The Portsmouth Naval Academy, 1733-1806

By H.W. Dickinson, published February 2003


The Academy was opened in 1733, to provide an alternative to the inefficient system of seagoing schoolmasters, and to create a single route for officer entry into the Navy. This paper concentrates on the Academy’s less well-documented first incarnation, from 1733 to its closure in 1806, and challenges its historical reputation for low standards, inefficiency and serious indiscipline. Conversely, the detailed educational programme combined the academic and practical; the staff seem to have been fairly effective, and included some eminent mathematicians; despite occasional incidents, discipline was not that bad when compared with the endemic violence of contemporary public schools. However, the Academy did not fulfil the Admiralty’s original intention to be come the sole means of entry to the officer corps. Its purpose was probably defeated by two things: the widespread naval prejudice that an officer could only learn his trade at sea, along with the vested interests of naval patronage.

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Filed under: English Channel | Mutiny & Discipline | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Manpower & Life at Sea | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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