The ships of any age express the needs and ambitions of the people who build them. They also reflect the state of technology at the time. But the history of ships is not just a reflection of the history of man; it is a complete and fascinating story in itself. It began 5,000 years ago, on the banks of the Nile, with the funeral ship of a distant pharaoh. At first, ship propulsion was largely a matter of sweated labour, but gradually the oared ship gave way to the sailing ship. With progress in ship design, voyages became longer and more adventurous. The result was the discovery of new lands and an upsurge in maritime trade, calling for new types of ship to carry and protect it. Then, in the 1880s, seafaring was transformed by the twin revolutions of steam power and iron construction. Today, little more than half a century since the demise of the last great sail trading vessels, we are in the age of the hovercraft, container ship and nuclear submarine. The scope of this book includes merchantmen and men-of-war, ceremonial, pleasure and working craft of all civilizations and all ages, as well as the people who built and sailed them.