Report of The Commissioners appointed to consider the Defences of the United Kingdom; together with the Minutes of Evidence and Appendix; also correspondence relative to a site for an internal Arsenal
Her Majesty's Government
London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office.1860.
Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty in 1860; 4to; half-leather over marbled boards; 9 maps in pocket at rear. The Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom was a committee formed in 1859 to enquire into the ability of the United Kingdom to defend itself against an attempted invasion by a foreign power, and to advise the British Government on the remedial action required. The appointment of the Commission had been prompted by public concern about the growing military and naval power of the French Empire and was instigated by the Prime Minister, Palmerston, who came to be closely associated with the project. The Commission's report recommended a huge programme of fortification to defend the country's arsenals and naval bases. Many of the recommendations were acted upon; however, the great expense, the length of time taken to complete the various works and their perceived usefulness were all subjects of critical political, press and public debate. The Report concluded that the fleet, army and volunteer forces, did not provide sufficient defence against invasion. The Commissioners considered, the 700 miles from the Humber to Penzance, could not be completely fortified and recommended that "the fortifications of this country should be confined to those points... whose possession would give him sure bases for operations". A detailed plan and costing was produced for each location which required defences, including forts which were already under construction, resulting in a massive programme. The total expenditure projected for the purchase of land and construction costs was estimated at £10 million. The maps included here illustrate the proposed fortifications, a particularly detailed one for Spithead and a large scale map covering Southern England. By the time the fortifications were completed in the 1880s it was clear that the French had not planned to invade. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 removed the threat and the forts became known as Palmerston's Follies. The maps are particularly well preserved. The book has some wear to the extremities and is stamped on the front free end paper MASTER COPY NOT TO LEAVE REFERENCE ROOM.