Anglo-Spanish Naval Relations in the Eighteenth Century
By concentrating on relations with France, British historians have tended not to devote sufficient attention to the Spanish dimension of eighteenth century diplomacy and warfare. Contemporaries however were aware that the Spanish navy was a real force. A key to British success in the conflicts of the period was its ability to isolate that navy, either by keeping it neutral in war with France or by keeping France neutral while fighting Spain. Throughout the eighteenth century Britain had a superior number of warships to either France or Spain, but if France had become allied to Spain then Britain would have been at considerable disadvantage. In reality, for all sides, in adverse circumstances through crew’s sickness or ships in need of refits, naval strength was even more problematic. During the War of Spanish Succession, 1701-1714, Spanish naval strength had collapsed but, with French support, had rapidly revived after the conflict. Although Spain continued to enlarge her fleet she could not compete in numbers with Britain or France and her fleet had severe weaknesses. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, although she had insufficient numbers of three deckers her navy was still considered an important naval power.