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Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
During the nineteenth century and up to 1914, whenever a Briton spoke of the ‘Great War’ he meant the twenty-two years’ struggle between Britain and revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Yet, surprisingly, as late as 1911 Sir John Fortescue noted that there was virtually no ‘single history…of England during the years 1789–1815’.1 Possibly the interruption of the second ‘Great War’ held up such a book, but it was not until the Second World War that this simple history was produced and at least one spur to its production was the possibility of comparing the struggle against Nazi Germany with the earlier struggle against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. In the preface to The Years of Endurance 1793–1802 Arthur Bryant suggested that his reader would find in the book ‘many of the familiar phenomena of our own troubled time’.
He will see that proscription, imprisonment and murder of political opponents, the denial — in the name of liberty and patriotism — of all freedom of speech and, as the appetite for blood grew, an orgy of sadistic cruelty.… He will see mass hatred employed as a motive force and ideological ends held out as justifying every means, however base and destructive. He will see a ‘great nation’ denying all morality but unconscious allies or dupes in every decaying eighteenth-century state turned by war into ‘fifth-columnists’ and by defeat into ‘quislings’.2
Clive Emsley

1. Britain in 1792

Abstract
In 1792 Britain was one of the major powers of Europe. She had been humbled by the loss of her thirteen American colonies ten years before, but she still possessed a vast overseas empire. There were the largely unpopulated and unexplored wastes of Canada and New South Wales, the more populous and far more commercially profitable possessions in the West and East Indies; closer to home, George III was also King of Ireland and Elector of Hanover — though this German possession, while it might be relied upon to support Britain in European squabbles, was not part of the British Empire and was not run by men responsible to the parliament at Westminster. Probably only a minority of the population of England, Scotland and Wales were aware of Britain’s international position. The bulk of the population lived in a rural environment and really travelled great distances within the three countries. Agriculture employed the largest proportion of the working population; rather more than one third. The major manufacturing industry was wool production, a handcraft industry scattered across the South-west, Norfolk and the West Riding. But significant changes were under way in both the size and location of the population, and in the economy.
Clive Emsley

2. The Initial Impact: 1793–94

Abstract
The French declaration of war did not unite the opposing factions in Britain. Radicals and reformers continued to criticise the government for adopting a hostile attitude to France and for allying with a confederation of absolutist monarchs. William Fox, questioning whether ideas could ever be destroyed by war, maintained that the home of modern revolutionary ideas was England (citing Locke’s Treatise on Government in particular) and warned that the ‘despots’ of Europe might turn on England should France be destroyed. The same point was made by an anonymous author, possibly Daniel Isaac Eaton of the LCS, who prophesied that ‘when the combined Powers shall have established what they call Order and Tranquillity in France, they will probably discover that there is too much Jacobinism in the English Constitution and lend their humane interference to relieve us also from this dangerous evil’. On the other side, however, ‘a Friend to Peace’ considered that the war was both just and necessary since it was against a new kind of enemy, ‘one who fights not merely to subdue states, but to dissolve society — not to extend empire, but to subvert government — not to introduce a particular religion, but to extirpate all religion’. John Bowles, a barrister and a regular author on the government’s behalf, emphasised the same danger and expressed additional fears about the new principles by which France professed to wage war,
[which] render her ambition and her conquests particularly alarming with regard to the security and the independence of the rest of Europe, for instead of admitting the necessity of any national difference, of any actual aggression of injury, as a motive for war, she assumes the hitherto unheard of right of invading and subduing other countries, for the avowed purpose of interfering in their government, and without existing cause of quarrel or dissention.1
Clive Emsley

3. Crisis upon Crisis: 1795–7

Abstract
In the last week of January 1795 motions calling for peace were introduced into the House of Commons by Charles Grey, and into the House of Lords by the Duke of Bedford. Both were defeated. But if Pitt could still muster large majorities in Parliament to support his conduct of the war, the kind of unanimity in favour of combatting Trench principles’ abroad, as well as at home, which he and his colleagues had detected two years before, was fast disintegrating. Even before the news of the disastrous conclusion to the Flanders campaign had reached Britain, petitions were being drawn up calling for peace. Several of these condemned Britain’s allies, who had achieved nothing in spite of the enormous subsidies paid to them. But the principal complaints were about the cost of the war and the increase in the National Debt. The freemen of Carlisle saw no chance of achieving any of the ‘avowed purposes’ for which the war was being fought and were ‘alarmed at the immense expenditure of public money’. The City of London deplored ‘the calamitous effects of the present war on the trade, manufactures and commerce of the British Empire’. Similar sentiments were subscribed to in Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, Southampton and York. Intense passions were aroused and counter-petitions from some of the same centres challenged the requests for immediate peace, expressed the hope that peace would only be signed with honour, and the belief that the termination of the war was best left to the discretion of the ministers and Parliament.1
Clive Emsley

