I'm sure you will all wish to join me in congratulating our colleague in the LA&PS Department of History, Nick Rogers, on the publication of his book, Manning the Royal Navy in Bristol: Liberty, Impressment and the State, 1739-1815 (Bristol Record Society Pub., vol. 66: Bristol, 2014).
His book is an edited collection of documents on the problems of manning the navy in Bristol, with an introduction.
Wonderful new book from the Bristol Record Society:
Manning the Royal Navy in Bristol: Liberty, Impressment and the State, 1739-1815, ed. N. Rogers (Bristol Record Society, vol. 66, 2014; pp. xxvi, 340, with 4 b&w. plates)
When Pepys was at the Navy Board the press was barely used, but its drawbacks were already clear: it was expensive, it gave the Service a bad name, and it interfered with trade (NRS, vol. 133, pp. 203-10). The larger demands of the 18th century turned an occasional resort into a bad habit, and the debate this generated can be followed in The Manning of the Royal Navy (NRS, vol. 119). Otherwise the subject has had little notice from this Society. British Naval Documents (NRS, vol. 131) gave examples of a press warrant, a protection, and a riot (pp. 524, 552, 554), but Shipboard Life and Organisation, 1731-1815 (NRS, vol. 138) has only two references.
Professor Rogers has filled this gap with an absorbing collection of 633 documents which illustrate all aspects of the press operation. Rogers is an authority on urban politics and unrest, and the argument of his Naval Impressment and its Opponents in Georgian Britain (2008) emerged from that background. Now he has presented a substantial dossier of supporting evidence for one major location. This he offers as an antidote to ‘the kind of triumphal naval histories which abound on the bookshops’.
Most of his texts are taken from Admiralty papers, the majority of them ‘in-letters’ from the Regulating Captains in Bristol. Mayhem and misery abound, but the routine working of the system is also documented. The Admiralty records are supplemented by those of the Corporation and the powerful Society of Merchant Venturers, to whom the press was an interfering arm of central government. The arrangement provides a wide variety of case studies, and quite often the issues can be followed to conclusion.
The texts are printed in original spelling, a refinement the NRS would not have allowed, and summarised matter is clearly distinguished from full transcript. The reader should have been alerted to the change in the calendar within the compass of this volume. Otherwise the material is well marshalled, and the book has been handsomely produced by 4word.
On behalf of the entire Department, I'd like to congratulate our colleague Nick.