The Battle of Prestonpans

The Battle of Prestonpans, fought on 21 September 1745 was a significant tactical victory for Jacobite forces led by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the uprising known as “The ‘45”. The win perhaps gave the rebel forces a sense of over-confidence, as the tactical defeat of the British Government forces led to some significant changes in both training and tactics. We will examine the background to this and previous Scottish uprisings within the larger context of 18th Century European politics. We will also compare the two opposing commanders Charles Edward Stuart and Sir John Cope and some of their key staff as well as the tactics employed by both sides.

This class will be delivered face-to-face at WEA Sydney. Enrolling students need to ensure they have read the current COVID-19 Safety Guidance that WEA Sydney has put in place before enrolling.


  • Analysis of previous Jacobite Rebellions in the late17th and 18th Centuries
  • Background to the Jacobite ‘invasion’ of 1745
  • Comparison of Jacobite and British leadership
  • Comparison of Jacobite and British forces and tactics
  • Description of how the battle unfolded on the day
  • Consequences for the defeated British force
  • Consequences for the winning Jacobite forces


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the politics of Jacobite uprisings in 17th and 18th Century Europe.
  2. Appreciate the strategic objectives of Jacobite intentions in Scotland.
  3. Appreciate the character and personal objectives of the opposing commanders.
  4. Understand the structure, tactics and objectives of Jacobite forces in the 1745 rebellion.
  5. Understand the structure, tactics and objectives of British Government forces in 1745.
  6. Understand how this battle led to changes in British army structure and tactics.
  7. Understand how the battle led to Jacobite over-confidence and a plan to capture London.

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