Few navies have been immune from mutiny in the twentieth century, but the question of how and why naval discipline sometimes breaks down has received little scholarly attention. This book brings together a set of readable and up-to-date essays examining mutinies in the navies of Russia (the Potemkin mutiny, 1905), Brazil (1910), Austria-Hungary (1918), Germany (1918), France (1919), Australia (1919), Chile (1931), Great Britain (the Invergordon mutiny, 1931), the United States (the Port Chicago mutiny, 1944), India (1946), China (1949), and Canada (1949).
The nature of these incidents varied widely, but all represented a deliberate assault on naval or political authority. The objectives of the mutineers ranged from limited reforms of a purely naval nature to overtly political goals and, in rare cases, to outright revolution. The first twelve chapters in this book address the causes of a particular mutiny, its long-and short-term repercussions, and the course of the mutiny itself. Taking advantage of new research and new methodologies, the contributors provide something of value to both the specialist and non-specialist reader.
The volume concludes with an essay by the editors shedding important new light on the dynamics at work in the outbreak, development, and resolution of modern naval mutinies. It shows that mutinies in democratic, western states usually differed fundamentally from those in authoritarian regimes or less-developed societies. In the former, incidents were usually short-lived and non-violent. They tended to spread easily from ship to ship, but the mutineers' demands remained moderate and limited. In the latter, mutinies were less frequent, but were more often characterized by violence, escalating demands, and revolutionary intent.
Looking forward, the authors' conclude that the days when sailors might rebel against their immediate superiors to seize control of a warship are probably long gone. But as long as western states rely on broad and imprecise definitions, incidents will continue to occur that meet all of the legal criteria for mutiny, even if there is a reluctance to use the term. The potential for major naval mutinies probably remains, however, in non-democratic states like China and throughout the underdeveloped world.
This superb, original, and much-needed book sets a new standard for describing and explaining modern naval mutinies. The expert authors separate fact from myth in major case studies, showing why mutinies occurred, and how and why they sometimes escalated in dangerous and unexpected ways. A further brilliant conceptualization of the nature of a breakdown of discipline sites mutinies in their political culture as well as in the conditions of a navy. This gives a predictive value to this very valuable and fascinating study.
George W. Baer, Alfred Thayer Mahan Professor of Maritime Strategy,
US Naval War College
This is an original and important book. Bell and Elleman provide a fascinating glimpse into a side of naval history that has long eluded systematic and scholarly treatment. The editors remind us that even the most modern and efficient navies periodically have experienced dramatic breakdowns in discipline. The contributors are leading experts who have successfully placed the great naval mutinies of the twentieth century into their political, social, economic, and naval contexts. The volume analyzes the reasons why naval mutinies occur and why they escalate. This is "must" reading for students of twentieth century history.
Holger H. Herwig, Canada Research Chair
University of Calgary
Mutiny, among the most controversial subjects in naval history, has crossed over into the mainstream of popular consciousness. For many years the study of mutinies has been used to promote a variety of political and social agendas, or simply as the dramatic focal point for studies of personality. This collection of essays offers an opportunity to see the complex causation that lies behind the simple stereotype of 'mutiny'. Each of the events covered was unique, and yet they offer an important contribution to our understanding of naval societies under pressure, and the causes of collapse.
Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History,
King's College London
Overall this is a pioneering effort to impose intellectual rigour on a subject which is important both for social and political history. … The editors would not claim to have exhausted their subject, but they have certainly opened it up, and they deserve the flattery of imitation.
N.A.M. Rodger, Journal of Military History
This anthology offers readers a broad spectrum of ideas and events surrounding the phenomenon of mutiny. It contains a rich yet condensed and clear collection of facts and raises interesting questions.
J Hillmann, War in History