This page was last updated August 3, 2017     

The Press
Publishing your book with SAP
Contact Us
Title/Author Index
Rights & Permissions
Social Media
Paperback on-Demand

Browse Subject

Art History
Cultural & Social Studies
Economics & Management
Geography, Environment & Migration
Jewish Studies
Latin American Studies
Library Studies
Literary Criticism & Linguistics
Middle East Studies
Politics, Media & IR
Psychology & Psychotherapy
Theatre & Drama
Theology & Religion
Women’s Studies
  Alpha Press
Libraries of Study

Asian & Asian American Studies
Contemporary Spanish Studies
Critical Inventions
Critical Voices
Demographic Developments
First Nations & Colonial Encounter
Latin American Library
Peace Politics in the Middle East
Portuguese-Speaking World
Religious Beliefs & Practices
Spanish History
Spirituality in Education

  You are in: Home > History > Footnotes to History  

Footnotes to History
The Personal Realm of John Wilson Croker, Secretary to the Admiralty (1809–1830), a “Group Family”

Nigel Harris

Nigel Harris is a former senior lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Dundee and a direct descendant both of Croker’s father-in-law, Consul William Pennell and of his wife’s most scandalous niece, Rosina.


Footnotes to History brings a novel focus to social history. It is a study of a “group family” – an extended family closely structured through marriages that were either internal or with trusted associates. Its members strove cooperatively for their own mutual benefit. This kind of social entity evolved down the centuries, reaching its zenith in the early nineteenth century.

The family portrayed, the Pennells, provides a supreme example of such a united body. John Wilson Croker, his two half-nieces and his best friend all married into it. The size of this “group family” gave ample scope for marriages between cousins. Most men in it gained prestigious appointments through Croker’s patronage, but at the price of giving him their unswerving loyalty.

From diaries, personal letters, newspaper articles, Chancery papers and Government documents, Footnotes to History brings the character of family members to life and shows how they interacted. Their personalities are portrayed through a wealth of entertaining anecdotes recorded by their contemporaries. Discussion focuses on the family in the nineteenth century, but how it evolved is also described. With their varied occupations and far-flung travel, the people whose stories are narrated give insight into fascinating but little frequented byways of British social and colonial history, such as intelligence gathering in the seventeenth century and the Newfoundland cod trade in the eighteenth. Their direct participation in events included riding from Dorset to London to warn James II personally of the Duke of Monmouth’s landing and rescuing Marie Antoinette’s daughter from Napoleon. Footnotes to History takes us on a meandering journey through British history brought to life by the experiences of one family over more than two centuries.

Family Trees


Part I: William Pennell
1. Waterford and Bordeaux
2. Defending British Interests in Brazil

Part II: The Family
3. The Crokers
4. Portsmouth and Brest
5. Spendthrifts and Picture Dealers
6. Rio and the Afghan Frontier
7. Naval Reports, Oysters and Trout Flies
8. Merchants’ Wives: Brazil and Liverpool
9. To South America and St. Helena

Part III: Ancestors
10. Ship-Owners and Merchants
11. The Decline of the Newfoundland Cod Trade
12. Medieval Roots and the Restoration
13. Clocks and Clergy


The numerous character profiles are thoroughly researched.
Reviewed in Parliamentary History, Vol. 35 (2016):


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
240 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, August 2015, Paperback, August 2016
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£29.95 / $39.95
Paperback Price:
£25.00 / $34.95

Order book by phone or online

UK, Europe, Asia and Rest of the World:
Gazelle Book Services

tel. 44 (0)1524-528513


United States, Canada:
International Specialized Book Services

tel.  1-800-944-6190



Order an

Selected titles in MobiPocket [Kindle] format are available on your Amazon site.




© 2017 Sussex Academic Press   |   Disclaimer