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.
The naval temperance movement was not singular in revealing the clear class dimensions in the portrayal of naval manhood. Analysing the class implications of representing naval manhood serves as a useful way to understand the domestic formation of imperial manhood. Samuel Smiles' conception of the social order reflected a bourgeois definition of manhood and a gendered conception of class. To Smiles, the 'heroism' of the common 'private' and 'men in the ranks' not only contributed to Britain's military success, it highlighted the working man's ability to better himself. The title of William Henry Giles Kingston later story, From Powder Monkey to Admiral, originally published in 1879 in the first issues of The Boy's Own Paper, charted the perseverance and success of a common boy in Nelson's navy. Although mobility occurred within Nelson's navy where promotion was awarded in battle, it proved increasingly elusive within the late Victorian and Edwardian navy.
This chapter argues that Victorian naval reforms forced the navy to improve lower-deck conditions in order to recruit more men. It explains how and why the navy expanded in the nineteenth century, and then how this expansion affected manpower and personnel reforms. As the responsibilities of the navy had broadened in the forty years after the Napoleonic Wars, technological advances made the modernisation of the British fleet possible. The chapter focuses upon the passage of the Continuous Service Act, which effectively introduced a standing navy, the challenges of raising and meeting manning levels by recruiting from the merchant marine, and the training of boys for service. Public celebrations of the navy increased amidst the imperial and domestic challenges of the new Edwardian age. It examines the rationale and development of lower-deck reforms in pay, pensions and promotions over the course of the late-Victorian and Edwardian period.
The growth of new maritime missions, often administered by women, took place during an age marked by philanthropic impulse, evangelical zeal and a cult of domesticity. Naval philanthropy was not just a specific expression of the maritime mission; it was also, like the general maritime mission, an outgrowth of the Victorian preoccupation with philanthropy. Philanthropic societies established sailors' homes or rests to provide inexpensive accommodation for naval men in port. Philanthropists, like Agnes Weston, highlighted the importance of home, family and nation in their outreach to naval men, whether in temperance campaigns, port accommodation, spiritual ministrations, or disaster relief. Agnes ministrations either castigated naval men for their profligate vices or celebrated them for their domestic virtues. While reforming naval manhood was central to her mission, Agnes consistent allusions to reprobate naval manhood helped to cultivate older stereotypes of the Jolly Jack Tar.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book 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. It considers 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. The book argues that late-Victorian portrayals of naval manhood were preoccupied with class distinctions that both elided realities of class tensions and affirmed the patrilineal nature of manhood, in which birthright assured one's masculine stature. It also considers through a case study whether the experience of the First World War, which transformed so much in British society, resulted in noticeable changes in the representations of naval manhood.
Naval scares, imperial anxieties and naval manhood
Mary A. Conley
The formation of the British Navy League in 1895 reflected public anxieties about the state of the navy and the stability of the Empire. With a mission to convert the public to navalism, the Navy League targeted the fears of newly enfranchised working men from working-class families. Naval scares awakened the British public to the possibility that British naval supremacy might be illusory and fuelled British anxieties, about the instability of imperial control. In addition to portraying the sea as Britain's imperial highway and the navy as the bulwark of home and empire, navalist discourse propagated images of naval men as rugged but respectable models of imperial manhood. Naval manhood was not only gauged by professionalism, intellect and morality but by an attention to familial responsibilities and domestic life. The navy's heightened profile within society also provided naval men with opportunities to reject older portrayals of 'Jack Tar'.
This chapter offers a case study that delves into the life and death of one boy sailor in order to illuminate how a new egalitarian vision of manhood was best expressed through a naval example. In the midst of First World War uncertainties, the worries about delinquency led to general concerns about the state of British youth and British boyhood. Jack Cornwell's death presented educational authorities with the opportunity to extol the heroic conduct of Cornwell as a model of boyhood. The funeral service intended to serve as testament to Cornwell's heroic act and celebrated duty, obedience and sacrifice. Among the prominent extra-parliamentary and civic efforts to commemorate Cornwell's life were those of the Navy League and the Boy Scouts. The Cornwell Memorial Fund offered an opportunity to spark children's interest not only in the heroic Jack Cornwell but also in patriotism and the strategic importance of the British Navy.
Characterisations of Victorian naval manhood imparted the virtues of the imperial manly ideal, valorising discipline, duty and a moral Christian ethos. The rhetoric of naval manhood was reconstructed in part because older images of it were irreconcilable with the demands of empire. Although the First World War was not a naval war, representations of naval manhood responded to and served the war effort, even if in contradictory ways. Celebrations of Jack Cornwell's heroism, forged in the naval battle of Jutland, helped to revive an older vision of manliness defined by duty, discipline and sacrifice in the face of the war's challenge to masculinity. Countless claims to the educational improvement of the naval ratings served as the basis from which the emergent lower-deck reform movement appealed to the Admiralty to improve personnel conditions in the early twentieth century.