Samuel Pepys and the Making of the Royal Navy


Samuel Pepys has left us a diary which is justly famous: it gives us a view of 17th century England at the time of the Restoration in 1660. So many of the entries are quoted – plague, Fire of London, theatre performances, lustful dalliances and so on that it is easy to ignore Pepys’ life after 1669 when he closed the diary. But he achieved far more in his lifetime than just entertain us with his day to day reflections. He could be said to have created the Royal Navy and set it on course to dominate the seas in the centuries after his death in 1703. He was appointed Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board in 1660 and confessed he knew nothing about ships, sailors or ship-building, but he was determined to learn, and from that time he became the expert on every detail of naval administration. He struggled to eradicate corrupt practices in ships and dockyards (allowing himself some leeway when they could affect his personal circumstances!) and put in place measures to ensure naval officers were suitably qualified. And all while England was at war with the Dutch. This talk celebrates Samuel Pepys the Diarist – and the creator of the modern Royal Navy.