"We are a neglected set", masculinity, mutiny,and revolution in the Royal Navy of 1797
AuthorGlasco, Jeffery Duane
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMy dissertation examines the causes, events and outcomes of the two largest British naval mutinies and their revolutionary potential during the era of the French Revolution. Previous historians have attempted to define these mutinies through a variety of mono-causal explanations such as material demands and political theory; each has failed as they did not identify the divisions that existed between the seamen. My research examines the impact of masculine identities of working-class men, in this case British seamen. By returning agency to the seamen, I have concluded that these men were divided in their ideas about manhood and these divisions shaped the motives, courses, and outcomes of the two major mutinies in the Royal Navy of 1797. Competing understandings of gender identity divided the seamen. One faction of seamen promoted revolutionary ideas imported from France which defined all men as political equals; the others saw their manhood defined by the traditional plebeian maritime values of skill, bravery, and nationalism. The plebeian seamen mutinied over material grievances. The revolutionary seamen attempted to use the resulting social chaos to redirect the mutinies to political and social revolutions. But the revolution was short lived and failed, not due to the actions of the state, which was largely an observer to the events, but because the plebeian seamen would not accept ideas and actions that made them betray the monarch and nation and therefore their sense of manhood. Using violent measures, these seamen suppressed their revolutionary brethren and ended the mutinies, much to the state's relief. My research will explain how a working-class revolution took place in Britain in the 1790s, and why it was defeated not by the power of the state but by other working-class men who believed that the new revolutionary ideology and masculine understandings that it promoted were incompatible with their plebeian maritime concept of masculinity. My dissertation concludes that a British revolution did occur on the decks of the Royal Navy, but it was defeated by a gender-based division among the seamen.
Degree ProgramGraduate College