January 06, 2005

Rule, Britannia!

An interesting interview with Arthur Herman, author of a new book (hint, hint) entitled To Rule The Waves: How The British Navy Shaped The Modern World.

My favorite question and answer:

NRO: What did you think of the movie Master and Commander? How realistic was it?

Herman: I actually saw it three times because I knew I would get asked this question! In general, I'd say it's not very true to the spirit of the O'Brian novels but it is to the historical era-the production team included some expert naval historians like Brian Lavery and what Brian doesn't know about the Royal Navy in that period isn't knowledge. Certainly, the movie is a big improvement on the usual Mutiny on the Bounty-style approach to the British man o'war as a kind of floating hell-hole. I particularly liked the way it portrayed the crew as so young; probably 80 percent of the crews of navy ships were no older than 25, and the average ship always included a large number of so-called ship's boys, some as young as eight, who were literally "learning the ropes" under the supervision of a bosun's mate or other petty officer. The Royal Navy was always a navy of adolescents and post-adolescents even up to World War Two it was usual for a cadet to enter Dartmouth Naval College at fourteen or fifteen. Who else would take the risks life at sea involved, or have the stamina for the incredible physical labor, or look forward to the bloodshed of a naval battle or need so much corporal punishment to keep them in line?

Yes! Yes! Exactly right! Which is why I hated the movie so much. Why, my simple Llama brain wondered, could the movie not have simply been a good sea story with different characters, instead of a botched raid on O'Brian's domain? I probably would have loved it in that case.

Posted by Robert at January 6, 2005 10:10 AM

I was pleased with M&C from the standpoint of a movie that did a generally good job with historical realness. It sparked an interest to read O'Brian novels for the first time. How unfortunate though, because I couldn't read more than a few chapters, nor could I listen to it on cassette.

Posted by: fersboo at January 6, 2005 01:08 PM
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