The Origins of the 74-Gun Ship

By Brian Lavery, published November 1977


From 1745 – 1822 the two deck 74 was the backbone of the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars, because of its balance of firepower, sailing qualities and cost. With the development of diagonal bracing in 1811, which minimized hogging, larger ships carrying greater firepower became practical and dominated the early Victorian Navy. Design of the British 74 was evolutionary, resulting from a number of factors. These included: 1) recognition of the problems and cost with the lack of standardization in ship design and construction, 2) the need to handle amphibious landings, prevention of invasion, and command the sea to protect the Empire, 3) recognition of the superiority of the French 74 design, particularly after the capture of the “Invincible” in1747, and more importantly, 4) the reform of the then “hide bound” Navy Board in 1744, by the Duke of Bedford and Rear-Admiral George Anson.

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Filed under: Napoleonic War | Seven Years’ War
Subjects include: Administration | Navies | Shipbuilding & Design

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