Thursday, April 28, 2011

Various Interesting Things About The Napoleonic Era Part I

Having read through the entire Sharpe and Aubrey-Maturin series, I realize I know perhaps a little too much about the Napoleonic era given my age, general disposition to pipes, and my inability to procure a single piece of furniture that might be described as an 'ottoman'.

Without resorting to taking strolls through the retirement communities of British ex-pats and striking up conversations with fellows sporting luxuriant moustaches and alarmingly hopeful comb-overs, I doubt I'll have opportunity to discuss the various interesting things about the Napoleonic Era.

And there are many.

The Sharpe series follows a loud, rambunctious, go-getter in the Army with recurring money problems and a taste for the wench as he climbs the ladder of promotion by grit, luck, and raw love of violence. The Aubrey-Maturin series features Jack Aubrey, who well, is very similar to Sharpe except that he's in the Navy, his idea of 'fiscally destitute' is quite different from Sharpe's, and he plays the violin.

Obviously, there are many other differences, the general gist is that they are both underdogs, and who doesn't love a good underdog story? Even if it happens to be 20 odd books long, right?

That era, early 1800's to about 1820's or so, was kinda the zenith of Crap We Can Just Make With Your Hands. Before industrialization and the whole machines making machines making machines things came into play. It's radically noticeable with the Navy. On a ship, you'd have a cooper (barrels), armourer, carpenter, gunner, surgeon (staunch the flow, amputate at will, no real training), sailmaker, and, I'm sure, about 20 other REALLY important positions I'm forgetting. But the thing is, that ship, say, a frigate, could land anywhere, and make stuff work from the rawest of materials. They could make boats, they could repair their own boat, they could slaughter and salt and store their own food. This is mind blowing to me.

Consider now, a boat made of carbon fibre, or steel, about a trillion transistors worth of electronics and radar and GPS and doppler. If that thing breaks, yer screwed. The amount of civilization to make the smallest component of a modern ship is enormous. Advances in mathematics, hydrodynamics, laminar flow, materials processing, metallurgy.

What that era was like is, well, I was thinking. It's basically the most advanced we could hope to get within a reasonable time after the zombie apocalypse. Or. Or a apocalypse.


shipwreck said...

We should co-write a story about a unit from Napoleonic France that survives the apocalypse.

Niteowl said...

Lotsa death from slow-loading and BRAIN EATIN'!

shipwreck said...

"Tuez le cerveau et le corps va mourir!"