Mutiny, Mayhem, Mythology

Bounty's Enigmatic Voyage

Alan Frost

Regular price $40.00 Sale

Format: paperback
336 pages
ISBN: 9781743325872
Publication: 26 Sep 2018

Publisher: Sydney University Press

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Winner of the Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book Prize 2019

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.

Tags: History

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.

List of figures
List of plates
List of tables

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


"Frost wades through the overwrought and overwritten history of the story to examine the known facts critically, identify the disputed points, and sketch out the unknown aspects of the voyage. Through this process, he has successfully shed new light and under- standing on this well-worked topic ... Frost very effectively makes an essential contribution to understanding. He shows that the Bounty story is more than just the known and unknown facts of the voyage and its context, but also includes how the reading public has understood it as encompassing a powerful, imaginative myth."
John B. Hattendorf   Terrae Incognitae

"there have been innumerable books written and movies made about the subject. Most have sympathised quite strongly with the leader of the mutineers, Fletcher Christian, against the Captain of the Bounty William Bligh. Frost is much more even-handed. Using a psychological and literary approach, he analyses the many available documents and some more he has discovered, to put the mutiny into realistic perspective ... Your reviewer has read many books on the Bounty and seen the movies. Frost’s book is the most objective and informative of all.'
Neil Baird   Ausmarine

‘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

Format: paperback
Size: 210 × 148 × 16 mm
336 pages
four maps, 7 colour plates
Copyright: © 2018
ISBN: 9781743325872
Publication: 26 Sep 2018