The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail
Douglas W. Allen
Explorations in Economic History 39, p. 204 –231 (2002)
The British Navy during the age of sail was systematically successful against its opponents, most notably the French. This paper documents this success, shows that it cannot be explained by superior ships, training, or other naval capital, and puts forth the hypothesis that the British Navy governance structure provided better incentives to fight than those of their opponents. The hypothesis is tested by examining the structure of the rules and then contrasting them with the rules governing privateers, the army, and the navy over time. The paper concludes with a discussion of why the French did not copy the British strategy.