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Title: The role of national defence in British political debate, 1794-1812
Author: Faulkner, Jacqueline Suzanne Marie Jeanne
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis examines the role of national defence in British parliamentary politics between 1794 and 1812. It suggests that previous analyses of the late eighteenth-century political milieu insufficiently explore the impact of war on the structure of the state. Work by J.E. Cookson, Linda Colley, J.C.D. Clark, and Paul Langford depicts a decentralised state that had little direct involvement in developing a popular “British” patriotism. Here I argue that the threat of a potential French invasion during the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France provoked a drive for centralisation. Nearly all the defence measures enacted during the period gave the government a much greater degree of control over British manpower and resources. The readiness of successive governments to involve large sections of the nation in the war effort through military service, financial contributions, and appeals to the British “spirit”, resulted in a much more inclusive sense of citizenship in which questions of national participation and political franchise were unlinked. National identity was also affected, and the focus on military defence of the British Isles influenced political attitudes towards the regular army. By 1810, however, the nation was disillusioned by the lengthy struggle with France. The result of lingering political weakness was that attention shifted from national defence onto domestic corruption and venality. The aftermath of the Irish Act of Union, too, demonstrated the limits of attempts to centralise the policy of the whole United Kingdom. Significantly, however, the debates over the relationship between the centre and the localities in the 1830s and 1840s, and the response to a new French invasion threat in the 1850s and 1860s, revived themes addressed during the 1790s and 1800s. The political reaction to the invasion threats between 1794 and 1812 ultimately had more in common with a Victorian state bureaucracy than an eighteenth-century ancien régime.
Supervisor: Hilton, A. J. B. Sponsor: AHRC ; Newton Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: british political history ; national defence ; national identity ; british military history ; napoleonic wars ; french revolutionary wars ; invasion ; british parliamentary politics ; eighteenth century ; nineteenth century ; volunteer movement ; militia ; british regular army ; british auxiliary forces ; patriotism ; manpower ; recruitment ; political participation