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Book Review, NRJ 67.2

February 11, 2023 4:45 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

Bligh: Master Mariner

Rob Mundle

William Bligh in popular thought has come to be a figure most closely defined by arguably the two worst moments of his career; the Bounty Incident and his rather disastrous tenure as Governor of New South Wales. Rob Mundle seeks to remind readers that Bligh was much more than just those two moments, that at his core Bligh was “a bloody good sailor.” Making heavy use of others' research-which he freely admits due to his not being a historian-Mundle traces Bligh's life and career from his childhood in Plymouth to his final years spent mostly reading in his country estate the Manor House. The narrative is handily split into three periods which the author titles "Master Bligh", "Commander Bligh", and "Captain Bligh", with his skills and responsibilities increasing with the progression of each.

Drawing on his significant personal experiences as a sailor and journalist covering major sailing news, the author crafts compelling descriptions of Bligh’s seagoing skills which guide the progression of the book at a comfortable pace. Those less familiar with nautical terminology will certainly find the included glossary most useful, as well as the chart featuring all of Bligh's postings and commands. Those who are more familiar with Bligh's career will, unfortunately, find little new in this work, and in general, a wider research pool would have served to fill out the reading experience. One notable example in this regard would be Bligh's annotations of James King's accounting of the last Cook voyage (published in 1928 by R.T. Gould), which broadly serves as the closest existent version of Bligh's lost journal of that same voyage. However, such deficiencies are truly minor, and Mundle’s goal of bringing the story of Bligh back into the light of the general public has certainly been met.

In this the author must truly be praised for he has crafted a narrative which will help to bring more general readership into the study of the many Pacific shores, hopefully sparking increasing interest in the broad array of topics that exist within that subfield of Maritime History. Further, he has provided a well-needed reminder that no person, no matter how (in)famous, is solely what they were in one or two limited moments and that historians and readers alike do well to seek out the deeper truths of all individuals and groups.

  • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2020
  • 6” x 9”, softcover, 240 pages
  • Glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95
  • ISBN: 9781526782281

Reviewed by: Michael Toth, Texas Christian University

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