Enter the Press-gang: Naval Impressment in Eighteenth-century British Literature
Even as press-gangs roamed the London streets, eighteenth-century writers applauded, critiqued, and condemned the practice Pepys called "a great tyranny" - the means of naval recruitment by which Britain simultaneously manned her fleets and oppressed her citizens.
This book centers on literature produced in "moments of crisis" - times when Britain faced a military challenge and thus needed her Navy most. When the French gained the upper hand early in the Seven Years' War, David Garrick was moved to write "To honour we call you, not press you like slaves, / For who are so free as we sons of the waves?" This characterization of the press as benign was common in the theater, even as sailors brawled with press-gangs on London Bridge. At the same time, novelists bitterly attacked impressment policy, showing how the press weighs most heavily on the poor.
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