Dr Benjamin Redding, Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia (UEA), has drawn on new research and analysis to reveal insights into the Gloucester’s fighting career in the Caribbean. His article on the period, ‘The Western Design Revised: Death, Dissent, and Discontent on the Gloucester, 1654-1656’, published this week in The Historical Journal, can be found here.
The article charts the ship’s role in Oliver Cromwell’s troubled campaign (known as ‘the Western Design’) to oust the Spanish from the Caribbean in the mid-1650s and incorporate captured territory into the British empire.
Documents including diaries, letters and wills, have been analysed revealing the tragedy, discord and hubris aboard the ship. They show remarkable similarity to when the ship was catastrophically wrecked off the coast of Norfolk more than 25 years later.
Commenting on the research Dr Benjamin Redding said: “The Gloucester’s early career shows that the ship is important across its whole history of service. Its role in The Western Design, and the many lives lost, reflects the complexities of Britain’s bellicose history as the nation sought to become a global power.”
Claire Jowitt, Professor of Renaissance Studies at the UEA and Director of The Gloucester Project, agrees saying: “Every chapter of the history of this warship reveals how central naval history is to Britain’s island story. The Gloucester Project aims to change popular understanding to show the ways seventeenth-century politics and religion were indelibly intertwined with the nation’s maritime history.”
The Gloucester Project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust (2021-24), is researching the life and times of the warship.