Resetting E.P. Thompson’s Clock:
The Spithead and Nore Mutinies
Shall France alone a despot spurn?
She alone, O Freedom, boast thy care?
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Destruction of the Bastille” (1789).
In 1797, common sailors in two “channel fleets” of the British Royal Navy mutinied in protest over low pay, conditions of service, and mistreatment by aristocratic officers. In the first mutiny at the Spithead anchorage, a series of tense exchanges over many weeks resulted in a peaceful resolution which met many of the sailor‘s unprecedented demands. In contrast, the Nore mutiny which immediately followed increased these demands to a point beyond which British authorities could concede. The sailors threatened the lives of their officers and blockaded key ports – all at a time when Britain was at war with revolutionary France. The British Admiralty put down the Nore mutiny harshly and hung several of the sailor’s representatives. Read more