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Created 8/14/1995
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The Sinews of Power

War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783
by John Brewer

Reviewed by Brad DeLong


Associate Professor of Economics Evans Hall, University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax
delong@econ.berkeley.edu
http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/


John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State, 1688-1783 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).

"From its modest beginnings as... a minor, infrequent almost inconsequential participant in the great wars that ravaged sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe... Britain emerged in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as the military Wunderkind of the age.... [B]y the reign of George III Britain had become one of the heaviest weights in the balance of power in Europe [and]... was on the threshold of becoming a transcontinental power..."


The above quote is the opening of War, Money, and the English State. There have been many histories of Britain's military successes in the century after the expulsion of James II Stuart--biographies of the first Duke of Marlborough, histories of the British navy, narratives of the Seven Years' War, and so forth. There have been many histories of Britain's economic growth--and even attempts to explain why Britain saw such mercantile and then industrial success in the eighteenth century. But the connection? John Brewer takes on the task of filling in the gap: how was Britain's economic success translated into massive military power?

This question is especially interesting because Britain appeared to successfully mobilize its resources for eighteenth century wars in a manner very different from the continental "absolutist" powers. The apparatuses of royal secret police, lits de justice, the co-option of the middle nobility in the centralization of power and authority, and the ideology of a king "freed from the duty of observing the laws" are in large part absent from British military mobilization. It followed a different pattern--one that may have had decisive consequences for human history..

John Brewer handles his topic superbly, making The Sinews of Power one of the best books I read in 1991, and making it one of the best books I read in 1995, when I re-read it.


Reviews

Created 8/14/1995
Go to
Brad DeLong's Home Page


Associate Professor of Economics Brad De Long, 601 Evans
University of California at Berkeley; Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax
delong@econ.berkeley.edu
http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/