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Title: 'Stokers - the lowest of the low?' : a social history of Royal Navy stokers, 1850-1950
Author: Chamberlain, Tony
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 0271
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2013
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The introduction of steam propulsion during the early nineteenth century presented the Royal Navy with two interlinked challenges. In the first, steam propulsion had to overcome the sceptics and the challenges of technical development until it proved a reliable and superior alternative to sail. The second was a challenge to the social infrastructure of the Navy which struggled to integrate increasingly large numbers of engine room personnel into a traditional close knit naval hierarchy dominated by seamen. The engineers’ struggle for commissioned status and equality with the executive branch is well documented, as is the history of the engine room artificers’ branch. By comparison, where naval and historical custom has promoted and celebrated the ideal of the Royal Naval ‘bluejacket’ or seaman, its stokers have become subjects of censure while their story has been largely ignored and corrupted by prejudice and myths. Tradition dictates that stokers are portrayed as coarse, uneducated men with a reputation for being trouble makers. As a result, they were judged to have the worst discipline record on the lower-deck. Because of the physical nature of their work and the filth and detritus from the coal they worked with they were also commonly believed to originate from the lowest classes of contemporary society. Yet without stokers no ship could leave harbour let alone engage the enemy. Every item of machinery and equipment onboard a ship relied on the steam produced by stokers. But far from being seen as equals or given any credit for their endeavours in the miniature hell of the stokehole, stokers became social outcasts. No other branch of men in the Navy has been subjected to such longstanding and deep seated censure. The negative stereotypes which surround stokers continue to perpetuate a disservice to a much overlooked and maligned branch of men. In order to determine the reasons why stokers attracted such negative sympathies this thesis will separate the facts from the myths and offer a new perspective on the men condemned by history as ‘the lowest of the low.’
Supervisor: Morris, Roger Sponsor: Cornwall College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Stokers ; Royal Navy