Friday, 29 January 2010

The cost of war in the seventeenth century

I wanted to bring your attention to a recently discovered account book delineating the actual cost of war in the late seventeenth century and adding immeasurably to our understanding of the period.

The BBC has highlighted this book in its A History of the World website, a joint project with the British Museum.

The account book was compiled by Thomas Coningsby, the then Paymaster General, both before and after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and allows us a wonderful insight into the exorbitant cost of mounting a military campaign at the time. It is estimated that the equivalent of some £200 million was spent on this campaign.

Incredibly, the book has been lying in storage at Belfast City Hall for the last three hundred years and was only uncovered during recent building renovation work.

Finally it has emerged from darkness and now shines valuable light on the logistics of William of Orange’s campaign to re-conquer Ireland from James II of England.

It contains for example all the payments disbursed to the regiments on campaign in Ireland including the Dutch and French ones and lists each individual soldier who made up William’s army. Intriguingly, it also details payments for intelligence, goods and supplies.

This is really a wonderful discovery for all interested in this period, historians and historical novelists alike!

You can read more about it here and here.


  1. Thanks goodgame77, any compliments are gratefully received!

  2. Nice post, Gordon. Discoveries like this always beg the question: how many more revealing historical artefacts are fustratingly hidden in otherwise accessible places? Do you think you'll be able to gather information from this book and use it in any of your recent historical fiction writings?

  3. Thanks Andy. It's a really interesting question that and one historians love to ponder over! Yeah, I'm trying to find out how to access the info from the document and if I can, I will use it in the book.