The Royal Navy, prominent in building Britain's maritime empire in the eighteenth century, also had a significant impact on politics, public finance and the administrative and bureaucratic development of the British state throughout the century. The Navy was the most expensive branch of the state and its effective funding and maintenance was a problem that taxed the ingenuity of a succession of politicians, naval officers and bureaucrats. By the middle of the century the difficulties its growth created had become critical, and the challenge this presented was taken up by Admiralty Boards led by Anson, Egmont, Hawke and Sandwich. Resolving these problems introduced reform in the navy's administration and in public finance (often pre-figuring later bureaucratic development), but there was a political price to pay when the management of the Navy and its apparent unpreparedness for the War of American Independence made the Earl of Sandwich and the Navy a focus for political opposition to an unpopular government and a disappointing war. Published in association with the National Maritime Museum. CLIVE WILKINSON is a research officer with the Climatological Database of the World's Oceans 1750-1850, University of Sunderland.
The British Navy and the State in the Eighteenth Century