In 1789, as the Bounty was sailing through the western Pacific Ocean on its return voyage with a cargo of Tahitian plants, disgruntled crewmen seized control of the ship from their captain. The mutineers set their captain and the 18 men who remained loyal to him adrift in one of the ship’s boats, with minimal food supplied and navigational aids, and only four cutlasses for weapons.
For the past 225 years, the story of the Bounty's voyage has captured the public's imagination. Two compelling characters emerge at the forefront of the mutiny: Lieutenant William
Bligh, and his deputy – and ringleader of the mutiny – Acting Lieutenant Fletcher
Christian. One is a villain and the other a hero – who plays each role depends
on how you view the story. With multiple narratives and incomplete information, some paint Bligh as tyrannical and abusive, and Christian as his deputy who broke under extreme emotional pressure. Others view Bligh as a victim and a hero, and Christian self-indulgent and underhanded.
Alan Frost looks past these common narrative structures to shed new light on what truly happened during the infamous expedition. Reviewing previous accounts and explanations of the voyage and subsequent mutiny, and placing it within a broader historical context, Frost investigates the mayhem, mutiny and mythology of the Bounty.
Alan Frost is professor emeritus of history at La Trobe University. His previous books include Botany Bay: The Real Story, The First Fleet: The Real Story, The Voyage of the Endeavour and The Global Reach of Empire.
Introduction: the troubled history of Bounty’s story
Part 1: History’s shrouds and silences
1. A serious affair to be starved: the resentment of sailors when not properly fed
2. A soul in agony: Fletcher Christian’s torment
3. Somewhere between sea and sky: the enigma of Fletcher Christian’s death
Part 2: The making of Bounty’s story
4. Discovering nature: the rise of British scientific exploration, 1660–1800
5. Information and entertainment, image and archetype: the cardinal points of the exploration narrative
6. Men who strove with gods: James Cook, William Bligh, Fletcher Christian
Conclusion: the enduring intrigue of Bounty’s voyage
‘Professor Frost has looked closely at the primary sources surrounding Fletcher Christian. He argues that we do not know enough about Christian to assess why he mutinied. Similarly, he demonstrates that no one can know for sure what happened on Pitcairn Island in the first 10 years because all the
sources are suspect … This book will, as the author hopes, open up the field for further studies based on a firmer grasp of the sources'
Paul Brunton History Australia
'What gives credibility to Alan Frost's contribution is his well-deserved reputation for exhausting all possible sources, subjecting them to withering scrutiny, and criticising predecessors who have not, in his view, been sufficiently diligent and/or rigorous. It is a process that he has refined over a lifetime of fruitful scholarship. The product is, as usual, engaging and provocative.'
Granville Allen Mawer ISAA Review: Journal of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia
'By returning to the original sources and subjecting them to detailed and careful forensic analysis Frost sets a standard in research which future writers in this field should follow.'
Neil Radford The Dictionary of Sydney
‘Frost's scholarly account is an extremely helpful contribution to studies about the mutiny.’
Ross Fitzgerald The Australian
‘...indispensable for anyone with a genuine interest in understanding the truth.'
Michael Pembroke The Age
Size: 210 × 148 × 16 mm
four maps, 7 colour plates
Copyright: © 2018
Publication: 26 Sep 2018