The Emergence of Britain's Global Naval Supremacy

The Emergence of Britain's Global Naval Supremacy: The War of 1739-1748

Richard Harding
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 392
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    The Emergence of Britain's Global Naval Supremacy
    Book Description:

    The British involvement in the war of 1739-1748 has been generally neglected. Standing between the great victories of Marlborough in the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713) and the even greater victories of the Seven Years War (1756-1763), it has been dismissed as inconclusive and incompetently managed. For the first time this book brings together the political and operational conduct of the war to explore its contribution to a critical development in British history during the eighteenth century - the emergence of Britain as the paramount global naval power. The war posed a unique set of problems for British politicians, statesmen and servicemen. They had to overcome domestic and diplomatic crises, culminating in the rebellion of 1745 and the threat of French invasion. Yet, far from being incompetent, these people handled the crises and learned a great deal about the conduct of global warfare. The changes they made and decisions they took prepared Britain for the decisive Anglo-French clash of arms in the Seven Years War. In this misunderstood war lie some of the key factors that made Britain the greatest naval power for the next one hundred and fifty years. RICHARD HARDING is Professor of Organisational History and Head of the Department of Leadership and Development at the University of Westminster. He is the author of numerous articles and books on naval history and is currently Chairman of the Society for Nautical Research.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-906-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface (pp. ix-x)
    Richard Harding
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-8)

    From the early years of the eighteenth century the sea played an important part in how Britons’ defined themselves. ‘Fenced in with a wall which knows no master but God only’, the diverse peoples of the British Isles, with all their differences, clearly perceived themselves as separate from their European neighbours.¹ The Civil Wars (1642–1648, 1649–1651) and the Anglo-Dutch Wars (1652–1654, 1665–1667, 1672–1674), established a confident Protestantism and a notion of political liberty that provided the ideological underpinning that supported the development of the British state into the eighteenth century. The navy was an essential...

  6. 1 The Route to War, 1738–1739 (pp. 9-28)

    On Tuesday 23 October 1739 heralds made their way from St James Palace to the Royal Exchange to proclaim King George II’s declaration of war upon Spain. Bells peeled out across the City and the stocks which had been languishing on Exchange Alley began to rise.¹ Preparations for war had commenced in June, but the British ministry was not united on the wisdom of the war.² The King and his First Lord of the Treasury, Sir Robert Walpole, only reluctantly came to accept the need for war. Walpole is famously said to have commented on hearing the bells peeling out...

  7. 2 Mobilisation and the Outbreak of War, June–October 1739 (pp. 29-56)

    On the evening of 3 June, the die had been cast and Britain was committed to hostilities with Spain. Over the following days the orders went out from the secretaries of state’s offices for preparations to begin. Bringing the fleet up to operational standard was not an easy process in the eighteenth century. One of the vital resources for mobilising the fleet was manpower. The navy drew its seamen from the maritime communities of the kingdom as and when it needed them. However, in early summer, with maritime commerce at its annual peak of activity, there were few unemployed seamen...

  8. 3 The Opening Moves, October 1739–January 1741 (pp. 57-96)

    The declaration of war in October put Britain on a course into the unknown. Never before had Britain plunged into a conflict with a major European power without allies. That the campaign would take place in the late summer and autumn of 1740 against the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean underlay both the expectation of a swift victory and the declaration of war.¹ Over the coming winter and spring the forces had to be assembled and during this time France had to be kept neutral. A great deal was being gambled on an ability to do both.

    The Spanish Empire...

  9. 4 The Widening War and the Fall of Sir Robert Walpole, January 1741–February 1742 (pp. 97-120)

    The movement of a major part of the fleet to the West Indies at the end of 1740 was a creditable achievement. However, there were worrying signs. The Admiralty could now count on only 13 ships of the line in home waters. There were very few other 70s or 60s ready to be put into commission and orders were given to commission the ‘great ships’ of 100 and 90 guns, which were lying in ordinary at Chatham and Portsmouth. These ships were less versatile than the smaller ships of the line and demanded larger numbers of seamen to man them,...

