Ideas about the Economic Advantages of Colonial Maritime War and their Impact on British Politics and Naval Policy, 1701-1729
Date: 1 March 2010
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in History
In early modern England (after 1707, Britain), there was an argument that war at sea, especially war in Spanish America, was an ideal means of warfare for England. This argument, whose origin can be traced back to the glorious memory of Elizabethan maritime war, revived at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession. This ...
In early modern England (after 1707, Britain), there was an argument that war at sea, especially war in Spanish America, was an ideal means of warfare for England. This argument, whose origin can be traced back to the glorious memory of Elizabethan maritime war, revived at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession. This thesis examines this pro-maritime war argument, by focusing on its connection with its supposed economic advantages, and investigates its impact on British politics and naval policy during the war, and changes after the war. It reveals that this argument received support from politicians of different political stances because of its alleged economic advantages; colonial maritime war was expected to damage enemy financial resources while enriching Britain, and help to recover the Spanish American market where French merchants were making a rapid advance. At the same time, it makes clear that different political affiliations of the supporters created two types of pro-maritime arguments with different political functions. The thesis also shows that the supporters of colonial maritime war in the government as well as in the opposition tried to implement pro-maritime war policy by naval operations such as capture of Spanish silver fleets and colonial expeditions, and by legislation such as the American Act of 1708. However, their attempts were frustrated by diplomatic considerations, incapacity of naval administration, and by conflicting interests between several groups concerned in the West Indian colonies and Spanish American trade. After the South Sea expedition planned by the South Sea Company in 1712 did not materialise due to similar difficulties, the government focused on protection of the Spanish American trade, and refrained from taking aggressive action against Spanish colonies partly because of considerations for the interests of the company which started the Asiento trade. On the other hand, by the late 1720s the opposition, which championed the interests of private merchants, gradually came to advocate pro-maritime war policy, which eventually led up to propaganda campaigns against the Walpole ministry in the period of the War of Jenkins’s Ear.
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