The British Navy's Victualling Board, 1793-1815

The British Navy's Victualling Board, 1793-1815

Management Competence and Incompetence

Janet Macdonald


Boydell Press



An examination of the Royal Navy's Victualling Board, the body responsible for supplying the fleet.
During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy increased its manpower from fewer than 20,000 to more than 147,000 men, with a concomitant increase in the quantities of food and drink required to sustain them. The organisation responsible for this, the Victualling Board, performed its tasks using techniques and systems which it had developed over the previous 110 years. In terms of actually delivering supplies to warships, troopships and army garrisons abroad, the Victualling Board performed well given the constraints of long-distance communications and intermittent difficulties in obtaining supplies. However, its other areas of responsibility showed poor performance, as evidenced by the reports of several Parliamentary enquiries. This book examines in detail the processes by which the Victualling Board performed its core and non-core tasks, identifying the areas of competence and incompetence, and establishing the underlying causes of the incompetencies.

JANET MACDONALD, author of the highly acclaimed Feeding Nelson's Navy (Chatham, 2004), has recently completed a thesis at King's College London. After a business career, and running an equestrian organisation, she spent ten years as a freelance writer, publishing more than thirty books.


July 2010
8 line illustrations
282 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843835530
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

Introduction. Historiography and early history of victualling
The work of the Victualling Board. Core tasks: Supply
Core tasks: Delivery at home
Core tasks: Delivery abroad
Non-core and ad hoc tasks
Staff at Head Office
Staff at the yards
Fraud and other misdemeanours
Parliamentary enquiries


An exhaustive study (and) a fine example of academic research and analysis. NORTHERN MARINER

Combines some penetrating analysis with much interesting and entertaining material. (...) There is a wealth of biographical and statistical information, and the glossary is particularly useful. JOURNAL FOR MARITIME RESEARCH

(reviewed together with Sustaining the Fleet) Rare is the occasion when two excellent books are written about the same subject within the same year. (...) Both books are well written and well documented, utilizing a vast array of primary sources. (...) For those who study the Royal Navy in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods both (...) are simply must have books. NORTHERN MARINER

Provides an excellent examination of the actual inter-workings of the Victualling Board. NAUTICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL