By Janet Sloss
Britain’s Last Conquest of Menorca 1798 - 1802
© 2002 Bonaventura Press
I am very pleased to write an introduction to this new
book by my good friend, Janet Sloss, the third she has written about
the history of Menorca.
This new book deals with the last British dominion of our island, during the brief period from 1798 to 1802, which ended precisely with the Treaty of Amiens, the bicentenary of which has been so brilliantly commemorated this year in Menorca.
Janet Sloss’s earlier books are well known to the people of Menorca. They concern the famous English governor of the island, Richard Kane, and the period of French rule from 1756 to 1763. The current publication covers a tumultuous period in European politics in which two figures stand out: General Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Horatio Nelson.
There is a legend in Menorca concerning the brilliant English admiral, Horatio Nelson, which Janet Sloss destroys with facts based on the private correspondence between Lord Hamilton and the admiral.
Without doubt, with her new publication, Janet Sloss will contribute new understanding of the last years of the eighteenth century in Menorca, drawn from the inexhaustible British archives that deal with this period of the History of Menorca.
Francisco Fornals Villalonga
My third, and last, research into Menorca’s history in the eighteenth century took me again to the prestigious libraries in London where only time and patience are required. On Menorca, however, it was a race against time since the Biblioteca Publica in Mahon was about to close for an undetermined period while the paved square in front of the building was torn up and relaid. The director, Juan Sanchez Nistal, helped me to find relevant files until the doors closed. Then the town hall of Alaior came to the rescue, and my thanks are due to its excellent archivist, Margarida Pons Marti, for her professional help.
There was a further need for urgency. If this study of the third British occupation of Menorca was to appear before the end of “Amiens Year”, celebrated with such gusto by the Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales in Madrid and the Consorcio del Museo Militar de Menorca, there was not a month to lose.
My clever daughter, Alison, obliged with editorial advice as well as proof-reading in Latin and English, and her brother, Andy, followed his excellent design of the previous book, “A Small Affair”, with the design of this one. He gave willingly of his time to scan the illustrations and put both Spanish and English texts into electronic form. I have a wonderful family. My thanks are also due to Megan Davidson for her trips to the Amiens library in the pouring rain, well beyond the duties of a mother-in-law.
I am especially grateful for the support and encouragement given me by Francisco Fornals, director of the Military Museum in Es Castell and head of the Consorcio who organized the events of “Amiens Year” to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 when Britain handed the island back to Spain forever. He also kindly provided material for illustrations of the English built fortresses on the island. More illustrations for the book were quickly collected with the help of Rene Chartrand in Quebec, James Maps in Mahon, and the National Portrait Gallery and National Maritime Museum in London.
Finally, the work of Maria Belmonte in translating the text into Castilian must be noted with admiration. To achieve such a task with apparent facility is a small miracle.
It had never been my ambition to study the careers of Napoleon Bonaparte and Horatio Nelson, but now the moment had come. The only reason for Britain to occupy Menorca for the third time in the century was its need for an adequate harbour in the Mediterranean to sustain its large fleet, the fleet that could defeat the dreams of world domination of ‘that vile Corsican’, Napoleon. The British were quite sure that they could quickly capture the island and, more to their advantage, they were very familiar with its geography and its people.
A vivid picture of the Mediterranean Sea soon appeared from the documents I was studying, a sea crowded with splendid warships in full sail, and the island of Menorca crammed with thousands of foreign troops. With attention centred on Menorca, there also appeared the figure of a magician. Sir Charles Stuart’s stay on the island was brief but in just several months he transformed the island’s abject finances and gave its people the chance to maintain a life-sustaining economy.
I soon came to admire the awesome range of Napoleon’s
vision and strategy and the dogged determination of the romantic
Horatio Nelson to thwart him. Also, the Menorcan people’s infinite
patience with invaders of their autonomy. They were never to be invaded
Municipal Archives, Menorca
Fortescue, Sir John W. “History of the British Army”,
Vol. 4, London: Macmillan & Co. 1910
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