4. From Rebellion to Respite: 1798–1801

Abstract
Between October 1797 and May 1798 Bonaparte’s Army of England was encamped on the French coasts opposite Britain. For the first time during the war Britain was alone against a victorious France; Prussia had long since made peace, so too had Spain, who was now a French ally; in October 1797 Austria had signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. Pitt’s government was faced with the problems of maintaining and boosting morale and, as ever, raising money and men for the conflict.
Clive Emsley

5. The Amiens Interlude

Abstract
The cessation of hostilities was a bitter-sweet occasion for many. Thousands had seen a husband, father, brother or son set off for war and could only guess at his fate. When John Stevenson returned in an exchange of prisoners of war in 1796 both his regiment and his mother were greatly surprised, believing that he had been killed in the Low Countries two years before; it was not until 1797 that the Duke of York ordered commanding officers to report the dead by name, and even then there was no way of officially informing a family of a death. The new life-style of the armed forces might disrupt family life in other ways. Possibly the relatively idle life of militia regiments stationed at home disinclined some men to work. Martha King of Fulbourn protested to Lord Hardwicke that, rather than return to her when on leave, her husband, in the Cambridgeshire Militia, preferred to pursue ‘base ways’ with a married woman in Norwich. But in general peace was joyous news and probably few expected that it would be of such short duration. Many families were reunited; merchants and manufacturers looked forward to the reopening of many European markets; everyone believed that taxes and poor rates could be cut. The pressure of war had led to some improvements in individual local government administrations; from the summer of 1797 the Worcestershire bench imposed a much tighter control over the county treasurer; the county treasurer of Durham was removed after an enquiry into his shambolic accounts in 1800.
Clive Emsley

6. Wooden Walls and Volunteers: 1803–5

Abstract
The years 1803 to 1805 saw the greatest danger of invasion by the French. France could count on the support of her satellites from the outset, and in December 1804 Spain, too, joined the conflict on her side. Britain was alone, without allies for most of the period; her weather-beaten warships blockaded their enemy counterparts, while thousands of soliders — regulars, militiamen and volunteers — stood by awaiting a landing should the ‘wooden walls’ of Britain be breached or bypassed. The period saw Pitt restored as Prime Minister in May 1804 — ‘the one great opponent whom the French Revolution and Napoleon encountered’1 — and Bonaparte crowned as the Emperor of the French in December 1804. It concluded with a reassertion of British naval power at Trafalgar, and of Napoleonic land superiority at Ulm and Austerlitz.
Clive Emsley

7. Blockade: 1806–9

Abstract
Pitt’s death was not a cue for national mourning; in Royton old Jacobins prepared for an illumination and a mock funeral; in Hull bets were taken that the war would soon be at an end.1 Others were less sanguine about the prospects of peace, and even Fox had doubts. Rightly so, for during the next four years the war was to spread even further across the globe: British troops and fleets were engaged in Holland and Spain, the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, and from the Baltic to South America. The economic struggle between Britain and France was highlighted by Napoleon’s Berlin and Milan Decrees and Britain’s Orders in Council; neutrals were dragged into the conflict which led to a serious confrontation between Britain and the United States. Furthermore Britain continued the war without an outstanding national leadership, with a succession of bad harvests, and with several major sectors of the economy exerting pressure for peace.
Clive Emsley

8. Victories Abroad, Crises at Home: 1810–15

Abstract
In September 1809 Portland’s ministry collapsed about him; the old Duke resigned on 6 September and the country was virtually without a government for the next month. It was left to Perceval to try to save something from the wreck. Again there was an attempt to create a coalition, bringing in men from all the principal factions; again the attempt foundered. One contemporary described Perceval going out ‘into the highways and hedges’ to find ministers.1 Perceval doubted whether Pitt’s old friends would care to have Sidmouth with them in the Cabinet. His attempts to bring in the Whigs faltered because Grey and Grenville could not agree on a war policy, because they had not forgiven George III for their fall in 1807, and because they maintained a general fear of coalitions. The government which assembled under Perceval in October was consequently composed of largely the same personnel as Portland’s ministry, but without the weight of Castlereagh and Canning. The general feeling among the press was that the Cabinet was made up of nonentities and incompetents; already there were demands for an enquiry into the Walcheren fiasco. The ministers themselves do not appear to have believed that they would last long. Yet this was the beginning of the ministry which was to see final victory over Napoleon, which survived a severe economic crisis, major popular disorder, a regency crisis, the assassination of its first leader, and which was to rule the country for over a decade.
Clive Emsley

9. Aftermath

Abstract
The wars had lasted for a generation. Some of the men who fought at Waterloo were unborn when their fathers fought over the same territory in the first campaigns of the revolutionary war. Europe had changed enormously during the twenty-three years. Britain was the only major power which did not experience a major invasion or a significant change in its government structure during the period. Her institutions and her sovereignty had remained intact; but she was no longer the only country to boast a constitution and a constitutional monarchy.
Clive Emsley

Backmatter

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