The Extent to Which Britain’s Navy was Responsible for the Changing Fortunes of Foreign and Imperial Policy from 1776-1815
In the 1776 – 1815 period, Britain’s foreign and imperial policieswere most marked by the French Wars. The early defeats and overallvictory of these wars depended not only on the navy but also on otherfactors such as the army and the nature of Britain’s relations withthe other European nations at the time. One should also not forgetNapoleon and France who were responsible in a great way for thechanging fortunes of Britain’s foreign and imperial policy. However,the navy was probably the single most important factor which broughtNapoleon to his knees as he saw his fleets continuously defeated byone other very important man: Nelson.
The importance of the Navy cannot be undermined in it’s role insecuring British and Allied victory and more importantly preventingNapoleon from controlling the seas which combined with his outstandingarmy would have assured him victory over all. During the first phasesof the wars which were fought against revolutionary France and notNapoleon the navy was not prepared for war and consequently failed tooffer support to the armies present in Europe so that when Yorkbesieged Dunkirk, his efforts were fruitless because the navy failedto give gunnery support. When the navy started winning then Britain’schances were that much higher and at least they could trade with theirempire upkept by their navy if all else failed. Their first victorycame at StVincent where John Jervis with his 15 ships beat 27 Spanishships. They also prevented in the early stage of the war the Dutchfleet, controlled by Napoleon to take control of the Channel whichwould have made an invasion of Britain possible and likely. At AboukirBay in 1789, Nelson annihilated the French fleet. The consequences ofthis victory were both political and military. French control in theMediterranean was destroyed, the major French army was cut off fromits supplies and France’s hopes of conquest in Egypt and India were