Nathaniel Jarrett

Aug 30, 2022

The Lion at Dawn

Forging British Strategy in the Age of the French Revolution, 1783–1797

University of Oklahoma Press 2022

In February 1793, in the wake of the War of American Independence and one year after British prime minister William Pitt the Younger had predicted fifteen years of peace, the National Convention of Revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands. France thus initiated nearly a quarter century of armed conflict with Britain. During this fraught and still-contested period, historian Nathaniel Jarrett suggests, Pitt and his ministers forged a diplomatic policy and military strategy that envisioned an international system anticipating the Vienna settlement of 1815.

Examining Pitt’s foreign policy from 1783 to 1797—the years before and during the War of the First Coalition against Revolutionary France—Jarrett considers a question that has long vexed historians: Did Pitt adhere to the “blue water” school, imagining a globe-trotting navy, or did he favor engagement nearer to shore and on the European Continent? And was this approach grounded in precedent, or was it something new? While acknowledging the complexities within this dichotomy, The Lion at Dawn: Forging British Strategy in the Age of the French Revolution, 1783–1797 (U Oklahoma Press, 2022) argues that the prime minister consistently subordinated colonial to continental concerns and pursued a new vision rather than merely honoring past glories. Deliberately, not simply in reaction to the French Revolution, Pitt developed and pursued a grand strategy that sought British security through a novel collective European system—one ultimately realized by his successors in 1815.

The Lion at Dawn
opens a critical new perspective on the emergence of modern Britain and its empire and on its early effort to create a stable and peaceful international system, an ideal debated to this day.

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