Dacam, John H.
Doctoral Thesis, Department of History, The University of Hull, September (2009)
The Royal Navy during the period between the end of the American Revolutionary War and the defeat of Napoleon had a record of success that was second to none, but it has long been held that this reputation was secured at the expense of its crews, who were forced to endure atrocious conditions and brutal punishments. In recent years this accusation has been challenged, and it has been argued, instead, that the punishment regime, in particular, was consonant with the criminal justice system ashore. This thesis is a contribution to the debate, specifically addressing the question of whether or not the infliction of summary punishment was administered as a measured response to misbehaviour on board or was, as has been charged, random and harsh.The research behind it included an examination of the captains’ and masters’ logs from a sample of warships of the period in order to extract the data contained within them concerning summary punishment. The literature covering the debate is examined, leading to an explanation of the objectives of the research and the methodology employed. The data from the logs is placed in context with a discussion of the nature of the punishments concerned, and the men involved in the process. Finally, the results of the analysis of the data, and especially any patterns that shed light on the nature of the response, are presented.