Trafalgar’s Legacy – Global Pax Britannica and the exploration and settlement of the British Empire in the antipodes

Trafalgar Oct Feature
(Immigrant ship being towed past Fort Denison - by Australian Artist Ian Hansen)

The destruction of Franco-Spanish Seapower at Trafalgar in 1805 doomed Napoleon’s dream of an invasion of Britain and an enduring  French global maritime dominance. Nelson’s overwhelming victory ushered in  a century in which the Royal Navy provided the means by which the seas of the world would become an uncontested  highway for trade,  European migration and settlement. The  long peace at sea was used by the RN to police the growing Empire, to  colonise Australia and later New Zealand, to suppress the African slave trade, to attack piracy, to chart the oceans of the world for the benefit of all mariners and to explore the polar regions. The peaceful development of Mitchell’s ‘Australia Felix’ was made possible by the  maritime power and reach of the RN which was comprehensively established at Trafalgar – the most significant  battle in Australia’s nineteenth century history.


Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods RAN,  is the Chief of Navy’s Bereavement Liaison Officer. He has served in the RNZN, the RN, the British Army and the RAN. He has taught Naval and Military History to junior officers for over 40 years. He taught strategic studies for seven years at the RAN College and naval history at the Australian Defence College.  In  recent years he has  been the RAN’s  Staff Officer Centenary of Anzac  and  the Chief of Navy’s Research Officer. He has been published by the UK Naval Review, the Australian Naval Review and the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings. He is a Councillor of the Australian Naval Institute and the current President of the Rotary Club of Canberra.

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