‘This Great Complex Concern’: Victualling the Royal Navy on the East Indies Station, 1780–1815
The East Indies station was the largest and most challenging area in which the Royal Navy operated during the long eighteenth century. Although operations on the station are well understood, its administration has until recently been the subject of little research. This article, which builds upon work by the author on the victualling of the Royal Navy during the wars of 1793–1815, examines how the East Indies squadron was victualled. It traces the system of purchases by agents during the 1780s, which was marred by corruption and disputes between the navy and East India Company, and how the system was altered by the engagement of contractors to provide food after 1789. In particular it focuses on how, under the controversial but effective Basil Cochrane, a robust victualling system was established which made a crucial contribution to eventual British dominance in the eastern seas.