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ISSN 1749-8155

Response to Review no. 799Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Author: 
Richard Blake2009-12-21T15:44:14+00:00

I am grateful for this thorough and perceptive review by Gareth Atkins. He refers to two matters, compassion and patronage, which I hope to pursue further in a sequel covering the next 60 years after 1815. As the debate about discipline intensified in the post-war period, how did evangelical commanders emerge from Admiralty scrutiny of punishment returns? Was there a tendency towards censorious severity? Or was the attitude of Colin Arrott Browning, surgeon superintendent of convict ships, more typical? After his first voyage to Tasmania he managed seven more between 1831 and 1849 without recourse to the lash, at the same time promoting humane measures of education and Bible reading. Ships’ logs and Admiralty correspondence provide an extensive field for examination.

As for patronage, it can hardly be doubted that evangelical captains gathered aspiring young officers around them from families of similar conviction. This would have been an effective and socially acceptable way of promoting their beliefs in the service. When the Barham/Gambier era at the Admiralty passed taking with it evangelical influence at the highest level, did those beliefs and attitudes remain strong in innumerable wardrooms, as  midshipmen recruited by Blue Light captains rose through the officer ranks? If so it would help account for the apparent continuance of such convictions in the fleet even when they were out of favour at the Admiralty. Evidence may prove fragmentary and answers tentative, but the inquiry should  illuminate the process of value-transference through patronage and family links. Whatever the mechanism, it is clear that Blue Lights continued to shine in the 19th-century navy.

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