A man-of-war (also man of war, man-o'-war or simply man) is an armed naval vessel. 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 the Mediterranean in the 15th century 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 men-of-war (or men-o'-war) were some of the most powerful ships from the 16th to the 19th centuries. They were developed in England in the mid-16th century by Henry VIII, who mainly used a carrack. The caravel was 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. While Henry ruled Portugal, he built up a strong navy, not of powerful warships but of three hundred 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 England created a smaller galleon which they called the carrack. Henry VIII of England called it occasionally a man-of-war. Sir John Hawkins developed the legitimate man-of-war. It had three masts, could be up to two hundred feet long and have up to 120 cannons; four at the front, eight at the back and fifty six cannons on each side. It needed three cannon decks to hold all the cannons. The maximum cannon decks needed before on any other ships was two. It had a maximum sailing speed of around eight or nine knots. The ship was so successful that Sir Francis Drake created a smaller version he called the frigott or frigate. As two more centuries passed, the man-of-war became even more popular.