Author: Pietsch, Roland
A colourful and highly readable study of the boys who willingly and unwillingly were put to sea to man the ships of the Royal Navy during the eighteenth century.
Generations of readers have enjoyed the adventures of Jim Hawkins, the young protagonist and narrator in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, but few know about the real Jim Hawkins and the thousands of poor boys who went to sea in the eighteenth century to man the ships of the Royal Navy.
This groundbreaking new work is the study of the origins, life and culture of the boys of the Georgian navy, not of the upper-class children destined to become officers, but of the orphaned, delinquent or just plain adventurous youths whose prospects on land were bleak and miserable. Many had no adult at all taking care of them; others were failed apprentices; many were troublesome youths for whom communities could not provide so that the Navy became a kind of 'floating workhouse'. Some, with 'restless and roving' minds, like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, saw deepsea life as one of adventure, interspersed with raucous periods ashore drinking, singing and womanising.
The author explains how they were recruited; describes the distinctive subculture of the young sailor---the dress, hair, tattoos and language---, their life and training as servants of captains and officers, and, as well, paints a vivid pciture of the shipboard life they experienced during their years at sea.
More than 5,000 boys were recruited during the Seven Years War alone and without them the Royal Navy could not have fought its wars. This is a fascinating tribute to a forgotten band of sailors.
Publication date: 16 Nov 2010