Rachel Blackman-Rogers is a PhD candidate in the Department of War Studies examining the relationship between British culture and naval strategy during the French Revolutionary Wars. Her supervisors are Professor Andrew Lambert and Dr Alan James.Having read geography at St Peter’s College, Oxford, Rachel has had a varied career including working as a research analyst for the Heineken Chair of Marketing at INSEAD business school and as a senior strategist for BBC News. In 2015 she completed her MA in History of War with Distinction at KCL. Her MA thesis examined the relationship between news, strategy and seapower during the weeks before and after the Battle of Camperdown in October 1797.
Facing Unlimited War: Strategic Evolution and Cultural Transformation, 1796-1798
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 established a political system to cope with the demands of unlimited war with France (1689-1714): the expansion of executive power to extract the necessary resources and the establishment of parliamentary freedom of speech to guarantee that expansion would be temporary. This freedom legitimised parliamentary opposition, and ensured the political system would possess the elasticity to engage in unlimited war.
A century later, factions within Britain misunderstood the 1688 settlement and used it to frame France, the revolution and British executive power. As a consequence, Britain struggled to understand the changes revolution had wrought upon France and its warfare. Thus, British rhetoric, aims, strategy and conduct were informed by the restraint of eighteenth-century culture and an historical knowledge of the enemy. The success of the Seven Years' War and the failures of the American War of Independence had created the illusion that all European war could, and should, be settled by overseas expansion. The result was that by 1797, Britain appeared to be strategically paralysed by the unlimited threat of invasion, in political and financial crisis and with every theatre in dispute.
Instead of this traditional narrative of failure, this thesis argues that Britain was not strategically paralysed, 1796-1798, but was experiencing two critical transformations: one an evolution in British strategy and the other in British culture, politics and economics. The aim was to re-establish the critical tenets of the1688 settlement: to allow a temporary expansion of executive power to meet the demands of unlimited war. But achieving this was only possible if the nation believed British sea power could defeat French land power and this required an evolution in strategy. These changes were synergistic because, as a seapower, Britain’s culture and strategy communicated through the successes and failures of His Majesty’s Navy.
Sea power and strategy – historical and contemporary, Maritime Theory, Navies, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Warfare, Gulf Wars, Media Influence in Relation to War, Military Media Strategies
Primary Supervisor: Professor Andrew Lambert
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Alan James