Dr Jacqueline Reiter: Britain’s war aims and global expansion in the Napoleonic Wars

Speaker: Dr Jacqueline Reiter

Hybrid Lecture

Jacqueline Reiter received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2006 on the role of national defence in British political debate during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Her first book, The Late Lord: the Life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham (Pen and Sword, 2017), illuminated the political and military career of Pitt the Younger’s elder brother. Her articles have appeared in History Today and the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research and she has written for the History of Parliament. She has co-written a chapter with John Bew on British war aims for the Cambridge History of the Napoleonic Wars and is currently writing a book on Sir Home Riggs Popham for Helion.

Synopsis: ‘Upon the possession of distant and colonial commerce the extent of our trade must in a great degree depend. It is therefore as much the duty of those entrusted with the conduct of a British war to cut off the colonial resources of the enemy, as it would be that of the general of a great army to destroy or intercept the magazines of his opponents.’

These words were spoken in 1801 by Henry Dundas, Pitt the Younger’s Secretary of State for War during the war with Revolutionary France. Dundas’s ‘blue-water’ approach, or the application of Britain’s naval predominance to colonial expansion at the enemy’s expense, came to dominate British grand strategy during the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France. These wars had a distinctly global dimension, with campaigns as far flung as Africa, India, and the Middle East, which placed a great deal of strain on British resources; some historians estimate that as many as one in four British men served in some military capacity between 1793 and 1815. But how did the British decision-makers decide their strategy under almost unprecedented conditions? In the absence of any central military decision-making mechanism, they sought advice from military men they considered capable of thinking holistically about the needs of the war. This paper will discuss the role of one of these advisers, Sir Home Riggs Popham of the Royal Navy, whose career sheds light on how Britain’s political, economic, and colonial objectives could be married as a way of achieving victory.


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Event information


06 Mar 2024


2:15 pm


Wednesday Lecture - online and U3AC, Pink room. Places for in person attendance must be pre-booked. Bookings open from 7 days before the lecture. NOTE: Speaker & title have changed from previously advertised.