The choice of London as a case study allows direct engagement with the prototype of the fiscal-military state as an autarkic national institution, since the British state formed the basis for John Brewer’s book on The Sinews of Power. Brewer and others have noted how far this state continued to rely on military manpower and financial investment from Europe, but the extent and nature of this dependence has rarely been quantified, and attention has largely been focussed on a few episodes such as the hire of German troops for service in the American Revolutionary Wars. Yet even these scattered figures suggest that the foreign contribution was of substantial importance, with up to fifty percent of military manpower and twenty percent of financial investment during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-13) sourced from overseas through the European fiscal-military system. This created a pattern which was not broken until 1815. While individual aspects of this system have been studied, they have not been reviewed systematically or incorporated into a wider analysis which aims to quantify the exact extent of this dependence, and to analyse how and why it changed between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.
This three-year study will therefore examine the growing importance of London as crucial hub in the European fiscal-military system through which these financial and military resources were transmitted and organised. The backbone of the study will be a quantitative survey of the contribution that foreign military manpower made and its cost, and the levels of foreign investment from the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland in British foreign debt. This will make it possible to establish for the first time the money flowing through London from British taxation and borrowing to sovereign and semi-sovereign suppliers of military manpower, and from investors into public funds, and thus the networks connecting London with other hubs such as Amsterdam, Vienna, Genoa and the Baltic during the rise of the British state after 1660. Attention will be focussed not only on the networks of financiers, bankers and brokers but also the institutional infrastructure of markets and banks, such as the Bank of England (1694) and the London Stock Exchange (1773), which structured and facilitated this process. The study will show that the British state was increasingly organised around its access to foreign resources through London and its connections with the European fiscal-military system until the end of the eighteenth century.
The main contribution of this study will therefore be to analyse not only the rise of the British state but also its changing role in the European fiscal-military system after 1815 and its contribution to its demise. By extending the quantitative survey into the decades before 1870 it will emphasise the inversion of London’s role as a hub within this network, and its shift from an inlet for foreign money and manpower into an outlet for British money and manpower to support warfare in Europe and even Latin America. It will argue that the reduced dependence on foreign resources enabled Britain to use its new powers to change the rules of the game and finally help abolish the European fiscal-military system, in order to maintain its own hegemonic position and the balance of power in Europe.