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Cockburn And The British Navy In Transition
Admiral Sir George Cockburn 1772-1853

By Roger Morriss

Cockburn And The British Navy In Transition

Sir George Cockburn was the most influential serving officer in the politics of the British navy in the nineteenth century. He came to public notice as the man who burned the White House, following his part in the British attack on Washington in 1814. He also escorted Napoleon to St Helena after Waterloo. But his greatest impact was as the Admiralty Commissioner who presided over much of the transition of the British navy from sail to steam between 1818 and 1846.

This book examines the career of a formidable personality who maintained the interests and professionalism of the British navy through one of the most difficult periods of political and technological evolution it has yet faced. It provides a unique insight into the conduct of the British Admiralty and will appeal to both the specialist and general reader.

Illustrations, ix; Preface, xi; Glossary, xiv; Introduction, 1; 1 The Georgian Navy in the French Revolutionary War, 1793-1801 The Mediterranean theatre-Trade suppression-Serving a superior: Nelson-Morality and discipline-The management of seamen-Trade protection-Reasserting command at sea, 13; 2 The Napoleonic War, 1803-1812 The United States payments-The Governor-General of India-The taking of Martinique-The Walcheren expedition-The attempt to rescue Ferdinand VII-Mediation and Spanish America, 53; 3 The War with the United States, 1813-1815 The offensive under Warren-The Chesapeake in 1813-The offensive under Cochrane-The burning of Washington-The attack on Baltimore-Cumberland Island, 83; 4 Napoleon and St Helena, 1815-1816 Mastering the 'General'-Governor of St Helena, 121; 5 Parliament and the Admiralty, 1818-1830 Champion of liberty-The House of Commons-The defence of naval interests-Defying the Lord High Admiral-Managing the officer corps-The beginnings of reform, 142; 6 Opposition and North America, 1830-1840 Resisting revolution-Administrative reform-Divided loyalties-The Vernon affair-Management without patronage-North American affairs-Leadership without office, 192. 7 The Early Victorian Navy in Transition, 1841-1846 The Admiralty reformed-Political logistics-Improving the sailing ship-Steam and defence-The introduction of the screw propeller-Iron ships and shells-Flogging and desertion-Impressment and registration-Renewing the officer corps-Ideas for improving the Admiralty-An 'irksome and difficult station', 227; 8 Conclusion, 277; Notes, 284; Bibliography, 318; Index, 328.

"This is a very valuable book, and Cockburn will not likely need another biographer in our lifetimes." (The Northern Mariner Vol. VIII, No. 4, 1998) "This well-researched and carefully written biography will be of particular interest to specialists in the 19th-century Royal Navy, but its examination of the impact of national politics on naval administration and individual reputations gives it wider appeal." (Naval History Dec 98) " . . thorough, scholarly and closely based on the documents . . . This is very much an official Life, for not much survives to illuminate the private man, and he seems, perhaps unavoidably, somewhat colourless-but it is nevertheless a life full of interest and importance, not only for the "British Navy in transition", but for the political and social life of the era." (Times Literary Supplement, 26 June 1998)

Roger Morriss was a Curator at the National Maritime Museum, London until 1995. He is an Honorary Research Fellow in the University of Exeter Centre for Maritime Studies, and in the History Department, University College London.

Publication Details:

BIC Code:
 1DBK, 3JF, 3JH, JWF
 University of Exeter Press


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