18th Century British Assessment of European Navies

As more documents are placed online courtesy of the Georgian Papers Online project, the presence of European forces in the writings of the sovereigns and their correspondents becomes more evident. here are a few examples: “State of the Spanish Navy at the several periods undermentioned viz [1762-1764]”; “Les Armées Navales de Danemare [1764]; “Etat des Departements des Classes”[1752]; “A List of the Portuguese Fleet 1770”; “State of the Russian Navy June 1st 1772″; and “Armée Navale (French Navy) [1779].

You do not have to be an expert in diplomatics or paleography (I studied both back in the day) to tease out some valuable information from these documents, even those in French. Some of the documents reveal how sophisticated the intelligence-gathering apparati of the time were. For example, in some of the above, you can find out when a ship was built, where it was built, the wood used in its construction, whether it was “cut down” from an 80 to a 74, the captain’s name, and its current condition.

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