Monday, October 25, 2010

Adventure on the High Seas: the Real Story of the Mutiny

Recently we had Blog Action Day, the theme of which was Clean Water.  I posted about that on my genealogy blog (linked at right).  I have been busy since then with classwork, so I'm late in putting this up.  Though it doesn't relate specifically to the Blog Action Day theme, the theme of water reminded me of a corking good read I experienced more than 10 years ago now.  (Has it really been that long?  Does not seem like it!)

The book in question is Bligh: A True Account of Mutiny Aboard His Majesty's Ship Bounty, by Sam McKinney.  It is a paintakingly-researched and well-documented full account of the mutiny from the perspective of Bligh and of the mutineers.  McKinney factually examines the 'legend' of Bligh the tyrant in the context of the British Navy of the time.  He includes in the appendices an explanation of shipboard rank and dutles and a copy fo the Articles of War. 

Bligh, it turns out, was typical of British Navy ship commanders of the time.  He had certain authority and powers, explained in the appendices to the book, and the crew were obliged to obey him.  He could be a martinet at times, and did have an explosive temper.  He knew what he was doing as a ship's captain, and was loyal and steadfast in his duty to His Majesty's Navy.  He was also a master mariner who accomplished a prodigious feat of leadership and navigation after being put off the Bounty in a crowded small boat with several of his crew.  Others of the crew loyal to Bligh were forced to remain aboard the ship with the mutineers, as there was not room for them in the small boat.  They were later left behind in Tahiti, when Bounty called there for supplies, and took on Tahitian men and women, before embarking on its search for a safely isolated place for the crew to establish themselves.

Fletcher Christian is shown to be not much of a leader, a failure with fatal consequences.  He fostered or at least allowed an atmosphere of racism and bald-faced discrimination against the Tahitian natives that accompanied the mutineers, leading to a bloody and violent beginning to the colony.  The Pitcairn Island colony eventually settled down to daily life and peace, and lasted until it was finally abandoned in the mid-twentieth century.  His failure of leadership and weakness of character also resulted in his own death.

I highly recommend this book for those who love history and love the sea.  The true tale is at least as exciting and engaging as the mythology which has grown up around the Bounty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Stack of Books with Legs

In one of the episodes of the original Star Trek, Captain James T. Kirk is described by one of his Starfleet Academy classmates as having been a bookworm as a cadet, calling him "a stack of books with legs."  That is what I feel like this term at the University of North Florida, with all the reading I am doing for my independent research project and my class on the environmental history of the St. Johns River, a large part of that course involving learning how to take and then taking oral histories from a variety of people here in north Florida.

A list of the books I have devoured so far:

For the St. Johns River history course:

Doing Oral History, Donald A. Ritchie -- our basic "how-to" text
I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, edited by Elizabeth Burgos-Debray -- an example of an oral history
Paradise Lost? An Environmental History of Florida, edited by Jack E. Davis and Raymond Arsenault
Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South, Jack Temple Kirby

And, as my project in this class is to examine how the St. Johns River has been portrayed in art:
This is Jacksonville. James Pontal -- photos of the city and the river that runs through it
Steller's Gallery: an exhibition catalogue -- has some paintings of the river in it
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens -- a catalogue of the museum's collection, including depictions of the river by such artists as Winslow Homer and Martin Johnson Heade
Jacksonville Through a Painter's Eyes, Phil Sandusky -- includes paintings of the city and the river
Florida's American Heritage River: Images from the St. Johns Region, Mallory M. O'Connor and Gary Monroe -- my class team partner and I will be interviewing these authors for this project

This is just a partial list of what I will consume before this paper is handed in in December.

And for my independent project, in the last few months I have devoured, or have on my to-read queue for the next couple months:

Spanish Bureaucratic-Patrimonialism in America, Magali Sarfatti -- information related to my idea of the patrón in St. Augustine as reflected in the godparental relationship, among other factors
Mullet on the Beach: the Minorcans of Florida, 1768-1788, Patricia Griffin
Fromajadas and Indigo: the Minorcan Colony in Florida, Kenneth H. Beeson, Jr.
Zéspedes in East Florida, 1784-1790, Helen Hornbeck Tanner
The St. Johns: A Parade of Diversities, James Branch Cabell and A. J. Hanna
Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, William Bartram
East Florida, 1783-1785: A File of Documents Assembled, and Many of them Translated, Joseph Byrne Lockey
The Other War of 1812, James Cusick
The Early History of Clay County, Kevin S. Hooper
Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner, Daniel L. Schafer
Black Society in Spanish Florida, Jane G. Landers
Florida's "French" Revolution, Charles E. Bennett
Colonial Plantations and Economy in Spanish Florida, edited by Jane G. Landers
The Spanish Seaborne Empire, J. H. Parry
Situado and Sabana, Amy Turner Bushnell

Makes me tired just looking at all that!  And . . . leisure reading?  What's that?

What it is, is something I will resume doing when I finish my degree next year!