WILLIAM JAMES (d. 1827), English naval historian, author of the Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV ., practised as a proctor in the admiralty court of Jamaica between 1801 and 1813. He was in the United States when the war of 1812 broke out, and was detained as a prisoner, but escaped to Halifax. His literary career began by letters to the Naval Chronicle over the signature of "Boxer." In 1816 he published An Inquiry into the Merits of the Principal Naval Actions between Great Britain and the United States. In this pamphlet, which James reprinted in 1817, enlarged and with a new title, his object was to prove that the American frigates were stronger than their British opponents nominally of the same class. In 1819 he began his Naval History, which appeared in five volumes (1822-1824), and was reprinted in six volumes (1826). It is a monument of painstaking accuracy in all such matters as dates, names, tonnage, armament and movements of ships, though no attempt is ever made to show the connexion between the various movements. James died on the 28th of May 1827 in London, leaving a widow who received a civil list pension of loo.
An edition of the Naval History in six volumes, with additions and notes by Capt. F. Chamier, was published in 1837, and a further one in 1886. An edition epitomized by R. O'Byrne appeared in 1888, and an Index by C. G. Toogood was issued by the Navy Records Society in 1895.
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