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EH2499/2999
War and British Society 1688-1815

Staff contact: Dr H.V. Bowen (Att. 703)

Office hours: as indicated on Seventh Floor notice board.

For almost exactly half the period between 1688 and 1815, Britain was a nation at war. The 'Second Hundred Years War' was fought out against France and Spain in Europe and the wider world, ending with victory over Napoleon in 1815. This module aims to examine the extent to which war was an agent of economic, social, and cultural change in Britain during the later part of the early modern period. In passing, and where appropriate, a comparative perspective will be offered on other European states. The course examines, firstly, Britain's strategy, the 'British way in war', and military performance before going on to consider how the nation and state coped with the heavy burdens imposed by extended and recurrent warfare. Particular emphasis is placed upon the war-driven growth of the state, the reform of government, and the establishment of effective public finance mechanisms. War-related social costs, stresses, and strains are examined, together with government responses. Attitudes and popular reactions to war are considered, as is the part played by international conflict in helping to forge a new 'British' identity during the course of the eighteenth century. Finally, the relationship between war and industrialisation is assessed in the context of discussion about the performance of Britain's wartime economy.

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Last updated: 12 February 2003
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