Special issue - The Royal Navy, Culture and Society in the ‘Long’ Eighteenth Century
This special issue (put together by Sara Caputo, Scouloudi Fellow at the IHR), gathers review articles and reviews of volumes on the history of the British Navy in the ‘long’ eighteenth century, the heyday of the British Age of Sail. Some of these texts focus on the Navy itself, its ships and its administration, passing by the well-trodden tradition of biographies of Lord Nelson, but the majority touch upon the Navy as part of larger histories, or use it as a gateway into more general themes. These include Anglo-American relations and Atlantic History, and the histories of medicine, religion, the family and patronage, gender, national identity, patriotism, and public representations. On the whole, this collection illustrates well the current liveliness of the historiography on the British Navy, and the abundant possibilities which this subject offers to eighteenth-century social, cultural and political historians.
At the end of December 1756, Admiral John Byng was put on trial for breaching the Articles of War, instructions set out by the Royal Navy in 1749 to establish and regulate martial behaviour. Byng, who had commanded a fleet of ships during the Battle of Minorca in the late spring of 1756, was accused of failing to do his utmost during the combat.
The social history of the navy is a rapidly developing field and there is a recent trend for studies which seek to uncover the complex and varied personal experiences of officers and sailors, as well as to trace broader trends in cultural representation.
Christopher Magra believes that impressment played a vital role in the origins of the American Revolution. Sailors not only were the shock troops of the resistance movement in popular disturbances in the 1760s and 1770s.
These three volumes are the first titles in an ambitious new series from I.B.Tauris.
Paul A. Gilje, Professor of United States History at the University of Oklahoma and renowned expert on the history of common people on the waterfront in early America (1), argues in his recently published book on the War of 1812 that the U.S. declared war against Great Britain in 1812 in defense of neutral rights and the safety of American sailors.
Among the new books that have emerged coincident with the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, Brian Arthur's How Britain Won the War of 1812: The Royal Navy's Blockades of the United States, 1812–1815 is one that should win attention, both for its provocative title and its revelatory content.
As its title suggests, this book covers developments in the medical service of the Royal Navy and among people who travelled aboard ships, whether as serving seamen, convicts, slaves or migrants.
Notwithstanding the outpouring of heavyweight publications that attended the 2005 Trafalgar bicentenary, popular perceptions of life in Nelson’s navy still revolve around the brutal, filthy, drink-sodden hellhole presented in recent television adaptations of Hornblower and William Golding’s To the Ends of the Earth trilogy.
2005, the bicentenary of the battle of Trafalgar, has seen a spate of publications relating to Nelson and Trafalgar. Some of us may be justified in thinking that there were already too many books on these subjects. By 1990 there were over 100 biographies of Nelson. Now there are more. Do these books take our knowledge any further forward, and where do Nelsonic studies go from here?
In the bicentenary year of Trafalgar it is appropriate to remember that the history of Britain, its current situation and future prospects reflect an overwhelming geographical fact. Britain is a collection of islands at once alongside, but not attached to the European Continent.
Now is an appropriate time to consider the role of the British Navy and its cultural significance. 2005 marks the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the apogee of British naval glory. Trafalgar is a story of national tragedy as well as triumph, of course, as Britain’s stunning victory over the French came at a huge cost, namely the loss of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
In one of his most irritated moods, Samuel Pepys, sometime naval administrator, recorded in his diary that he and his office had just had the experience of being judged by investigators who were entirely unaware of the nature of the business of running a department of the navy. Pepys’s experience is rather common.
This important new study demonstrates the growing maturity of naval history, for while at first sight it might appear to be aimed at a specialist audience, it skilfully uses a mastery of the specific to enhance our understanding of the general.