Dear Research Grant Administrator,

Acceptance to the University of Bristol’s PhD program is undoubtedly the pinnacle of my historical studies. For years I have dreamed of adding to the discourse of History (yes, with a capital “H”), to piece together work that will contribute not only to the discipline, but to the betterment of human understanding.

Toward that end, Bristol accepted my master’s thesis (earned at California State University, Chico) as proof of my diligence and commitment to erudition. I’ll be working with professors Richard Sheldon and Ronald Hutton in an attempt to retrieve voices from the past which many historians struggle to recover: the lower ranks of British society from 1688 to 1763.

The project or working dissertation title is:

“To Encourage the Others”: The Cultural Role of Admiral John Byng’s Execution


The oddity of John Byng’s execution in 1757 remains perplexing. My master’s thesis charged that the nearly year-long Byng Affair tore open a political, social, and cultural schism between Britain’s aristocracy and its merchant class. Britain’s middle ranks – hooked on religion, wealth, and war (as Linda Colley described) – viewed the continuing defeats against the French (the loss of Oswego, the death of Braddock) as proof of the self-indulgent and immoral behaviors of an effeminate aristocracy. Commercial traders, merchants, manufacturers, and shippers anticipated greater wealth and political clout due to their activities on behalf of the empire, and heavily emphasized the means to obtain it: the humanists and Renaissance holdovers of civic virtue, personal integrity, and moral fortitude.

The angst over the nation’s oligarchs, however, worked against John Byng: simply put, he was one of them. Questions, however, still remain. Though we have an identifiable cultural conflict between Britain’s political elite and its middle ranks, what of the voices of the majority of Britain’s population, or its lower ranks? Why did the ministry specifically target the “mob” with a bevy of anti-Byng propaganda? How did Britain’s lower orders regard the losses against the French in the early throes of the Seven Years’ War? And through protests, what did the lower ranks hope to accomplish?

For Tory writers, nothing seemed more base that using the mob as a tool for political ends. As the Byng Affair unfolded, the merchant and middle class unfurled nationalistic rhetoric that elevated the status of the poor, that there existed more honor and grit in the lower ranks of British society than that of its upper tier.

But what do we know of the lower ranks of mid-eighteenth-century British society? How do we recover the voices of the mobile vulgare without the bias of aristocratic or merchant class points of view? And to what extent, then, did culture influence the actions of not only the British poor, but all its social and political factions? Was John Byng a cultural casualty? My proposed dissertation will work to understand how British culture contributed to the early bouts of political discourse during the Seven Years’ War. Further, this project will also employ microhistory as a means to recover the voices of Britain’s lower ranks. Finally, the project will analyze decade’s worth of cultural clues with the findings of the microhistorical investigation to discover to what extent European and British cultural forces doomed Admiral John Byng. In the aggregate, understanding the tremendous influences of culture and counter-cultures (and the conflicts between them) allow historians and scholars yet another window unto which we can investigate and understand how and why societies dealt with change.

Thus far I have received no support for this project, though I am applying for several scholarships and grants. This European research necessitates study in England – not only is this where the primary documents are located, but so too the cultural clues I

This Pulitzer Prize-winning historian left a legacy of European historical investigations. He also left a pool of funds for future historians to help understand the past.

need to absorb in order to make a clear and compelling historical case.

This grant will help cover the cost of transportation from California to London, lodging in London, and then the cost of transportation from London to the city of Bristol.

I want to thank the American Historical Association for this opportunity to apply for the Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for Research in Europe. As a member of the AHA, I am continually awed at the publications, prize and fellowship announcements, career investigations, and now a great resource for scholarships and grants. If you have any other questions or a need for any other materials, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Joseph J. Krulder

Doctoral Student, University of Bristol