Navy and Nation: The Royal Navy in the long eighteenth century, 1688-1815 (HISM038)

StaffDr James Davey - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module introduces students to key ideas, debates and interventions in eighteenth-century naval history. You will be made aware of the remarkable influence the Navy had on British history during this period, from economics and politics to society and culture. The module encourages you to think beyond the traditional remit of naval history, and consider how new approaches to the subject are re-defining how it is conceived and practiced. As such, it will also show how naval history can offer a perspective on broader historiographical debates, such as the development of the nation-state, the creation of national identity, the onset of the industrial revolution, and the advent of the ‘consumer revolution’.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Locate and evaluate critically the relevant primary and secondary source materials required to investigate a specific historical or methodological question.
  • 2. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of key themes and approaches in the study of the Royal Navy in the eighteenth century.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 4. Identify and understand the nature of original sources.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates.
  • 6. Research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Develop the capacity for independent critical study and thought.
  • 8. Apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids).
  • 9. Construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 10. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

The exact syllabus may vary year to year but the module will examine topics such as:


Naval and maritime strategy

Building a Navy: finance, naval administration and the Royal Dockyards

Trade and Empire: The Seven Years War

The wooden world: the social make-up of the Navy

Imperial overstretch: The American War of Independence

Exploring the Pacific Ocean

The French Revolutionary Wars

Health at sea

The Napoleonic Wars

The Navy and popular culture

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study278Preparation for seminars, essays and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing1-10Oral through discussion with peers and tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 674000 words1-10Oral and written
Individual Presentation3320 minutes and 1,000 word reflective commentary1-10Oral and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/deferral period
PresentationScript as for 20 minute presentation and 1,000 word reflective commentary1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of one 4,000 word essay, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script and accompanying visual aids that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech. Instead of reflecting on the delivery of the presentation and its reception, as in the original assessment, the reflective commentary will explore the objectives and intended delivery methods of the presentation.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic Reading:


Jeremy Black, Naval Power: A History of Warfare and the Sea from 1500 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)


Michael Duffy, ed., Parameters of British Naval Power 1650-1850 (Exeter University Press, 1992)


Jan Glete, Navies and Nations: warships, navies and state building in Europe and America 1500-1800 (Stockholm, 1993)


Richard Harding, Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650-1830 (London: UCL Press, 1999)


John B. Hattendorf, R.J.B. Knight, et al, British Naval Documents, 1204-1960 (Navy Records Society, 1993)


John B. Hattendorf, ‘The Struggle with France, 1690-1815’, in J.R. Hill, ed. TheOxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy (Oxford, 1995), pp. 80-119


Timothy Jenks, Naval Engagements: Patriotism, Cultural Politics, and the Royal Navy 1793-1815, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)


Lincoln, Margarette, Representing the Royal Navy: British Sea Power, 1750-1815 (Ashgate, 2002)


Roger Morriss, The Foundations of British Maritime Ascendancy. Resources, Logistics and the State, 1755- 1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)


N.A.M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815 (London, 2004)


Brendon Simms, Three Victories and a Defeat (London: Allen Lane, 2007)


Clive Wilkinson, The British Navy and the State in the 18th Century (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004)

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Royal Navy, naval history, maritime history, British state, social history, cultural history, trade, warfare, empire.