Bentham Microfilm

Scope and Content

Microfilm copy of letters by Sir Samuel Bentham, held in the papers of Gregory Alexandrovich Potyomkin, Prince of Yauris (known as Prince Potemkin), Central State War History Archive, Moscow.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Samuel Bentham: born, 1757; youngest son of Jeremiah Bentham, an attorney, and brother of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham; educated at Westminster; aged fourteen, apprenticed to the master-shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard; lived in France, 1775; invited to accompany the Bienfaisanhim on the summer cruise of the Channel fleet, 1778; witnessed the battle of Ushant; suggested improvements in steering gear and gun fittings; travelled in order to study the shipbuilding and naval economy of foreign powers, arriving in St Petersburg, Russia, 1780; travelled over much of Russia, from Archangel to the Crimea, and through Siberia to the frontier of China, examining mines and methods of working metals; on his return to St Petersburg presented a report to the Empress, 1782; declined a commissionership in the British navy, because his prospects in Russia seemed more advantageous, 1783; accepted Potemkin's offer to send him to Cherson as lieutenant-colonel; settled at Kritchev, where the prince hoped to establish a shipbuilding yard; his military rank was made substantive and he was appointed commander of a battalion, 1784; owing to the limited number of officers at his disposal, introduced the plan of central observation, with workshops radiating from his own office, a scheme of which his brother Jeremy's 'Panopticon' was a modification; ordered to Cherson to direct the equipment of a flotilla against the Turks, 1787; Bentham's innovations allowed the fittings of recoilless guns of larger calibre than was previously thought possible for small craft, and were instrumental in defeating the Turks, 1788; was rewarded with the military cross of St George and the rank of brigadier-general; appointed to a command in Siberia, where he developed navigation of the rivers and promoted further exploration and trade with China; revisited England, 1791; on his return, spent the remainder of his career as Inspector-General of Navy Works, and later as one of the Commissioners of the Navy, urging and introducing improvements in machinery, equipment and administration of navy dockyards; pensioned off, 1812; moved to France, 1814; returned to England, 1827; during his retirement, prepared papers on professional subjects and continued correspondence with several navy departments until his death in 1831.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Other Finding Aids

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Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds the papers of Jeremy Bentham, 1750-1885 (Ref: BENTHAM), consist of drafts and notes for published and unpublished works, and cover many subjects including: Bentham's codification proposal; correspondence and papers of and relating to Jeremy Bentham collected by Denis Roy Bentham (Ref: MS ADD 413); and miscellaneous other items of or relating to Bentham (Ref: MS OGDEN 62, MS OGDEN 66, MS OGDEN 76, MS OGDEN 80, MS ADD 175).

The Manuscript Collections at the British Library holds correspondence and papers (Ref: Add MSS 29806-09, 33537-64, 37520), correspondence relating to international law, 1827-1830 (Ref: Add MS 30151), letters to John Tyrrell, 1829-1831 (Ref: Add MS 34661), and letters to Nicholas Vansittart, 1799-1801 (Ref: Add MS 31235); the King's College Modern Archive Centre at Cambridge University holds letters and papers, 1768-1830 (Ref: JMK); Trinity College Library at Cambridge University holds correspondence and papers, 1796-1830 (Ref: B7); Oxford University Queen's College Library hold notes on William Blackstone's lectures, [1760] (Ref: Vol V, MS 401); Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts at Oxford University holds correspondence with Sir Francis Burdett, 1818-1830 (MS Eng lett d 97), and letters to William Wilberforce, 1796-1812 (Ref: MSS Wilberforce; Don e 164-65); Oxford University Balliol College Library holds letters to David Urquhart, 1825-1831; Dr Williams's Library holds letters to Henry Crabb Robinson, (Ref: 101).