It was during the course of the eighteenth century that Britain's status as a major maritime and commercial power was forged, shaping the political, economic and military policies of the nation for the next two centuries. Starting from a relatively minor role in global affairs before 1700, Britain rapidly rose to become a significant player in European affairs, and leading imperial power by 1800. In this commanding contribution to the subject, Jeremy Black draws on his extensive expertise to examine how British political culture and public debate in this period responded to, and in part shaped, this transition to an increasingly prominent role in world affairs. Rather than offering a familiar narrative of Britain's eighteenth-century foreign policy, this book instead focuses upon how this policy was debated and written about in British society. Taking as a central theme the debate over policy and the development of public culture and politics, the study explores how these were linked to developing relations with Europe and helped shape colonial strategies and expectations. It highlights how widely shared concerns about such issues as national defence, the strength of the Royal Navy and trade protection, presented little consensus in how they were to be realised and were the subject of fierce public debate. The book underlines how these kinds of issues were not considered in the abstract, but in terms of a political community that was divided over a series of key issues. By probing the problems and issues surrounding the need to define and discuss Britain's foreign policy in semi-public and public contexts, this book offers a fascinating insight into questions of perceived national interest, and how this developed and evolved over the course of the eighteenth century. This work complements the author's other studies by joining the institutional focus seen there to a wider assessment of public politics and print culture, and as such will make a central contribution to studies of eighteenth-century Britain and Europe.
Jeremy Black is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. Born in London, he studied at Cambridge, graduating with a Starred First, before doing postgraduate work at Oxford. From 1980 he taught at Durham University, eventually as professor, before moving to Exeter in 1996. His books include The British Seaborne Empire; Maps and History; George II and George III: America's Last King.
'Jeremy Black here provides a powerful and sweeping account of British foreign policy...' Journal of Modern History 'The suggestion of a nation’s foreign policy as a uniform and universally agreed-upon entity is commonly assumed in many works. Statements such as ’British foreign policy was... ’ imply a unity of effort, consensus of opinion and harmony between rival political leaders that in a democracy are seldom the reality and emerge only after immense effort and a messy, confrontational process. Jeremy Black’s Debating Foreign Policy in Eighteenth Century Britain is a masterful attempt to describe this process throughout the critical eighteenth century that witnessed Great Britain’s rise to European dominance... Jeremy Black is a brilliant scholar, and expects the reader to bring a great deal of knowledge to this examination... The latter half of the work, which is devoted to examining British foreign policy throughout the eighteenth century until the end of the Napoleonic era, will be the most useful for researchers, and shows the author’s mastery.' History