Surprisingly gentle confinement: British treatment of Danish and Norwegian prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars

Timothy Leunig, Jelle van Lottum, Bo Poulsen

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The Napoleonic Wars saw the British capture and incarcerate thousands of sailors in disused Royal Navy ships, the so-called prison hulks. Many Danes and Norwegians–navy personnel, privateers and merchant sailors–were thus interred. This article uses a new data source, the official record books kept in the National Archive at Kew, to test whether the prison hulks were as bad as popular perception might suggest. In doing so, we provide the first rigorous quantitative assessment of the Danish and Norwegian sailors’ prisoner experience. We find that death rates were surprisingly low, suggesting the quantity and quality of food and medical care was reasonable. Prison hulks were not ‘floating tombs’. The records also show which prisoners were released and exchanged, and when. Officers did well, reflecting the age old system of a gentleman’s honour. Privateers did worse than merchant sailors: those who took up arms were likely to serve longer as prisoners.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftScandinavian Economic History Review
Vol/bind66
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)282-297
Antal sider16
ISSN0358-5522
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2 nov. 2018

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Prisons
prisoner of war
prisoner
correctional institution
Dane
navy
death rate
floating
Health care
honor
medical care
food
Ships
personnel
Personnel
Prison
Napoleonic Wars
Sailors
Prisoners of War
Prisoners

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    abstract = "The Napoleonic Wars saw the British capture and incarcerate thousands of sailors in disused Royal Navy ships, the so-called prison hulks. Many Danes and Norwegians–navy personnel, privateers and merchant sailors–were thus interred. This article uses a new data source, the official record books kept in the National Archive at Kew, to test whether the prison hulks were as bad as popular perception might suggest. In doing so, we provide the first rigorous quantitative assessment of the Danish and Norwegian sailors’ prisoner experience. We find that death rates were surprisingly low, suggesting the quantity and quality of food and medical care was reasonable. Prison hulks were not ‘floating tombs’. The records also show which prisoners were released and exchanged, and when. Officers did well, reflecting the age old system of a gentleman’s honour. Privateers did worse than merchant sailors: those who took up arms were likely to serve longer as prisoners.",
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    Surprisingly gentle confinement : British treatment of Danish and Norwegian prisoners of war during the Napoleonic Wars. / Leunig, Timothy; Lottum, Jelle van; Poulsen, Bo.

    I: Scandinavian Economic History Review, Bind 66, Nr. 3, 02.11.2018, s. 282-297.

    Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

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