Religion in the British Navy, 1815-1879

Religion in the British Navy, 1815-1879

Piety and Professionalism

Richard Blake


Boydell Press



Shows how the rise of evangelical religion in the navy helped create a new kind of sailor, technologically trained and steeped in a higher set of values.
This book examines how, as the nineteenth century progressed, religious piety, especially evangelical piety, was seen in the British navy less as eccentric and marginal and more as an essential ingredient of the character looked for in professional seamen. The book traces the complex interplay between formal religious observance, such as Sunday worship, and pockets of zealous piety, showing how evangelicalism gradually earned less grudging regard, until in the 1860s and 1870s it became a dominant source of values and a force for moral reform. Religion in the British Navy explains this shift, outlining how Arctic expeditions showed the need for dependability and character, how Health Returns revealed the full extent of sexual licence and demonstrated the urgency of moral reform, and how manning difficulties in the Russian War of 1854-1856 showed that a modern fleet required a new type of sailor, technologically trained and steeped in a higher set of values. The book also discusses how the navy, with its newly awakened religious sensibilities, played a major role in the expansion of Protestant missions globally, in exploration, convict transportation, the expansion of imperial frontiers, and worldwide maritime policing operations. Fervent piety had an effect in all these areas - religion had helped develop a new kind of manliness where piety as well as daring had a place.

RICHARD BLAKE is the author of Evangelicals in the Royal Navy, 1775-1815 (Boydell 2008).


January 2014
293 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843838852
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS027150, REL033000, HIS015000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Barham Bequest
The First Decades of Peace
The Persistence of Piety 1815-c.1845
Discipline, Rank and Command
Health and Morals
The Ordained Ministry and Established Church
A Rising Tide of Fervent Piety
Missionary Expansion
Exploration and Survey
Responsible Power


(A) very satisfying book - engaged and empathetic, thoroughly researched and constructed, and well-written and argued. VICTORIAN STUDIES

Blake is greatly to be praised for bringing light to a topic that has received insufficient attention. (His) book is very valuable not only for those interested in religious and naval history, but also to those concerned with intellectual history and nineteenth-century reform. ARCHIVES (Jeremy Black)

Based on a wide reading of sources and carefully argued, this book provides the religious dimension to naval transformation that occurred during the age of reform. MARINER'S MIRROR

Deserves to be read not just by historians of religion or of the navy but by anyone interested in masculinity, missions, empire or global exchange. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Richard Blake provides an exceptionally well-written and well-researched volume on religion in the Royal Navy during much of the nineteenth century. . . . The work is a welcome addition to the history and readers will not be disappointed in this highly-recommended book. NORTHERN MARINER

A useful work that conclusively demonstrates that further study of the role of religion in the institutional history of navies can yield new and valuable knowledge. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY

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