  10. 5 Shifting Focus, the Growth of the Continental Commitment, February–December 1742 (pp. 121-151)

    As MPs left Parliament on 3 February 1742 they knew the political scene had shifted decisively and the war had been an important context for Walpole’s fall. The overall result of the maritime war to date was inconclusive but this was, by common consensus, the fault of ministers and army officers. At the beginning of 1740 Spain had a very limited capability. During 1741 the naval balance of power had shifted towards Spain. However, France, even as a neutral, had significantly multiplied that shift of power and forced the redistribution of the British fleet into the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Lack...

  11. 6 The Continental Commitment, January 1743–February 1744 (pp. 152-183)

    Throughout the first half of 1743, the vigorous press and pamphlet campaign against Hanoverian influence continued, but the parliamentary turmoil died down. Looking back over the period after Parliament rose on 21 April, Sir Benjamin Keene observed, ‘We had a very easy session under Mr Pelham. Pitt is the only opposition. Dodington is sleepy. Waller, who collects matters is called their Commissary of Stores. These are the chiefs that enter against us, so terror does not come from without.’ A far greater problem, Keene observed, was the difficulty of getting agreement within the ministry where no individual or group was...

  12. 7 War with France and Crisis of the Worms Policy, February 1744–December 1744 (pp. 184-218)

    During the winter of 1743/4, while the political battles still raged in Parliament, arrangements for the coming campaign were proceeding. Open war with France was now expected. France was a far more dangerous enemy than Spain and there was already evidence that the French were fostering a Jacobite rebellion.¹ So far the Royal Navy had not achieved what was expected of it in the offensive war against Spain, but it was still seen as the principal and reliable safeguard against invasion. Anxiety about invasion and rebellion was rising, but with faith in the navy still intact, the offensive against France...

  13. Plates (pp. None)
  14. 8 Rebellion and the End of the Flanders Policy, January–December 1745 (pp. 219-270)

    Although George had lost Granville he was far from reconciled to the situation. Harrington, who replaced Granville, was an old friend, and entirely acceptable, but the King had great reservations about the ‘New Allies’ with whom the Pelhams had created the new ‘Broad-Bottomed Administration’.¹ The Duke of Bedford had long opposed both Walpole and Granville. His constant opposition and landed influence, made him a centre of gravity for other opposition groups such as Viscount Cobham and his ‘Cubs’ and the Prince of Wales’ Leicester House grouping. Bedford’s father in law, Lord Gower, a prominent Tory, also gave him links to...

  15. 9 Europe and America: the Critical Balance, January–December 1746 (pp. 271-297)

    In mid-December 1745, two Dutch representatives, Boetslaer and Hop, arrived in London with a resolution from the States General. They proposed that the allies put a force of 95,000 into the field for the next campaign, and demanded to know what Britain would contribute to the common defence of Flanders. The Dutch had not yet declared war on France, nor had they been directly attacked at home or had their maritime commerce seriously disrupted. Thus, British ministers reasoned, a clear message had to be given to these allies. An army of 95,000 should be assembled, but no direct help could...

  16. 10 Newcastle’s War: the End in Europe and America, January 1747–October 1748 (pp. 298-335)

    Newcastle’s domination of the cabinet reflected the political realities of the moment. First, he had the support of the King. As Granville had demonstrated, with royal support it was possible for any minister to stand apart from his colleagues in Cabinet. However, as Granville’s fate also demonstrated, it was not enough. If a minister chose to stand separately, he had to command a majority in parliament. For this, party support was vital. Granville never achieved it, but, for a short period, Newcastle did. Newcastle could depend on the Broad Bottom alliance.

    America was crucial to Newcastle’s position. He insisted that...

  17. 11 Conclusion: The Peace and British Naval Power (pp. 336-348)

    In October 1748 most Europeans were content that the war that had ravaged the continent for more than seven years was over. During this period Britain had been fighting three wars. The Anglo-Spanish War had been subsumed into the War of Austrian Succession, from which the Anglo-French War emerged as the most vital to Britain’s survival as a Protestant power. They were inseparable in so far as the Anglo-French struggle and naval power linked them all.

    The eventual British victory in that crucial struggle for maritime supremacy with France has provided the dominant perspective for historical interpretations of the events...

  18. Bibliography (pp. 349-363)
  19. Index (pp. 364-374)
  20. Back Matter (pp. 375-375)


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