Real Jim Hawkins: Ships' Boys in the Georgian Navy

Real Jim Hawkins: Ships' Boys in the Georgian Navy

by Roland Pietsch


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Generations of readers have enjoyed the adventures of Jim Hawkins, the young protagonist and narrator in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, but little is known of 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 a study of the origins, life and culture of the boys of the Georgian navy, not of the upper-class children training 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 represented a form of ‘floating workhouse’. Some, with ‘restless and roving’ minds, like Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, saw deep sea life as one of adventure, interspersed with raucous periods ashore drinking, singing and womanizing.

The author explains how they were recruited; describes the distinctive subculture of the young sailor – the dress, hair, tattoos and language – and their life and training as servants of captains and officers.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848320369
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 04/23/2011
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: 'To the Hesitating Purchaser' xii

1 Seafaring Boys in the Eighteenth Century: Fiction and Reality 1

2 Jim's Troublesome Youth on Land: 'The Idle Apprentice Sent to Sea' 16

3 Poor Jim: Charity and the Marine Society 32

4 The Typical Jim Hawkins 60

5 Jim's Motives: Sailors and Youth Culture 77

6 Jim's Life on Board 110

7 Jim's Coming of Age at Sea: Masculinity and the Horrors of War 141

8 Jim's Return from the Sea 167

Epilogue 189

Notes on Sources and Literature 196

Notes to the Text 200

Bibliography 219

Index 235

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