Atlantic Empire, European War and the Naval Expeditions to South America, 1806–1807
The Napoleonic War was essentially a European conflict, but it did have an Atlantic dimension. In 1806, Lieutenant General Baird and Admiral Popham commanded an operation to capture the Cape of Good Hope. Following its seizure, Popham then mounted an ambitious and unauthorised attack on Buenos Aires, on the other side of the Atlantic. For a few months, and at a time when victory in Europe appeared elusive, people across Britain turned to the possibilities of empire. This chapter considers how exponents in Britain thought about and advocated the extension of empire in these months. These debates involved calculations of immediate national interest and economic practicality, but also longer-term strategies about imperial conquest and investment. In particular, the chapter explores how the British government defined the role and purpose of the navy in supporting and promoting imperial advancement amid an all-consuming European war.