Online ISSN: 2221-7886

Volume 2, Number 2 (2011)
A Shift in Focus: The Shift in Naval Warfare in the Caribbean during the Eighteenth Century
Geoffrey Ward
The War of Austrian Succession (1740-48) changed the course of naval warfare in the Caribbean for the following seventy years, with the shift in focus of naval operations from the northern Caribbean islands that were largely colonized by France and Spain to the Windward islands which were divided between France and Britain. This shift in the main area of operations brought Barbados into focus as an important forward operating base for the Royal Navy in the region. As the focus of naval warfare moved southwards, Barbados and Antigua became the lynchpins in what became known, somewhat confusingly, as the British Leeward Islands Station which stretched from Tobago in the South to Anguilla in the north. Throughout the 18th century, these two islands provided the naval infrastructure that allowed the British to mount naval campaigns in the region. The first major actions on the station took place during the Seven Years War (1756-63), thus changing the nature of the islands' military utilization. Barbados would inherit Antigua's role as a forward operating base; while advances in British shipbuilding would see Antigua concentrating on trade interdiction, scouting and anti-scouting operations.