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A Dutch man-of-war firing a salute. The Cannon Shot, painting by Willem Van de Velde, the younger.

The man-of-war (also man of war, man-o'-war or simply man) was the most powerful type of armed ship from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The term often refers to a ship armed with cannon and propelled primarily by sails, as opposed to a galley which is propelled primarily by oars. The man-of-war was developed in England in the early 1600s from earlier roundships with the addition of a second mast to form the carrack (a type of ship used by the English in the 1500s). The 16th century saw the carrack evolve into the galleon and then the ship of the line.



The man-of-war was developed in England in the 1600s.[1] It derived from the carrack ship design, which ultimately derived from the caravel. The caravel was a type of ship invented for trading and transporting goods to colonies and settlements. It was a coastal vessel that rarely went out to sea. Most of Europe used the cog for trading, until Prince Henry the Navigator built a larger version he called caravela or caravel. He built up a strong navy, not of powerful warships, but of 300 caravels. In the late 15th century, Spain and other nations adapted the caravel and invented a new ship, the galleon. In the early 16th century, Portugal created a smaller galleon which they called the carrack (nau in Portuguese). Henry VIII of England adapted it and called it a man-of-war, but Sir John Hawkins developed the legitimate man-of-war. The man-of-war was so successful that Sir Francis Drake created a smaller version he called the frigott or frigate. During the next two centuries, the man-of-war became even more popular.


The man-of-war design developed by Sir John Hawkins had three masts, could be up to 200 feet long and could have up to 124 guns: 4 at the front, 8 at the back, and 56 on each side. All these guns required three cannon decks to hold them, one more than any earlier ship. It had a maximum sailing speed of around eight or nine knots.

See also


  1. ^ John., Harland,. Seamanship in the age of sail an account of the shiphandling of the sailing man-of-war, 1600-1860, based on contemporary sources. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute P, 1984., ISBN 0870219553

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