Controlling the seas

Boats beside a man-of-war, about 1796Boats beside a man-of-war, circa 1796, by J M W Turner © Tate, London 2005The French domination of Europe severely limited British trade opportunities, as Britain's economic strength was founded on trade. It was vital for the Royal Navy to protect links to the colonies in the West Indies, where the sugar produced by slave labour was a highly profitable commodity; with India, where cotton and tea were grown; and with the Baltic, a vital source of naval stores.

The Navy also regularly disrupted enemy supply lines, preventing France from enjoying the full fruits of her conquests.

The French considered British domination of the oceans as an affront to liberty. They condemned the British as 'oceanocrats' and presented themselves as the defenders of maritime freedom for the benefit of other nations.

Descent into war >>

  • Controlling the seas
  • Descent into war
  • The Nile campaign
  • The hero of the Nile
  • Egyptomania
  • Realizing power
  • The Battle of Marengo