From Jack Tar to Union Jack

Representing naval manhood in the British Empire, 1870–1918

Author: Mary A. Conley

The later nineteenth century was a time of regulation and codification, which was part of the Victorian search for reliability and respectability. This book examines the intersection between empire, navy, and manhood in British society from 1870 to 1918. It sheds light upon social and cultural constructions of working-class rather than elite masculinities by focusing on portrayals of non-commissioned naval men, the 'lower deck', rather than naval officers. Through an analysis of sources that include courts-martial cases, sailors' own writings, and the HMS Pinafore, the book charts new depictions of naval manhood during the Age of Empire. It was a period of radical transformation of the navy, intensification of imperial competition, democratisation of British society, and advent of mass culture. The book argues that popular representations of naval men increasingly reflected and informed imperial masculine ideals in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. It explains how imperial challenges, technological changes and domestic pressures transformed the navy and naval service from the wake of the Crimean War to the First World War. How female-run naval philanthropic organisations domesticated the reputation of naval men by refashioning the imagery of the drunken debauched sailor through temperance and evangelical campaigns is explained. The naval temperance movement was not singular in revealing the clear class dimensions in the portrayal of naval manhood. The book unveils how the British Bluejacket as both patriotic defender and dutiful husband and father stood in sharp contrast to the stereotypic image of the brave but bawdy tar of the Georgian navy.

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