This 1791 broadside is an advertisement calling for sailors to enlist in the Rattle-Snake, a naval ship described as a ‘sloop of 16 guns’. At the time, the monarchies of Europe were alarmed by the French Revolution, and were considering supporting the French monarchy, or taking military advantage of the country’s political chaos, and so needed more sailors to enlist.
Pay for sailors at the time was, however, much higher on merchant ships than naval vessels, so new recruits needed plenty of persuasion. Impressment (forced conscription) was used to build up the crews of naval ships, but desertion levels were high.
- Article by:
- Ruth Richardson
- Popular culture, Reading and print culture
From public notes and broadsides to catchpennies and printed songs, Dr Ruth Richardson examines the variety of street literature which informed and entertained the public before newspapers were readily available.