Book Review: After the Bounty: A Sailor's Account of the Mutiny and Life in the South Seas

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by James Morrison, edited and annotated by Donald A. Maxton

Washington: Potomac Books, 2010. Pp. xv, 252. Illus., maps, gloss., biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-59797-371-7

Although certainly the most famous mutiny in history, the outbreak aboard the British ship Bounty in the South Seas on April 28, 1789, is known to the public only through the series of rather inaccurate motion pictures based on the 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, despite a rather extensive body of more serious work on the subject, to which James Morrison's After the Bounty is a valuable addition.

Bounty crewman, Morrison's tale begins with the mutiny, staged by master's mate Fletcher Christian against the difficult, though hardly brutal, Lt. William Bligh.  Although Morrison supported the uprising, when Christian and the other mutineers sailed away from Tahiti to disappear for decades, he was one of several men, mutineers and loyalists alike, who chose to remain behind.  Eighteen months later, Mr. Bligh returned, after an amazingly heroic voyage to safety in the Dutch East Indies.  Arrested, Morrison and the others were brought to Britain, in a voyage punctuated by a shipwreck, and tried for mutiny.  While awaiting trial, Morrison wrote an account of the mutiny.  Sentenced to death, he was pardoned by George III, and shortly afterwards wrote a second work, about life in Tahiti.  Both of these works appear in this volume.  Morrison was a astute observer, and the two accounts provide valuable insights in life at sea in the age of sail, the events of the mutiny, and the life and culture of the Tahitians. 

Editor Maxton, a communications and public affairs specialist, and the author of several works, including The Mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty: A Guide to Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, Films, Articles, and Music, has done an excellent job in preparing Morrison's works for publication, and supplemented them with a valuable commentary, which makes After the Bounty a good read for anyone interested in life at sea in the age of sail or the history and culture of the South Seas.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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