Monday, August 31, 2015

Press Gang Week: An Introduction

Have I got a treat for you!

Rather than relating anecdotes about press gangs in Britain and America, I have decided to take this year's Press Gang Week in a different direction.

Thus far, I have collected seven primary source images of press gangs at work in the course of compiling this blog. After reading Denver Brunsman's The Evil Necessity: British Naval Impressment in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World, I hit on the idea of using these images to explore the ongoing historical dialogue concerning impressment.

Over the past month I have reached out to leading maritime historians of the eighteenth century with a simple question: which image best captures the nature of naval impressment, and why?

For the next few days you will see the responses of experts on naval impressment including Marcus Rediker, Denver Brunsman, and Niklas Frykman. There may be a last minute addition or two. The week will conclude with a new examination of three different colorized versions of James Gillray's "The Liberty of the Subject."

Before we dive into their thoughts, what are yours? Take a look at the seven images below, consider them, and come to your own conclusion. Which painting or print do you think best captures the nature of naval impressment?

"The Press Gang," John Collet, c.1760, The Foundling Museum.

"The Press Gang," artist unknown, 1770, Lewis Walpole Library.

"The Press Gang, or English Liberty Display'd," artist unknown, 1770, Lewis Walpole Library.

"The Liberty of the Subject," James Gillray, 1779, National Portrait Gallery (UK).

"A Cribbage Party in St. Giles Disturbed by a Press Gang," Thomas Rowlandson, 1787, Royal Collection Trust.

"The Press Gang," George Morland, 1790, Wikiart.

"Attic Miscellany. Manning the Navy," J. Barlow, 1790, National Maritime Museum.

Don't forget to visit our partner blog HMS for more posts about naval impressment every day this week!

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