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Nelson rules the waves

NELSON AND HIS NAVY CD-Rom for Acorn, Apple and Windows Multimedia PCs, Pounds 50 SCA, PO Box 18, Benfleet, Essex SS7 1AZ. Tel: 01268 755811 Age group: 10-14.

Developed with the National Maritime Museum, Nelson and His Navy provides a comprehensive view of an important period of British history. It fits snugly in the national curriculum's history study unit 3 for key stage 3 pupils: Britain 1750 to circa 1900. It addresses the requirement for pupils to have an overview of some of the main events, personalities and developments and to understand how worldwide expansion, industrialisation and political developments combined to shape modern Britain. The orders also state that they should be taught about an aspect of the period in depth and offers the Napoleonic Wars, and key personalities such as Nelson, in its examples. Nelson and His Navy provides plenty of detail on this period.

The CD-Rom contains a wealth of graphics - photos of historic paintings and line drawings - along with background and descriptive information. It opens with an introductory screen of a computer model of HMS Victory. You find your way around simply by clicking on the mouse in the direction you want to go. From the deck, a number of brief investigations can be undertaken relating to ship design and construction, the ships of the navy, and life on board.

The real nitty gritty comes when you explore Nelson's cabin. Here, via charts, books, a diary etc, you can study the background to the American and Napoleonic Wars, naval history and a short book on Nelson and his contemporaries. There are even several of Nelson's personal letters, which give a fascinating insight into his private life.

Of particular note is the "virtual tour" around HMS Victory - probably the best you will get outside Portsmouth! The jewel in the crown of this CD is the 30-minute commentary, with sporadic animations, of the Battle of Trafalgar and its aftermath. It captures the essence of the battle and particularly the difficulties faced by ships' companies after the battle.

All the ingredients are here and the CD achieves its historical goal creditably. However, I feel that more use could have been made of video clips - especially in historic re-enactments of life on board ship. Similarly, I would have liked to have had the option to have all the text read for less able pupils. Despite these criticisms, Nelson and His Navy is a well-designed historic resource containing a rich library of source material. And schools with Internet access can find more information at Anglia's Web site: http:anglia.co.uk.

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