Book Review-‘Youth, Heroism and War Propaganda: Britain and the young maritime hero, 1745–1820’ by D. A. B. Ronald
This book examines the life, times, and broader context of the Naval Chronicle, a periodical founded by the naval chaplain James Stanier Clarke in 1799. The Chronicle would ‘enable the public to form a more correct and enlarged idea of the profession’ (p. 91), rebut misinformation circulating about the navy in the newspapers (p. 94), and foster a dutiful spirit through the creation of a ‘patriotic pantheon’ of heroic biographies (p. 2).
While Ronald offers some intriguing close readings of the Chronicle‘s biographies of noted admirals, he is especially interested in the changing rhetoric surrounding the figure of the midshipman. He traces a trajectory from a popular obsession with ‘snotty boys’ (p. 168) who tyrannized the lower deck, to the Chronicle‘s depiction of long-suffering and under-appreciated young heroes whose ‘plight’ required redress (p. 190). After the 1797 mutinies the Chronicle increasingly turned to themes of ‘amelioration’ and seeking to ‘allow the pro and con of all naval questions’ (p. 178), a process that would accelerate under its final editor, Joyce Gold…