Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy, 1771-1831
Officer recruits - "young gentlemen" - entered the Royal Navy with dreams of fame, fortune and glory, but many found promotion difficult, with a large number unable to progress beyond lieutenant. Recent scholarship has argued that during the wars of 1793-1815 there was greater social diversity among naval officers, with promotion increasingly related to professional competence. This book, based on extensive original research, examines the social background of around 4,000 "young gentlemen" a term which includes midshipmen and various other categories, including captains' servants, volunteers and masters' mates. It concludes that in fact high birth became an increasingly important factor in the selection of officer candidates, and that as the Admiralty grip on the appointment and management of officer aspirants increased, especially after 1815, aristocratic presence in the ranks of young officers increased significantly as a result of deliberate Admiralty policy. The book also discusses the assertion that the increase in elite sons led to a dramatic increase in cases of indiscipline and insubordination, concluding that although there was a marked increase in courts martial for insubordination during and after the French Wars there is no evidence that such cases related more to the elites than to young aspirants in general". The book includes many case study examples of midshipmen and other "young gentlemen", illustrating what life was like for them and how they themselves viewed their situation. S.A. CAVELL is a graduate of the Queensland University of Technology and Louisiana State University and completed her doctorate at the University of Exeter.
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