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Circulation and Taste: The Return of the Royal Navy at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century by Liam Furniss

By the end of the eighteenth century, Britain had come to occupy the strongest position in the global economy. This was done via military conquest and economic trade, both of which created a Royal Navy made rich. This Britain was also a world in socioeconomic flux. There was a mobility that saw middle-class seamen turned rich men of ‘taste’. This moment is symbolised perfectly by two very different, but equally enlightening artefacts, namely, the penultimate chapter of Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, and a portrait of Admiral Sir George Keith Elphinstone at the Cape of Good Hope. Both artefacts deal with the complexities of Britain asserting her dominance over a world at war, however still coming to terms with its own local anxieties. This dominance, which originated in hostilities towards the French, became an economic expansion which, in turn, became a globalised world of cultural circulation. The portrait of various Captains painted by Austen and the world-wide movement of artistic commodities via such captains, is rendered real in the portrait Elphinstone commissions. This circulation, of goods, people and above all, ideas, made this moment in Britain truly unique. The memorialisation of such a moment, by both writer and painter, becomes therefore that much more significant.

Date created: 
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Attribution for this resource:
Circulation and Taste: The Return of the Royal Navy at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century by Liam Furniss, All rights reserved.