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Archaeological evidence for the development of Royal Naval gunnery from 1545 – 1811; analysing change through technology and culture.

Pascoe, D., 2022. Archaeological evidence for the development of Royal Naval gunnery from 1545 – 1811; analysing change through technology and culture. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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This research investigates the archaeological evidence of naval gunnery, primarily from shipwrecks of the Royal Navy from the Early Modern Period (1545) to the Industrial Revolution (1811). It focuses on five main case studies, the London, Hazardous, Invincible, Colossus, and the St George, which were apex fighting ships that represent significant periods in the development of the Navy. The guns were the raison d’être of these ships and so their design and fighting tactics developed to make best use of the guns. The guns, however, are only one component of an intricate array of equipment, tools and munitions that make up a naval gunnery system. The guns alone, therefore, do not tell us how and with what skill they were operated; it is the equipment and organisation of the gunnery system that provide this critical information and is the focus of this research. Investigation of these shipwrecks includes the analysis of new archaeological data, fresh from the most recent underwater excavations and surveys and, consequently, this thesis presents the most current research on the topic. These sites, studied as a collective, alongside other secondary sites and in conjunction with the historical record, chart the key developments in British naval gunnery throughout the study period and bring all the available data under one coherent study for the first time. Developments were broken down into two main categories: technological, through improvements made to existing equipment or new inventions critical in the operation of the guns; and cultural, through identifying improvements in the management of the gunnery system ashore and in the organisation, maintenance and operation on board ship. The focus was thus on the gun’s equipment, its context within the ship and relationship with other objects, rather than the guns or the design of the ship. This research has shown that technological developments were in most cases minor, focusing on refining the gunnery system to make it more reliable, efficient and deadly. This is attributed to the simplicity of the smooth bore muzzle loading (SBML) gun and that its basic form did not change. Where this research stands out is that through a detailed analysis of the archaeological evidence one can see more than just form and function. Through unique details, such as tool and wear marks, or alterations and adaptations, the objects and structures provide a connection with the individuals that made and used them. This provides insights into the people directly involved at key points throughout the development of the Navy, identifies the everyday challenges they encountered and, most importantly, the methods and techniques they used to overcome these problems, from the ad hoc to documented specifications. As such, this original contribution to knowledge does two key things: first, it provides a chronology of technological developments through the analysis of equipment and its context—much of which was collected for the purposes of this research—and, second, these results allow us, as archaeologists, to take the technological details and imbue them with cultural context. It is these crucial details that separates this research from previous historical work on the topic.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes on your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:Royal Navy; gunnery; archaeology; shipwrecks
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:36802
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:31 Mar 2022 09:42
Last Modified:31 Mar 2022 09:42


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