The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783

The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783

The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783

The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783


'The book is a distinguished work - of importance to students of governmental development generally. It is written in a fluent, non-technical manner that should reach a wide audience.' American Historical Review


‘Nothing is certain in this life, except death and taxes.’

Benjamin Franklin.

This book is about the growing powers of central government in a period more famous for its praise of liberty. It is a study of the most important changes in British government between the reforms of the Tudors and the major administrative reconstruction of the first half of the nineteenth century. But, unlike those administrative innovations, the changes of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were concerned not with domestic regulation but with enhancing the government’s ability to wage war. My subject is not, however, war as such. I am first and foremost interested in investigating the effects—on government, politics and society—of Britain’s transformation into a major international power.

Much of this book is therefore concerned with such technical matters as military and civilian administration, taxation and public finances. These are topics with which readers are often unfamiliar and which, despite some outstanding detailed studies, are rarely incorporated into histories of the Stuarts and Hanoverians. My aim is to remedy this omission: to put finance, administration and war at the centre stage of the drama—where they rightly belong—without elbowing other performers into the wings. I have tried to write about these complex and sometimes arcane matters in as accessible a manner as possible, and I trust the account is not obscure, for this book is primarily intended not for those administrative, military and financial historians who will already be familiar with many of the particularities of the argument which follows—though I hope they will find matter of interest to them—but for readers who, while I am sure they can certainly tell a whig from a tory may not have studied the distinction between a customs duty and a excise.

I have had to rely heavily on the work of a large number of scholars whose researches into the fields of finance, military affairs and administration have delved much deeper than my own. I would especially like to thank Peter Dickson and Daniel Baugh, not merely for their brilliant and inspiring published work, but for their kindness in reading part of this manuscript. Their criticism and painstaking help on matters of finance and the navy have . . .

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