Britain and Menorca in the eighteenth century

Donaldson, David Whamond (1994). Britain and Menorca in the eighteenth century. PhD thesis The Open University.



Menorca was a British possession for more than seventy years between 1708 and 1802.

This thesis traces British influence upon, and involvement with Menorca from the seventeenth century until Spain recovered the island in 1802. Eighteenth-century Menorcan history has been tackled specifically by only two British historians, Ella Murdie (1931) and Desmond Gregory (1990), but neither has drawn upon primary source material which is to be found outside Britain. The following study is based on British archives, on primary sources in Spain, Mallorca and Menorca, and on some hitherto untapped material in Britain and Canada.

Chapter one is an account of English interest in Menorca prior to 1708, and chapter two deals with the capture and early years of British de facto rule. The following three chapters analyse the Menorcan social structure, and the island's administrative, judicial and ecclesiastical institutions and organisation. Chapters six and seven examine the role of the military garrison and naval base. Chapter eight illustrates Menorcals vulnerability to attack; chapter nine assesses the impact of British de jure government, and chapter ten is an account of the final British occupation. The last chapter adds a coda to the British presence, and appraises the value of the island to Britain, and of Britain to Menorca.

Britain's determination to retain Menorca sprang more from pride than sound judgement. It soured relations with Spain; it ignored the island's poor intrinsic commercial potential, and that Menorcals defence demanded a priority in naval and military resources quite disproportionate to the island's political and strategic importance. Britain gained little from Menorca and lost much, but the reverse was true of the Menorcans. Despite the clash of religion, the generally tolerant British government gave scope for the Menorcans who so chose to benefit socially, culturally, commercially and materially from the British presence.

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