The Social History of English Seamen 1650-1815, ed. Cheryl A. Fury

The Social History of English Seamen 1650-1815, ed. Cheryl A. Fury

This selection of articles on the Royal Navy covers a longer period than is often the case, looking back to 1650 and the Commonwealth Navy, before moving through the Restoration Navy and onto the more familiar Georgian period. This has an interesting impact on the articles here, as even those that cover quite familiar topics (Officers and Men of the Navy for example) starts with some unfamiliar material. One of the distinctive features of the familiar Navy of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Period was its well structured career path for officers, with an acceptance that naval officers would be skilled professionals, with an understanding of seamanship and experience of serving at sea at junior ranks, and not aristocrats appointed to high rank because of their social status. Here we get to see how that radical concept evolved.

The articles vary in scope. Some of the authors have produced general overviews of their topic - the look at the careers of merchant seamen or the impact of naval service on sailor’s wives and women. Others have looked at very specific topics - perhaps the best example being the study of food, which looks at the way in which sailor’s attitudes to food was described in three memoirs from the period (two of which were at best semi-fictional).

At first glance the second and third chapters look to be similar, but chapter two looks at issues such as the balance between volunteers and pressed men, the nature of life on board, sailor’s grievances, pay, discipline, training and life on shore, while chapter two looks at how Charles II and James II managed the mix of experienced Parliamentary commanders and inexperienced but Royalist incomers, recruitment, desertion, career structures, discipline and mutinies.

Overall this is an interesting set of articles, covering a useful cross section of topics, and giving us a variety of insights into the life of the British sailor during this crucial period 

1 - The Development of Sea Power, 1649-1815, Jeremy Black with Cheryl Fury
2 - Naval Seamen, 1650-1700, Bernard Capp
3 - Officers and Men of the Navy, 1660-1815, N.A.M. Rodger
4 - The Impact of Warfare on Naval Wives and Women, Margarette Lincoln
5 - Officers, Shipboard Boys and Courts Martial for Sodomy and Indecency in the Georgian Navy, B.R. Burg
6 - Health Provision in the Royal Navy, 1650-1815, David McLean
7 - The Origins and Careers of English Merchant Seaman in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries, Peter Earle
8 - Private Enterprise, Public Policy and the Development of Britain's Seafaring Workforce, 1650-1815, David J. Starkey
9 - Jack Tar's Food: Masculine Self-fashioning in the Age of Sail, James Douglas Alsop
10 - Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers: The Changing Face of English Piracy from the 1650s to the 1720s, John C. Appleby

Editor: Cheryl A. Fury
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 278
Publisher: Boydell
Year: 2017

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