‘Between 1701 and 1810 British North America received about 380,000 slaves, the British Caribbean about 1.4 million. The trade was viewed as a pillar of the plantations and necessary to economic commercial expansion’. Richard C. Simmons, Professor American History, University of Birmingham, Oxford Companion to British History, ed. John Cannon, Oxford University Press, 1997

The eighteenth century was one of almost continuous conflict principally between Britain, France and Spain.

The War of Spanish Succession began in 1701. It concluded with a series of agreements known as the  Treaty of Utrecht signed in 1713.

Under its terms Britain became prime mover of bodies in the infamous ‘Atlantic slave trade’.  Much of England’s prosperity was built on human trafficking.

…when the expanding plantation economy demanded more than could be supplied by white servants, Africans were imported as as slaves; that is chattel slavery.

Chattel slavery, the most debased form of bondage,  was not something inherited from the Mediterranean or South or Central America.

In its most extreme form it evolved in British America, took  form in British-American law, in response to the need for a totally reliable, totally exploitable, and infinitley recruitable labor force.  law in response to the need for a totally reliable, totally exploitable, and infinitely recruitable  labor force’.  Bernard Bailyn,  Adams Professor Harvard University, Mass., U.S.A. Esso Lecture Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, Occasional Paper No. 5….P.7

British ships,  their stinking holds crammed with terrified Africans, sailed the oceans destined for slave markets in America and her expanding sugar plantations in the Caribbean.

Those who survived the cruel ‘middle passage’, were sold in perpetuity – their children and their children’s children – property for sale. See Zong 

 SEVEN YEARS’ WAR  1756-1763 – ‘a truly  global struggle’

‘The decision to colonise New South Wales cannot be isolated from the strategic imperatives of the world’s first truly global; struggle, the Seven Years’ War (1757-1763)’. Jeffrey Grey,  A Military History of Australia, Third ed. Cambridge University Press, 2008

‘The decision to colonise New South Wales cannot be isolated from the strategic imperatives of the world’s first truly global; struggle, the Seven Years’ War (1757-1763)’. Jeffrey Grey,  A Military History of Australia, Third ed. Cambridge University Press, 2008

It was in the North American campaigns of the Seven Years’ War that Captain James Cook, future doyen of Britain’s Royal Navy, first distinguished himself as a navigator.

‘Pitt’s [The Elder’s] war strategy set the pattern of colonisation for the next one hundred years’. Vanessa Collingridge, Captain Cook, Ebury Press, 2003

1758 – Canada, Nova Scotia Britain captured the fort town of Louisbourg from the French on the 27th July 1758.

Louisbourg was an ideal site from where to launch a land and sea assault on Quebec with the aim of crushing French forces defending France’s colonies in Canada.

By early 1759 Britain’s plans for a suprize attack had been drawn up. However through a network of French spies these became  known.

1759: ‘Louis Antoine de Bougainville…an enterprising French army officer intercepted documents detailing the Amherst [Quebec] plan. The French thereupon removed any navigation aids from the St Lawrence [River]’. A.W. Beasley, Fellowship of Three, James Cook, John Hunter, Joseph Banks, Kangaroo Press, 1993.

Quebec was protected by a‘ turbulent’ St Lawrence River. If an attack had any change of succeeding the river would have to be re-surveyed.

‘Cook first learned from a British army officer[Samuel Holland] how to make maps…He mastered the technique of translating the three [3] dimensions of landmarks, shores, rocks and shoals precisely and exactly onto two [2] dimensional charts…and won the reputation as one of the navy’s finest navigators’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Hodder and Stoughton, 2005

James Cook along with others was tasked to undertake dangerous night surveying operations without which  the complex amphibious assault had little chance of success.

1759 – 12 September, Quebec: Led by General James Wolfe, in pitch darkness with oars muffled, 4,500 British troops and artillery were ferried without incident along the St Lawrence.

Unobserved ,  via a steep and difficult pathway, the British achieved high ground – Heights of Abraham.  From there they directed cannon fire onto General Louis Montcalm’s men encamped below.

1759 – 18 September: The French, hampered by a lack of ammunition for their cannon, fought hand to hand.

The French mounted a spirited counter-offensive. After three (3) days of carnage,  1400 French – 600  British deaths, Quebec fell to the British.

General Wolfe the British commander and, his French counterpart Montcalm died with their men.

1760:  By the end of 1760 all of France’s colonial possessions in North America were in British hands.

‘In 1763 England had emerged victorious from a protracted struggle with France’.  Pitt the Elder, Cited in England in the Eighteenth Century (1714-1815), J.H. Plumb, Pelican, 1965

1763 – February, Paris:  The Seven Years’ War ended officially with signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, under its terms the French ceded Canada to Britain.

Nevertheless [the treaty];  ‘enraged Pitt and enraged his City  friends the French were given their old fishing rights on the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland. Without the fish trade, Pitt considered it useless to hold Canada’. Plumb op.cit.

‘The French were given their old fishing rights…off Newfoundland’  Therein lay one (1) piece of a jigsaw that in time sealed the fate of a free peoples –  Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples


The  Seven Years’ War more than doubled Britain’s national debt. In an effort to claw back costs incurred during the expensive North American campaigns Whitehall passed legislation to tax her American colonists.

It proved a false move.   Nit-picking import taxes on everyday necessities such as tea, paint, glass, textiles  etc. proved a false move.

Britain lost much goodwill from colonists, whose catch-cry had long been ‘no taxation without [parliamentary] representation’.

The [Charles] Townshend Tax Acts ignited a revolution that in April 1775 blazed into open warfare, the War of American Independence.

1775 – April, Massachusetts: Conflict between Britain and America’s Patriot colonists began at Lexington in April 1775.

The colonists were not as one. Loyalists supported the Crown and  fought alongside the English.

Patriots, led by General George Washington, fought for independence from Britain.

In 1778 France declared war on Britain. French money, men, munitions and military known-how poured in to support Washington’s Patriot militia.

A year later, in 1779 ,Spain too declared war on Britain. A Franco-Spanish Armada was assembled to invade England. See Smallpox


During the American War legislation – the Hulks Act 16, Geo.III, c 43 — permitted men, reprieved death on condition of ‘transportation to America’ be confined in appalling conditions on stinking hulks moored within along the Thames within sight and smell of Westminster Palace.


1788 – January: Britain’s invasion of New Holland in 1788 must be seen in the context of international rivalry and an insatiable imperial quest for territorial, strategic and trade advantage.

That quest resulted in the subjugation and subsequent near annihilation of Australia’s First Peoples.

‘On 14 December [1790] a troop of over 50 men departed for Botany Bay armed with muskets, hatchets for beheading, and bags for carrying heads’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013


‘The Way of war is a way of Deception. When Deploying troops Appear not to be’. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin, 2009

Situated in the southern oceans the island continent of New Holland offered Britain control of alternate strategic and logistical pathways to and from India, Asia and South America.

In the 18th and 19th centuries four (4) interlocking strategies dominated global warfare; sea battles, land battles, blockade and espionage.

Continue reading INVASION 1788: THE CONTEXT