The Somers mutiny of 1842
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This dissertation presents an analysis of the Somers mutiny of 1842 that goes beyond the simple narratives offered by previous studies of the cruise. The mutiny is examined within the context of contemporary American politics and social reform, particularly as they related to naval affairs. These emphases clarify the rationale behind the cruise of the Somers, and shed light upon the nature of her crew. The immediate physical environment of the brig is described in order to reveal the difficulties in its operation, and the destabilising effect that this had on both the functional and social worlds of the vessel. The social environment on board is further defined by examining the daily progress of the cruise with reference to antebellum naval life and practice. When so combined, these factors clarify the officers' perception of the mutiny threat, and go far to explain their actions throughout the crisis. Finally, the dissertation examines the controversy that arose after the Somers returned to the United States. In particular, the military courts convened to investigate the mutiny are subjected to critical analysis since they are fully part of the events that they purported to explain, and because their proceedings remain the primary source material for reconstructing the cruise it is necessary to identify their biases. To conclude, the societal lessons of the Somers mutiny are explored, and an alternative reading of the event is posed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy