A remarkable, and may I add “restricted,” document discovered deep within the archives of the British Library revealed much of the politics that surrounded Admiral John Byng’s court martial as well as the subsequent government inquiry into how the island of Minorca fell to the French in April of 1756. Those two went together. But prior to both, the Newcastle government collapsed: too many (more…)

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History has a horrible problem. As Joyce Appleby put it, “there ARE the records of the past and there IS the interpretation of those records. The gap between them is the source of concern.”[1] First of all there are the records themselves. If you’re a historian then you are always aware that there are never enough of them. Records, quite frankly, (more…)

Minorca’s loss, however, must be set in context. The French takeover of the island hit the London press nearly two weeks prior to George II’s formal declaration.[1] Further, the loss came at the tail end of numerous other known defeats, especially the rout of General Edward Braddock’s army in the backwoods of Pennsylvania by French and Indian forces the year prior. Additionally, the movement of French troops and materials in the south of France seemed well known by many, and reported upon by a few newspapers earlier in the year.[2] Thus, an additional British defeat at the hands of the French certainly placed the Newcastle administration in an unenviable position of further defending its war and foreign affair policies.

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