The Execution of Admiral John Byng as a Microhistory of Eighteenth-Century Britain  book cover
1st Edition

The Execution of Admiral John Byng as a Microhistory of Eighteenth-Century Britain

ISBN 9780367767556
Published April 27, 2021 by Routledge
294 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

According to Voltaire's Candide, Admiral John Byng's 1757 execution went forward to 'encourage the others'. Of course, the story is more complicated. This microhistorical account upon a macro-event presents an updated, revisionist, and detailed account of a dark chapter in British naval history. Asking 'what was Britain like the moment Byng returned to Portsmouth after the Battle of Minorca (1756)?' not only returns a glimpse of mid-eighteenth century Britain but provides a deeper understanding of how a wartime admiral, the son of a peer, of some wealth, a once colonial governor, and sitting member of parliament came to be scapegoated and then executed for the failings of others. This manuscript presents a cultural, social, and political dive into Britain at the beginning of the Seven Years' War. Part 1 focuses on ballad, newspaper, and prize culture. Part 2 makes a turn towards the social where religion, morality, rioting, and disease play into the Byng saga. Admiral Byng's record during the 1755 Channel Campaign is explored, as is the Mediterranean context of the Seven Years' War, troubles elsewhere in the empire, and then the politics behind Byng's trial and execution.

Table of Contents


1. "Sung Hoarse": The Intersect of Byng and Ballads

2. "More Dangerous Enemies": Newspapers, Pamphlets, and Print Wars

3. "The Moment They Have Permission": Byng and Prize Culture

4. "The Fierce Anger of God": Byng and Religion

5. "Grinding the Face of the Poor": Byng, Dearth, and Morality

6. "A Mob to Declare": Three Concurrent Riots

7. "Dangerously Ill of Fevers": Disease, Society, and Manning Issues

8. "Hot Water": The 1755 Channel Campaign

9. "This Island": Minorca in Context and in Battle

10. "The Empire": India, North America, and Byng

11. "Error in Judgement": Trial, Inquiry, and Sentencing

Conclusion: "To Bingyfi" and Other Concluding Remarks

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Joseph J. Krulder is a Navy veteran, historian, and teacher who earned his doctorate from the University of Bristol, UK.