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Total factor productivity for the Royal Navy from victory at Texal (1653) to triumph at Trafalgar (1805)


  • O'Brien, Patrick
  • Duran, Xavier


The size and strength of the Royal Navy experienced a punctuated evolution into the largest and most powerful Navy in the world by 1815. Most historians tend to represent its superiority in conflicts at sea as an indication of several factors that would be conceptualized by economists as residuals in a production function, namely: better technologies, efficient seamanship, bravery in battle, the Nelson factor, strong logistical support on shore and latterly well designed systems of economic incentives. But are these factors anywhere near sufficient to explain the Royal Navy's relative prowess over rival fleets? This paper argues that the fiscal and financial institutions based upon a political consensus for a sustained uplift in state expenditures on the largest standing fleet of warships in Europe was created during an interregnum of Republican rule, carried forward by the Stuarts and exploited to reach its full potential between the Glorious Revolution (1688) and the Congress of Vienna (1815). The Royal Navy’s protection promoted development and consolidation of the realm’s extensive maritime sector that, in turn, sustained the largest fleet of battleships on call for defense and aggression in Europe and across the oceans of the world economy.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Brien, Patrick & Duran, Xavier, 2010. "Total factor productivity for the Royal Navy from victory at Texal (1653) to triumph at Trafalgar (1805)," Economic History Working Papers 27886, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:27886

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Benjamin, Daniel K. & Tifrea, Anca, 2007. "Learning by Dying: Combat Performance in the Age of Sail," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(4), pages 968-1000, December.
    2. Sánchez, José Jurado, 2009. "Military Expenditure, Spending Capacity and Budget Constraint in Eighteenth-Century Spain and Britain," Revista de Historia Económica / Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(1), pages 141-174, January.
    3. Benjamin, Daniel K. & Thornberg, Christopher, 2007. "Organization and incentives in the age of sail," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 317-341, April.
    4. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273.
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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe


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