French fleet. At stake was Britain's commercial lifeline to India - and its strategic capacity to wage war in Europe.
In one fatal season, the natural order of maritime power since Trafalgar was destroyed. In bringing home saltpetre for the Peninsular campaign, Britain lost 14 of her great Indiamen, either sunk or taken by enemy frigates. Many hundreds of lives were lost, and the East India Company was shaken to its foundations. The focus of these disasters was a tiny French outpost in mid-ocean - the island now known as Mauritius.
Storm and Conquest tells the story of that season. It brings together the terrifying ordeal of men, women and children caught at sea in hurricanes, and those who survived to drive the French from the Eastern Seas. All shared a need to prove themselves - to make a career, or a fortune, or a marriage - in places which could be at once magnificent and terrifying.
The drama of Stephen Taylor's masterful narrative is irresistible; his true stories more than a match for the novels of Patrick O'Brian. And he provides a meticulously researched, searing portrait of the British captains whose zeal and ambition was such that they would rather die than capitulate. Prime among them is the unforgettable Captain Robert Corbet, savage with his men but staggeringly tenacious in battle.
Author: Stephen Taylor
Title: Storm and Conquest: The Battle for the Indian Ocean 1808-1810
First Published by: Faber & Faber
Date: January 2007