Josiah Burchett

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Josiah Burchett (1666? – 2 October 1746) was Secretary of the Admiralty in England, a position he held for almost fifty years (26 September 1694 - 14 October 1742). He was first a clerk to Samuel Pepys, the English civil servant famous for his diary. Burchett eventually fell out of favour with Pepys, but gained the respect and favour of Lord Admiral Edward Russell, and eventually was appointed Secretary of the Admiralty. He served continuously as Secretary of the Admiralty until retiring at age 76.

Burchett served on Russell's flagship, the 100-gun HMS Britannia, at the battle of Barfleur in 1692 during the War of the Grand Alliance. In 1693 he became the Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet, replacing Samuel Pepys in that office. Burchett was elected as a member of the English Parliament in 1705 as a Whig and member of the 'Court Group' representing the borough of Sandwich, in Kent. He remained a Member of Parliament (MP) until 1713, then returned in 1721 continuing as a member for 20 years.

Using official reports received by the Admiralty, Burchett wrote the Memoirs of Transactions at Sea during the War with France, which was published in 1706 by the Queen's Printer, Edward Jones. In 1720 he published the lengthy book A Complete History of the Most Remarkable Transactions at Sea, which was reissued in 1995 by John Hattendorf of the U.S. Naval War College. This 1720 book was the first general naval history published in the English language. This book was published by the printing firm J. Walthoe under royal license of King George I of Great Britain and was clearly based on the official reports received in the Admiralty. Burchett's A Complete History of the Most Remarkable Transactions at Sea, along with Thomas Lediard's 1735 The Naval History of England, has become a key source of naval history of that era.

Since he held the office of Secretary of the Admiralty, the key administrator of the Royal Navy, longer than any other person and had extensive official correspondence and Admiralty papers that have been preserved, his books and writings are relied upon by maritime and naval war historians. Unlike his predecessor Samuel Pepys, Burchett left no known diary or private papers. He died at age 80 at Hampstead near London.


  • Burchett, Josiah, A Complete History of the Most Remarkable Transactions at Sea, 1720, facsimile ed., 1995, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, ISBN 978-0-8201-1489-7.


Parliament of England
Preceded by
John Michel
Sir Henry Furnese
Member of Parliament for Sandwich
With: Sir Henry Furnese
Parliament of England abolished
Parliament of Great Britain
New creation
Parliament of Great Britain created
Member of Parliament for Sandwich
With: Sir Henry Furnese to April 1713
John Michel from April 1713
Succeeded by
John Michel
Sir Henry Oxenden
Preceded by
Sir Thomas D'Aeth
Sir George Oxenden
Member of Parliament for Sandwich
With: Sir George Oxenden
Succeeded by
John Pratt
Sir George Oxenden