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The British Navy in the Baltic

The British Navy in the Baltic

John D. Grainger
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The British Navy in the Baltic
    Book Description:

    This book presents a comprehensive overview of the activities of the British navy in the Baltic Sea from the earliest times until the twentieth century. It traces developments from Anglo-Saxon times, through the medieval period when there were frequent disputes between English kings and the Hanseatic League, the seventeenth-century wars with the Dutch, and Britain's involvement in the Northern Wars in the early years of the eighteenth century. It considers in detail the major period of British involvement in the Baltic during the Napoleonic Wars, when the British navy fought the Danes, Napoleon's allies, and was highly effective in ensuring Sweden's neutrality and Russia's change of allegiance. It goes on to discuss British naval actions in the Baltic during the Crimean War and in the First World War and its aftermath. Throughout, the book relates naval actions to patterns of trade, to wider international politics, and to geographical factors such as winter sea ice and the shallow nature of the Baltic Sea. John D. Grainger is the author of numerous books for a variety of publishers, including five previously published books for Boydell and Brewer, including Dictionary of British Naval Battles and The First Pacific War: Britain and Russia, 1854-56.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-408-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Maps
    (pp. vii-ix)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Prologue: Ohthere, Wulfstan and King Knut, 800–1020
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Baltic is not usually a sea one associates with activities by the Royal Navy, yet for three centuries it was a region for the navy’s work, if in a less than usually violent form. Apart from battles at the entrance, there were few instances where the navy was used in its aggressive role, for once into the sea – past the barrier of the entrance at Copenhagen – opposition tended to hunker down into its ports and let the navy rule the sea at least while it was present. As soon as it was gone, the local forces reappeared....

  7. Chapter 1 The Medieval Hansa
    (pp. 11-23)

    The contrast between the experiences of Wulfstan and Knut in the Baltic was, of course, that between the merchant and the warrior, or the seaman and the ruler. Both reflected the experiences of those from England and Scotland who traversed the Baltic waters in the six centuries or so after Knut. There is no other record of any men from Britain taking part in any naval action in the Baltic until the seventeenth century, though merchants may have become involved in privateering, either as aggressors or as victims.

    The record of British involvement in the Baltic in the Middle Ages...

  8. Chapter 2 Naval Stores, Cromwell and the Dutch, 1600–1700
    (pp. 24-49)

    It was not until the reign of Charles I that any British warships entered the Baltic, for it took a combination of a ruler keen to exercise his sea power, and possessed of suitable ships to do so, together with a major threat to the British position. Not until the reign of Charles I did this combination exist, and not until his successor was threatened did a powerful intervention happen.

    The possession of a state navy had been unusual in the Middle Ages. If a ruler such as Henry V (1413–1422) planned an overseas expedition, merchant vessels were requisitioned...

  9. Chapter 3 The First Expedition against Copenhagen, 1700
    (pp. 50-71)

    The forty years after the conclusion of the Treaty of Copenhagen in 1660 saw no English naval activity in the Baltic, but since there was plenty of diplomatic activity, this was largely a matter of luck, even inadvertence. It was as if having once intervened it was expected that the English ships would return to the sea. As a result, given the naval power England disposed of, in the end the navy was driven to take part in direct Baltic affairs. The period saw two more wars with the Dutch, and the Baltic lay at the back of both.


  10. Chapter 4 Two Expeditions of Sir John Norris, 1715–1716
    (pp. 72-93)

    The deaths of a whole series of kings between 1696 and 1700 – Carlos II of Spain (1700), Karl XI of Sweden (1697), Christian V of Denmark (1699), Ivan V of Russia (1696), John Sobieski of Poland (1696) – was one of the major factors in bringing on the pair of great wars that began at the end of that short period. However, it will not do to emphasize the personal too greatly, for the death of William III (1702) did not seriously affect the process towards war in the west, which was already well under way, and Peter the...

  11. Chapter 5 The Swedish War, 1717–1721
    (pp. 94-115)

    Sweden had survived another year and the alliance threatening it had begun to dissolve. Tsar Peter gradually withdrew his forces eastwards during the next year, 1717, and the prospect of an invasion of Sweden from Denmark receded. The Swedish attack on Norway could therefore be revived. At sea the threat of the Swedish fleet at Karlskrona and the squadron at Gothenburg remained, and the Swedish privateers were allowed to go on annoying everyone. Karl XII sent emissaries to raise money, notably in the neutral United Provinces, and others went on more purely diplomatic ventures. Peter travelled Europe – Paris, Amsterdam,...

