An Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797 by G.E.Â Manwaring (Author), Bonamy Dobree (Author). First published in 1935 andÂ re-published by Pen & Sword Military Classics in 2004. 300 pages inÂ paperback.
The naval mutiny of 1797 is the most astonishing recorded in BritishÂ history; astonishing by its management rather than by its results, forÂ other mutinies had been successful. Though it shook the country fromÂ end to end, it was largely ordered with rigid discipline, a respect for
officers and an unswerving loyalty to the King. Moreover, it was soÂ rationally grounded that it not only achieved its immediate end, theÂ betterment of the sailor’s lot, but also began a new and lasting epochÂ in naval administration. Here are familiar names: the aged hero LordÂ Howe, the indecisive Lord Bridport, the giant Admiral Duncan who held aÂ mutineer over the side of his ship until the wretch admitted his error,Â the ever unpopular Captain Bligh, and less familiar figures such asÂ Richard Parker, who led the mutiny at the Nore and paid for hisÂ insurrection at the end of a rope. This fascinating account will appealÂ to all who love Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey and other fictionalÂ heroes of the era. The value of The Floating Republic does not merelyÂ reside in its excellent treatment of its theme – but likewise in theÂ light it sheds upon the history of the eighteenth century generally.
This was a fascinating and thought provoking read. Drawn very heavilyÂ from the primary sources of the period it paints a picture of theÂ events and also how the prevailing attitudes of the time shaped them.Â Those at the top believed (erroneously) that the mutinies were causedÂ by foreign interference (from French Jacobins, or their EnglishÂ supporters). Those on board ship felt that the improvements inÂ standards of living across the entire 18th century had left themÂ behind, in 1797 the pay rates for seamen were the same they had beenÂ under Charles II. This was brought into stark relief by the suddenÂ increase in the size of the navy with the war, bring on board manyÂ educated volunteers.
Life on board ship was harsh in the extreme, many officers brutalÂ bullies who ignored the protections in the discipline regulations.Â Pursers sold short measures (the naval pound had 14 rather than 16Â ounces) and the quality of their food was awful, not fit for humanÂ consumption – even by the laxer standards of the time. The book showsÂ the conditions and explains why the mutinies happened, it contrasts theÂ conduct and management of the two mutinies, both from a mutineer and anÂ official point of view. There are lessons both on how to conduct aÂ mutiny and on how to peacefully end one, the two adjacent mutiniesÂ clearly showing this.
I certainly felt inspired in reading the book and would stronglyÂ recommend it to both naval historians and social historians, anÂ excellent work on a period that otherwise gets overlooked.