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Out of strong curiosity, I would really love to know what it was like on sailing ships centuries ago. I can look up nautical terms all day, but those don't express the culture, or much of the procedure or knowledge necessary to convey what life was like on ships such as those.

What was the culture like? What would someone see and hear if he watched the crew disembark from port, or higher-ups changed course, for example? How did the chain of command function, but more importantly, how did the chain of command function socially? (how was the captain treated, for example?) What misconceptions exist from modern culture's perception of sailors/pirates/etc? What were pirates of this time period really like? (and the same questions from earlier apply to pirates, I would suppose.)

Thank you so much!

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closed as too broad by Vector, Kobunite, Mark C. Wallace, Eugene Seidel, Lennart Regebro Sep 2 '13 at 2:01

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You have here a dozen questions, over a very great period of time-try to focus on one particular point of history. You could ask several good questions on this subject but I am voting to close until you sort them out.(It's also a request for references). BTW, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, although not a history book, is based on his own personal knowledge of whaling and seaman culture in the early 19th century, and in the book many of your questions will find very good answers. Few books, history or otherwise, will give you a better "feel" for what it was like to go to sea in days gone by. – user2590 Sep 1 '13 at 8:05
I'm leaning strongly towards the golden age of piracy and perhaps somewhat later. I will consider reading Moby Dick; it sounds interesting. – TND Sep 1 '13 at 18:29
Moby Dick also talks about pirates, including a pirate raid on the whaling boat, if my memory serves me correctly.(Warning: Moby Dick is not an "easy read", but if you persist, you'll get the hang of it.) – user2590 Sep 1 '13 at 21:22

Read Hornblower series by Forester and Aubrey series by O'Brien for the Napoleonic period. O'Brien's description of nautical life is generally thought to be more realistic, but Hornblower is based on a real-life character whereas Aubrey is entirely fictional.

Henty has (at least one) nautical book set in Elizabethan period: Under Drake's Flag.

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But how much of these books' description of daily ship life is factual and how much is creative reconstruction? I am a bit wary of referring to them as a source - perhaps memoirs would be a more reliable place to look for. – Felix Goldberg Sep 1 '13 at 9:37
I mean something like this: amazon.com/Wetherell-Hussar-Recollections-Ordinary-Napoleonic/… – Felix Goldberg Sep 1 '13 at 9:43
Or this: archive.org/details/cu31924031215266 – Felix Goldberg Sep 1 '13 at 9:45
@FelixGoldberg: That last is an interesting anecdotal history, but has no significant description of life at sea that I can find. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 1 '13 at 14:50

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