  12. Chapter 6 Armed Neutralities, 1722–1791
    (pp. 116-135)

    The result of the complex of conflicts now known as the Great Northern War, which finally ended in 1721, was to bring forward new powers in the Baltic area, and to reduce the old competitors, Sweden and Denmark, to the second rank. The new great power in the region after 1721 was Russia, but after the death of Peter I in 1725, it became an uncertain power, undergoing frequent succession crises. Prussia emerged as a major power in the mid-century under King Frederick II. Sweden was internally at odds between its political parties, and between the aristocracy and the Crown,...

  13. Chapter 7 Nelson at Copenhagen, 1801
    (pp. 136-155)

    The French Revolution spread its influence only slowly, but from 1792 it had developed into a new European war. It scarcely affected the Baltic region for some years, other than the usual excitement occasioned by calls to liberty and the concomitant governmental fears. There was tinder enough in the region, with absolutist monarchies in Denmark and Russia, an oppressive militaristic monarchy in Prussia, and constant political instability in Sweden (King Gustav III Adolf was assassinated in 1792, only to be succeeded by the equally absolutist Gustav IV Adolf). The withdrawal of Prussia from the attempt by outsiders to suppress the...

  14. Chapter 8 The Bombardment of Copenhagen, 1807
    (pp. 156-173)

    The battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and Nelson’s voyage to Reval were only a prelude to the main event, and not the decisive blow it seemed at the time, for after a short interval of peace they were succeeded by an even greater Baltic crisis. This produced an intensification and widening of British involvement in the Baltic in the next bout of warfare (the Napoleonic Wars). One of the results of the assassination of Tsar Paul and of the battle had been the collapse of the Franco-Russian accord; another was that Britain and France, already negotiating, finally patched up a...

  15. Chapter 9 The First Expedition of Sir James Saumarez, 1808
    (pp. 174-189)

    The effect on Russia of the presence of a major British fleet in control of the Sound and the Great Belt, with patrols out as far as Rügen, and having captured or destroyed the Danish fleet, was immediate. Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, sent as Canning’s envoy to be present at the talks between French and Russians at Tilsit, had been deliberately excluded by Britain’s ally from the event, but now suddenly found he could talk to the Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Budberg once again, and gained useful information about the likely course of events in St Petersburg. This in turn allowed...

  16. Chapter 10 The Domination of Saumarez, 1809–1815
    (pp. 190-211)

    Sir James Saumarez was in command of the British forces in the Baltic for four more years after his initial campaign (1809–1812) and a small British force was present even later. The main work, however, had been done in his first year, 1808. The pattern of that year was repeated in 1809: minor conflicts in Danish waters, and a deep penetration by the main fleet as far as the Gulf of Finland. But, apart from near Denmark, the British did little fighting, though the Swedes and Russians were busy. In 1810–1811 naval activity was even less, but the...

  17. Chapter 11 The Russian War, 1854–1856
    (pp. 212-227)

    In the aftermath of a generation of war a high priority for the British government was to reduce spending, and a bloated Royal Navy was one of the main targets for slimming. For the next twenty years the number of ships and men was kept low, assisted by the fact that another result of the great wars was that no other country was in the mood to issue any challenges to the navy that had performed so well, and whose politicians insisted that they ruled the waves. During those wars several eighteenth-century navies had been so reduced that they had...

  18. Chapter 12 The Great War, 1914–1918
    (pp. 228-242)

    One of the major concerns that activated Sir James Graham in the midst of the Crimean War was that the major naval threat to Britain came, not from Russia with whom the country was then at war, but from France, its temporary ally. In the 1840s French naval power and inventiveness set the pace in a new arms race. It was the French who built and launched the first screw battleship,Napoleon; during the war French naval architects invented the floating battery, which seemed to solve the old problem of conducting a safe and effective shore bombardment from warships; a...

  19. Chapter 13 The Last Baltic Expedition 1919–1921, and After
    (pp. 243-257)

    During 1918 the British, with a diminishing naval presence in the Baltic Sea – diminishing to invisibility by April – saw the collapse of her two naval rivals in that sea. Russia had indeed begun to decline into confusion during 1917, and by 1918 was paralysed by internal disputes rising to civil war; Germany, having initially taken full advantage of this collapse to break up the Russian Empire, then itself suffered defeat and internal collapse. Of the Baltic navies, the Russian fleet remained theoretically powerful but was in disarray and crippled by political conflict and indecision; the German fleet was...

  20. Conclusion: The Navy and the Sea
    (pp. 258-262)

    The activity of the Royal Navy in the Baltic Sea is at variance with the myth of the all-conquering sea violence that is too often propagated as the definitive history of the Navy, and indeed is generally supposed to be the purpose of its existence. Beginning with the appearance of the Commonwealth ships at Denmark in 1652, no British naval vessels indulged in violence in Baltic waters until 1801 (assuming that Danish waters count as Baltic). From then until 1920 any European war involving Britain brought ships of the Royal Navy to fight in the Baltic, but in no case...

  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-270)
  22. Index
    (pp. 271-294)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)